European Ryder Cup 2014 captain Paul McGinley knows what he likes when it comes to golf courses, and the South African Open championship tees off on Thursday on one of them.
“I think the course is one of the best I’ve ever played,” he said after playing in his pro-am round ahead of the tournament at Glendower Golf Club. “I’m blown away by how good it is. I think it’s fabulous. It’s a throw back to traditional golf courses, right in the centre of one of the major capital cities in the world.”
So impressed was he that he suggested that if the course were in the United States, the US Golf Association would find it good enough to host a tournament which traditionally played on the most fussily set up of all courses: “It’s very visual, really well bunkered and extremely well set up. We don’t get to play on many traditional courses anymore and I was delighted.
“I could see this as a real potential venue for a US Open if it was in America. It’s so reminiscent of the great courses in the United States, it would fit in very well,” McGinley said.
Sean Quinn, the design principal of Golf Data, who redesigned the greens in 2004, will be getting a congratulatory phone call from the Irishman after McGinley made a point of seeking out his telephone number.
“Whoever did the green redesigns did a wonderful job. They are very cleverly designed and they’re a nice speed too. It doesn’t look like there’s much slope, but there is and there are some very clever pin-placements too,” he said.
Glendower is hosting the SA Open for the fourth time, having been the venue for the world’s second oldest national open in 1989, 1992 and 1997, and boasts immaculate kikuyu fairways and a magnificent array of handsome trees.
There are 64 bunkers and water features on 11 of the 18 holes.
The rough has been allowed to grow to 100mm and greenkeeper Mike Burnard has narrowed the fairways to just 18 metres.
Burnard said he was delighted to get such positive feedback ahead of the tournament’s start on Thursday. “I’m thrilled. You never know how an old classic like this is going to compete against the top courses in the world, but I guess it’s like an old Mercedes-Benz, they just keep impressing,” Burnard said.
“There’s a big onus to hit the ball straight off the tees. It’s not the longest course, but there’s lots of water and there are right places to put the ball. You are going to have to set it up off the tee,” was McGinley’s assessment of how hopefuls are going to have to cope with the challenges posed by Glendower.
With additional reporting by Ken Borland, The Write Word