SA Open goes to Serengeti
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will host the South African Open at the end of November.
The golf course, open for just two years, is a surprise choice from the more traditional layouts that have hosted the SA Open in the past, and will certainly raise a few eyebrows.
The 101st staging of the South African flagship event sees the tournament return to Gauteng for the first time in over a decade - it was last staged there at Randpark Golf Club in 2000.
Last year's tournament at the Durban Country Club, won by Ernie Els, was hampered by torrential rain, with the first day washed out. The final two rounds had to be completed on the final day, with Els pipping countryman Retief Goosen by a stroke.
Els will return this year to defend his title.
"We are delighted to have Ernie confirm his place in the field, and we look forward to some of the world's leading golfers joining him at Serengeti, which is a magnificent venue for our national open," said Selwyn Nathan, executive director of the Sunshine Tour.
"South African golf is in the midst of a golden era on the global stage, and the South African Open will once again serve as a wonderful opportunity to showcase this success worldwide."
The venue is 12km from OR Tambo airport and will be the first significant tournament hosted by Serengeti.
The SA Open was first played in 1903 in Port Elizabeth over 36 holes, making it the second-oldest national golf open in the world after the British Open. Five years later, in 1908, it was extended to a 72-hole format.
In 1956 Gary Player won the first of his record 13 SA Open titles and in 1997 the SA Open became a co-sanctioned event between the local South African tour and the European Tour.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed course was recently named as the best new golf course by Golf Digest magazine.
However, apart from the gusting wind that blasts over the sparse layout, the greens are deadly.
Leave your approach shot in the wrong place and you have no chance of getting the first putt close because of the severe undulations and lightning-fast speeds.
The course was made in accordance with United States Golf Association specifications, with cool-season grass and not a blade of the local kikuyu to be found.
In true Nicklaus style, the course is also scattered with hundreds of bunkers to catch every less-than-pinpoint shot.
"There is so much history and tradition in the tournament and we are proud to follow a long list of some of the finest golf courses in being the host," said Serengeti CEO and developer Leon van der Vyver.
"It has always been our vision to stage a tournament of this stature and the golf course was designed with the spectators in mind."
An interesting choice of golf course for a normally conservative national open, but an exciting prospect for professionals and spectators alike.