NEW BENT GRASS GREENS FOR MONTAGU
F ancourt Montagu is to close for an upgrade from April 16, before reopening around September 20 subject to playability. Ryan Reid, Fancourt director of sport and recreation, con rmed that the Montagu greens will be resurfaced during the winter.The resort has put on trial ve varietals of bent grass, and a decision on which to use will be made later in March.
“We are also planning design changes with input from Gary Player while the course is closed,” said Reid. Player designed the original Montagu in 1992, only for Scottish designer David McLay Kidd to extensively modernise the layout in 2004.
The old Montagu was ranked No 1 by Golf Digest in 2001.While it was then a course which challenged the scratch golfer from the back tees, it was also enjoyed by the club golfer. It was welcoming o the club tees, in no way intimidating.
However, it was becoming outdated as club technology rocketed forward, and Kidd’s remit was to protect the course’s championship status. It was lengthened by 430 metres – today it plays to a daunting 6 714 metres from the pro tees, and the Montagu has since become almost as demanding to play as the Links. In fact, Fancourt resident and senior tour pro John Bland admits that he personally nds the Links easier for his style of play than the Montagu, where the angled, often elevated, and well-bunkered greens make for testing approach shots.The Montagu has a ‘target golf ’ aura about it that doesn’t altogether suit the average resort holidaymaker.
Reid says the proposed changes to the Montagu will make it visually more intimidating, with water features prominent. But other changes will improve playability for the average golfer, and therefore create a more enjoyable experience.The bunkering on the front nine will be reduced, and the fairway landing areas increased in size.There will be fewer forced carries.
While most of these changes will be on the front nine, Reid says that two par 4s on the back nine, 11 and 16, will be improved, to “give them their own visual identity.”
A major project lined up for the Montagu, although unlikely to happen until 2020, is opening up the Modder River which runs from the fth tee box through to the ninth green.This would need environmental permission.
Reid, formerly the operations director at Serengeti, has implemented a number of changes to the Montagu and Outeniqua courses in the past year, what he refers to as the rst phase. Reid felt they should return to the traditional look and feel of parkland courses.Water features were opened and cleaned out to become more visible, and Cape Country ower beds added.There is improved fairway de nition. Bushes close to the fairways where balls could be lost were removed.Three “quarter houses” have been built as rest room facilities for the two courses.
The Outeniqua layout has bene tted most from the changes. It has always been popular with guests, and now presents itself as the course that appeals the most to a general range of handicaps. Subtle changes have been made to the 18th green. By lowering the surrounding landscape, it has been moved closer to the resort clubhouse, making the green more visible on arrival.