Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Behind the Scene - By Stu­art McLean, Edi­tor stu­art.mclean@new­me­di­a­

We cel­e­brate 20 years of rank­ing our best 100 cour­ses in this issue, and no other list in the world can be more di­verse than South Africa’s. From No 1 to No 100 we have a mix of ev­ery­thing you can nd in golf, cour­ses that suit the se­ri­ous high-end golfer or cater for the ca­su­ally dressed novice. Some have bag drops and oth­ers just a bar where you can drop your weary body af­ter­wards. You can pay ex­trav­a­gantly for the ex­pe­ri­ence or next to noth­ing. We have de­mand­ing cham­pi­onship lay­outs and those which are 2 000 me­tres shorter to play. Fun, it must be stressed, can be had on both. And we even have a 9-holer for the rst time.

At the sum­mit of the rank­ings we have world-class lay­outs – three of which, Fan­court Links, Leop­ard Creek and Dur­ban CC were in­cluded in Golf Digest’s most re­cent World 100 Great­est Cour­ses – while 80-90 places be­low are a mixed as­sort­ment of clubs which are still proud of be­ing part of the Top 100 and have raised their stan­dards ac­cord­ingly.

Royal Jo­han­nes­burg & Kens­ing­ton have re­launched their East Course, and pre­sented an ex­cit­ing vi­sion of what a qual­ity golf club property should look like. Ev­ery club man­ager/golf di­rec­tor in Gaut­eng would bene t from pay­ing Royal a visit.

It’s not just the wealthy clubs up­grad­ing. Top 100 new­comer Dur­banville have in­vested in nu­mer­ous projects to trans­form their lay­out. “Our club­house is tatty but no one seems to care as long as the course is great,” were the words of a com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Those clubs which strive hard to im­prove have been re­warded, and the task of a Golf Digest rater to­day is to eval­u­ate the chang­ing qual­ity. There are seven new en­tries this year, rang­ing from the ex­clu­sive Club at Steyn City in Gaut­eng to the quirky Royal Port Al­fred in the Eastern Cape.

Sadly, due to the econ­omy and pro­hib­i­tive main­te­nance costs, many clubs con­tinue to strug­gle. North West is a de­pressed re­gion, and Stil­fontein, Bloemhof and Stella have closed. Their mem­ber­ships were neg­li­gi­ble. Ne­glected Top 100 cour­ses can­not main­tain ad­e­quate con­di­tion­ing. Leg­end in Lim­popo, with its added Ex­treme 19th at­trac­tion, has tum­bled down the rank­ings as a re­sult, and Rusten­burg in the North West was omit­ted.

How­ever, there are also up­lift­ing sto­ries, like Gold elds West (Page 74), which has risen up­wards after be­ing in liq­ui­da­tion a year ago. The game is see­ing ca­su­al­ties, but the big­ger pic­ture is far from doom and gloom.

Clubs in parts of the Western Cape are en­dur­ing a water cri­sis (Page 28), yet the re­gion racked up more than a mil­lion rounds in 2017 and the pop­u­lar­ity of their cour­ses has been seem­ingly una ected. The Gar­den Route, with its choice of fab­u­lous venues, is prov­ing a mag­net for in­ter­na­tional tourists from Jan­uary to March.

Her­manus, ad­mit­tedly with 27 holes, did 61 442 rounds, in­clud­ing a record 7 869 in De­cem­ber alone. The busiest, most pop­u­lar 18-hole cour­ses in Cape Town were again Clovelly and West­lake with 57 000 rounds, while Dur­banville did 52 000, Mil­ner­ton 49 750 and Royal Cape 48 500.

The Fan­court re­sort had a record 57 000 rounds at their three cour­ses, while the busiest cour­ses in the Gar­den Route be­longed to the old mem­ber clubs, Ge­orge (46 000), Mos­sel Bay (45 000) and Knysna (42 000).

To see how the rank­ings have evolved in the past 20 years, take a look at the 1998 Top 50 on Page 66. En­joy our 20th an­niver­sary Top 100, and may it in­spire you to ven­ture forth and visit cour­ses you’ve never played be­fore.

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