The long and the short of the 18th hole
● As the third longest course in European Tour history, the demanding 7,833-yard (7.16km) Gary Player Country Club (GPC) demands a test of skill, as it does stamina.
Rather than being driven by the need to flirt with peril further down the final fairway, players understandably slip into survival mode when they arrive on the 18th tee.
Very rarely has the 18th determined the winner on the 72nd hole here, though Tiger Woods’s chip to earn a spot in a play-off before losing to Nick Price in 1998 was met with thunderous approval.
Going the extra length
Players tend to play the 18th conservatively and by adding an additional 25m for this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) they are now compelled to drive, albeit with caution. The hole now measures 475m on the insistence of original designer and golfing high priest Gary Player.
Some leading South Africans however think the idea was ill-conceived. “I don’t think it is very clever,” said Charl Schwartzel bluntly not long after he birdied the 18th in his opening round in the NGC.
“I would have left it where it was. I would have taken out the bunker rather, the one on the fairway. Make the guys play more aggressive and bring the water into play. If the guy is willing enough to hit it far up there give him a nine-iron in.”
That’s exactly what he hit en route to birdie on that hole on the opening day after he hit a three-wood off the tee.
“He was quick to remind, however, that that move was downwind.
A chance to birdie
“I hit it up the left side and had a nine iron in. If you left the tee where it was and you take the bunker out you get guys hitting three wood from the short tee a lot further up there. That’s what people want to see on a Sunday. There is a danger to it because you can still make bogey if you want to be aggressive. If you pull it off you have a good chance of a birdie.
“Give him a chance to make a birdie for a more exciting finish. It is the biggest grandstand on the golf course and you make the hole long. Basically everyone is just playing for par,” said the former Masters champion.
Former Open winner Louis Oosthuizen