WORCES­TER GOLF CLUB

This Top 100 con­tender in the West­ern Cape, an early Peter Matkovich de­sign, has sev­eral dis­tinc­tive fea­tures.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Must Play Courses -

Trav­ellers on the N1 high­way will catch a glimpse of Worces­ter Golf Club as they by­pass this large West­ern Cape town which is the ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal of the BreedeVal­ley re­gion.Take time to drive through the sub­urbs to the club­house, and you will dis­cover one of the Cape’s lesser-known golf­ing gems set against a back­drop of the ma­jes­tic Brandwacht moun­tains.

Golf has been played in Worces­ter since 1895, but the club’s 18-hole par-72 lay­out is a fairly mod­ern one. First-time vis­i­tors may be sur­prised to learn it is one of the ear­li­est de­signs by cel­e­brated course ar­chi­tect Peter Matkovich, con­structed when he was still work­ing for Gary Player. It was opened for play in 1988, and even back then Matkovich was highly cre­ative in mod­el­ling his greens com­plexes. Sev­eral of them have in­ter­est­ing slopes. Cur­rently the course is con­tend­ing for in­clu­sion in the 2018 Golf Di­gest Top 100 Course Rank­ings (it has been there be­fore), and its ex­cep­tional con­di­tion­ing in re­cent years – mem­bers en­joy fast and flaw­less greens to putt on – has cer­tainly boosted the chances of that again hap­pen­ing.The course is a strong chal­lenge from tee to green – the Boland Golf Union has hosted In­ter­provin­cial tour­na­ments here at Ju­nior and Mid-Am­a­teur level – while at the same time main­tain­ing ex­cel­lent playa­bil­ity for a wide range of golfers.

The course, which is 112 kilo­me­tres from Cape Town, has a di­verse mix of un­usual fea­tures which stand out in terms of pro­vid­ing unique­ness and va­ri­ety through­out the 18 holes. Cou­pled with its quiet, ru­ral set­ting, and sense of open spa­ces, there’s lots for golfers to ad­mire.

The most dis­tinc­tive fea­ture is the mas­sive dou­ble green serv­ing the two fin­ish­ing holes on each nine in front of the spa­cious two-storey club­house, set on a high ridge and of­fer­ing those in the 19th Hole a panoramic out­look over the course.The green houses both the par-3 ninth, played from a tee on the right as you look over the prop­erty from the top bal­cony, and the clos­ing par-5 18th.When first opened, it was re­puted to be the big­gest green in the south­ern hemi­sphere. Cer­tainly you are left with a mam­moth putt if you find the front of the green play­ing the up­hill 18th, and the pin is lo­cated in the back sec­tion.

Worces­ter’s lay­out could be de­fined as “Ka­roo park­land,” be­cause the fringes of the course bor­der the dry bushy scrub­land that is in­dige­nous to an area which has lim­ited rain­fall.The green fair­ways pro­vide a stark con­trast to the sur­round­ing land­scape. Low hills close to the club­house make for three very dif­fer­ent fea­ture holes on the front nine, the third to the fifth, which fit beau­ti­fully into the un­du­lat­ing to­pog­ra­phy and give a sense of “desert” golf as the fair­ways wind through the nat­u­ral ter­rain.

The par-4 third is played from an el­e­vated tee to a nar­row up­hill fair­way, and the green is even higher still; the par-4 fourth has a splen­did high tee on the side of a hill where you drive down­hill to a gen­er­ously wide fair­way; and the par-5 fifth curves right around the lower edge of the hills and the scrub­land. Nat­u­ral rocks and a wa­ter hazard guard the green of this hole.

The third prom­i­nent fea­ture is a size­able dam on the front nine.While this first comes into play on the short par-4 sixth, it makes for a par­tic­u­larly dra­matic set­ting on the par-3 sev­enth hole, where it’s wa­ter all the way from tee to green, with lim­ited bail-out op­tions. Sev­eral dif­fer­ent tees po­si­tioned

along an an­gled bank and path­way mean the carry to the green can be stretched to test­ing pro­por­tions.

The back nine pro­vides the sternest test in terms of a chal­lenge, and it comes as no sur­prise to learn that three cur­rent Sun­shine Tour pro­fes­sion­als, Oliver Bekker, Chris­ti­aan Bas­son and Ockie Stry­dom, all started play­ing the game at Worces­ter.They would have had to con­tend with wind, too, be­cause the area can be breezy in sum­mer, as much as it is at the coast.

Nos 10 and 11 are both stern par 4s run­ning along­side the left-hand bound­ary fence of the course, and the 10th asks for a top tee shot to clear a ravine and find the dis­tant fair­way.The 12th is a su­perb riskand-re­ward short par 4, and the par-5 16th has a deep wa­ter hazard fronting the green. Fail to find the putting sur­face with your ap­proach, and your ball could roll back down a steep slope into the wa­ter.

The na­ture of the land­scape means that there are su­perb moun­tain bike trails on the course, and it is pop­u­lar with reg­is­tered cy­clists.

The club­house has a pro shop and half­way house, and the large lounge area is ideal for func­tions and con­fer­ences, for up to 180 peo­ple.

The club’s an­nual flag­ship event is the Wi­jn­lan­der, a four­day tour­na­ment first played in 1990 and which this year will take place from Oc­to­ber 4 to 7. Visit the Worces­ter Golf Club web­site for all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on the event, spe­cial ac­com­mo­da­tion of­fers and more. Book early if you wish to play in it.

Worces­ter’s open­ing hole is a medium-length par 4. The sec­ond, third and fourth holes are in the back­ground among the hills.

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