Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open: Royal Harare GC
Royal Harare Golf Club was founded in 1898, and has been situated in its present location since June 1902. Royal Harare is a typical parkland course. There are 57 of the more than 550 species of trees indigenous to Zimbabwe, as well as 51 non-indigenous trees. The fairways are planted under Kikuyu and the greens are bent grass, which was introduced in 1986. More than 74 species of birds have been identified on the course. Royal Harare has produced a booklet to identify the trees, grasses and birds on the course and the proceeds of the sale of this booklet are channelled back into junior golf development.
Hole 1: Par 4, 416 metres
This is a fair starting hole that bends slightly to the left. For the unwitting hooker, there is an Out of Bounds on the left just past the tee box. The fairway is flanked left and right by towering Gum Trees. Anything finding the middle of the fairway is rewarded with a straight forward shot onto a receptive green, however; deviant approaches are treated to bunkers left and right.
Hole 2: Par 3, 169 metres
No frills Par 3. This hole again has bunkers left and right, along with some smallish trees, guarding against badly directed shots. When played off the Championship markers, this hole into the wind plays an impressive 185 metres to the centre, requiring a penetrating, precise long iron shot.
Hole 3: Par 5, 479 metres
Probably the easiest of the Par 5’s the hole still requires the drive to be kept on the fairway, otherwise trees and bunkers left and right will necessitate a shaped second. Generally, a good drive, providing there is no headwind, will leave a mid iron into a raised, well-bunkered green. Putting surface has two tiers, which require good distance control on approach to set up for a putt below par.
Hole 4: Par 4, 437 metres
This hole sets out with a slight bend to the right. Any drive to the right of the fairway will meet tough rough and a grove of trees that will challenge even the best of players to salvage a par. From the fairway, a mid to long iron will get you to the green. The green slopes from back to front, punishing a long approach shot with a return shot onto a raised surface running away from you.
Hole 5: Par 3, 160 metres
The shortest Par 3 on the course, the tee box is flanked on the left by trees and depending on marker position, can set up as a visually intimidating hole. The green is guarded front right by bunkers and a Msasa tree waiting to snatch your ball out of the air. The green has a few slopes and can require a difficult putt depending on the pin position.
Hole 6: Par 5, 542 metres
At 542m, this is the longest hole on the course and invariably plays into the wind. The right hand side along the length of the hole yields Out of Bounds. For the longer players, the drive is fairly easy, but for shorter hitters, the fairway bunkers come into play. From there on out it is fairly easy to find the green in regulation. The green is guarded on the right side by bunkers, with some short of it on the right side of the fairway.
Hole 7: Par 4, 348 metres
The second shortest Par 4 on the course. Slight dogleg left, with Pine trees guarding the corner, Out of Bounds again on the right side of the length of the hole, continuing around the back of the green. This hole deserves some thought and must be treated with respect as it has often been the demise of a Golfer’s round. A definite “Risk and Reward” hole.
Hole 8: Par 4, 303 metres
The shortest of the Par 4’s on the course. In the vein of hole number 7, this hole also demands respect. Out of Bounds on the right and a thick grove of Pine trees to the left require a straight mid iron to 3 wood shot onto a generous fairway. It is then just a short pitch onto a well-bunkered green from there.
Hole 9: Par 4, 376 metres
This is a great inward finishing hole. Out of bounds on the right, with trees up the side of the left hand dogleg, force a player to either play safe into the wide area of the fairway and have a mid iron to the green, or shape a driver onto a very narrow neck in the fairway. The green again slopes from back to front. Bunkers guard the right and rear of the green. On this hole, leaving the ball below the hole is always preferable.
Hole 10: Par 4, 418 metres
This is a dogleg right hole, with water beyond the left side fairway bunkers, long hitters beware! Trees guard the right side short of the dogleg, making it impossible to cut the corner. An aggressive line will put the long hitter in position for a wedge into the green, which is bunkered short and left. Avoid missing the green to the right, there is a steep slope down into a depression.
Hole 11: Par 3, 175 metres
A long Par 3 into the wind that favours a penetrating ball flight. Trees on the left short side of the green can punish a wayward shot. Bunkers short and right guard the green against weaker shots. There is a depression to the right of the green that makes an up and down difficult. The green also slopes from back to front, favouring accuracy on the approach.
Hole 12: Par 5, 502 metres
A mid dogleg right, guarded by trees on the right as well as Out of Bounds for the length of the hole. Fairway bunkers on the left necessitate an accurate tee shot in order to reach the green in 2. This green is also well guarded by bunkers on the left and a valley on the right side. Approach is the difference between a birdie and a double bogey.
Hole 13: Par 4, 410 metres
This is a challenging Par 4 with fairway bunkers and thick rough to the right side, coupled with a stand of trees on the left of the dogleg corner. A right to left tee shot is required to take full advantage of the hole, finding the right side of the fairway, gives one the best path to the raised, well bunkered green, with Out of Bounds behind it.
Hole 14: Par 4, 376 metres
A gentle dogleg left at the end, carrying uphill. This hole again requires accuracy off the tee with fairway bunkers in the middle and to the right. Long and left will find a heavily wooded area, and almost certain death to a good score. Approach to the green must be made with care, as anything too far right will find a rocky ridge that leaves no choice, but to take a penalty drop. The green is very receptive, with a slight back to front slope.
Hole 15: Par 3, 189 metres
This is the longest Par 3 on the course and it is not short on visual intimidation. The green sits below the tee box and is in turn raised high above the surrounding ground. Bunkers short left and to the right side of the green punish the overly cautious and aggressive alike. It is a must hit green to avoid a big number. Long and left will most times result in an impossible shot.
Hole 16: Par 5, 524 metres
The second longest of the Par 5’s that in inclement weather plays into the wind. Tee shot is uphill all the way to the corner of the mild right hand dogleg. A good drive is one that finds either the left side of the centre of the fairway. The green is reachable in 2 for longer hitters, but the angle of the green makes this difficult depending on the pin position. Again, a well bunkered green, with a valley on the right side. Green in regulation is necessary to avoid a tricky up and down.
Hole 17: Par 4, 385 metres
This is another seemingly short, easy Par 4. Aggressive players beware. It is best to hit a solid iron or 3 wood to the left side of the fairway to open up the green. Anything right of the fairway requires some imagination to reach the green in regulation. The green is narrow and makes a bunker shot from the greenside difficult to control.
Hole 18: Par 4, 430 metres
This is a great finishing hole, requiring the player to keep his wits about him right to the end. The tee is set to the right of a large stand of Gum trees, necessitating a strong fade to find the fairway. Anything too far right thereafter, brings lots of trees into play. From the fairway, a mid to long iron is required to find the green. Once on the green though, one can find that the subtle breaks can make a 2 putt a great performance.