New Zealand Golf Magazine

Design on track for Pro debut

Natadola Bay Championsh­ip Golf Course was a hidden gem in the South Pacific but over the past four years has captured the attention of the world thanks to hosting the Fiji Internatio­nal.

- WORDS BY OLIVIA MCMILLAN

Building a reputation as a picturesqu­e and challengin­g layout, which requires an abundance of shots to be played successful­ly, by Profession­als and amateurs alike, Natadola Bay Championsh­ip Golf Course is enjoyed by everyone who plays it.

However it's receiving a makeover thanks to Fiji's own and three time Major Champion, Vijay Singh, who was involved with some of the course's original design.

His vision is to take the bones of an exceptiona­l layout and finesse the finer details so that it can reach its full potential.

Speaking post tournament in 2016, Singh wasted no time in putting forward his ideas for the re-design.

“I started on Monday after the tournament. The architect came with me and we're going to do the first eight holes and probably six and seven greens,” Singh said at the time.

“We will look to re-do the greens, some of the fairways and some of the bunkers to make it more playable.”

Since then the scope of the redevelopm­ent has expanded with some element of work being done on 15 of the 18 holes.

“It always was a very good course. But in the last month of the original build an enormous storm compromise­d the design with a number of the greens being washed out meaning they weren't built as was originally designed,” said Andrew LangfordJo­nes, the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasi­a Tournament Director for the Fiji Internatio­nal.

“This redevelopm­ent is going to be a dramatic improvemen­t on what was already a good course.”

Re-designs of golf courses are not uncommon; designers are constantly making subtle changes to improve the playabilit­y of layouts.

“At TPC Sawgrass, which hosts THE PLAYERS on the PGA TOUR, they have just re-done the 12th hole. The comments have been that they will play this year's tournament, see how it plays and then modify it again if needed,” added Langford-Jones.

“That is basically what has happened with Natadola. After three years of playing tournament golf it was obvious that some changes needed to be made and they are being made now.”

With alteration­s being made to the green complexes as well as re-positionin­g of the teeing grounds which has a flow on effect to the landing zones, the re-design will benefit Tour Profession­als playing the Fiji Internatio­nal as well as amateur golfers who tee it up whilst on holidays in Fiji.

“For the Pros, I think it will be a fairer test of golf. Some of the ridges in the greens have been eliminated which has resulted in more pin positions on each green,” added Langford-Jones.

“But the best thing to come out of the re-design is that the greens are friendlier to players of all standards.

“The jungle is still the jungle; it has been cut back in a number of areas which will also make it easier for amateurs. Plus the landing zones have been significan­tly increased in area so it is much more user-friendly for the amateur golfer.

“Anything that sees the Pros shoot 10-under to win a tournament is a definite challenge and for the amateur golfer it will be excellent fun.”

Having just completed an inspection of the course, Langford-Jones is very happy with the progress being made at Natadola Bay Championsh­ip Golf Course.

“Everything is on target. The greens have all been sowed and the final fairways are being laid so from now until the tournament it is a matter of settling in and growing the greens and surrounds,” added Langford-Jones.

“We have plenty of time to do that. We have 12 weeks of growth and normally in Fiji it would only take four or five with the conditions they have.

“A lot of the holes won't be opened until tournament time, just to make sure they are in the absolute best condition for the tournament.

“We can't wait to see how the Pros tackle the re-design during the Fiji Internatio­nal – it should be an exciting week for everyone involved.”

The Fiji Internatio­nal will be played at Natadola Bay Championsh­ip Golf Course from 17-20 August and is trisanctio­ned by the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasi­a, European Tour and Asian Tour.

“We can't wait to see how the Pros tackle the re-design during the Fiji Internatio­nal – it should be an exciting week for everyone involved.”

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