SOUTH AFRICA’S TOUGHEST COURSES
The ones that club golfers find the most difficult to play
Golfers invariably have talked at the 19th hole about the difficulty of the courses they have played or wish to play. And then there is THE question:Which is the hardest course in South Africa?
Being no different to any other golfer, I looked for the answer but found nothing but differing opinions.To feed my curiosity, I realised that the best way to rank courses by difficulty would be to look at purely objective data. Luckily, the SAGA data is available online, so I analysed more than 200 000 rounds from over 3 000 golfers (handicaps 18 and under), using an even distribution from around the country going back to 2014.
Using a measure of average shots over par above handicap, I ranked 450 courses, and found some interesting results. Hopefully these will inspire golfers to go out and collect the scalps of these courses. For me, personally, it adds that extra sense of achievement knowing I’ve played a great round at one of the country’s most difficult courses.
Other interesting results came out of the data. I analysed daily and monthly scores, the effect of frequency on golfers’ scores, and the effect that course variety has on scores.
What came as a surprise was the difficulty of golf per province. Limpopo and Mpumalanga, featuring the likes of Elements and Leopard Creek respectively, stood out as the most difficult provinces to play golf.And the inland provinces all featured at the top of the list, with the exception of Free State.
Rounds are played evenly throughout the year, but most golf is played on Saturdays (38%) and Wednesdays (17%), then Sundays (14%).The other four days make up 30%.
The winter months are the most difficult.With an average score of 3.01 shots above handicap, July is almost a shot more difficult than the average scores posted in the summer months, October being the easiest with 2.16 shots above handicap. In terms of daily difficulty, Sunday (Monday blues) is the most difficult with 2.94 shots above handicap while Wednesday (a good day out of the office) is the easiest with 2.33 shots above handicap.
There are two types of golfers: those who play mostly at one course, and those at a variety of courses. By bracketing scores according to the percentage times each golfer has played each course in proportion to all the courses they have played, I determined a trend when it comes to course variety.
Average shots above handicap are highest on courses where golfers have not played many rounds at these courses
(less than 10%).As golfers play more rounds on specific courses, the average shots above handicap decrease as expected. However, once golfers start playing too much golf on one course (above 70%) the shots above handicap start increasing.This might be due to the complacency of playing one’s home course, or the lack of pressure of playing a new course.The ideal mix to reduce one’s handicap is to play around 70% of your golf at home, and spice it up with a number of other courses.
Using several statistical tests, I was able to determine that the frequency of golf (days between rounds) had an effect on scoring, but this was not easily quantifiable as there are other factors that contribute to the performance of golfers. Now on to the crux of this the research, the most difficult courses.
“Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do, the game jumps up and puts you in your place.” Pinnacle Point