Hole in one eludes Challenge

2014-11-09 15:00

Did South African golf legend Gary Player create a monster when he designed the course at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City in 1981?

This is one of the world icon’s signature golf courses and is home to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, an event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine and European tours.

The tournament takes place early next month.

The course is so difficult, no golfer has ever scored a hole in one in the event’s 31 years.

A hole in one, also known as an ace, is carded when a ball hit from the tee lands in the cup. This feat is most common on a par-3 hole.

Another difficulty on the course is the 8th hole, which is guaranteed to give players a headache. This par-4 hole is the course’s toughest, with dense bush on both sides of the fairway, a water hazard running across it and three bunkers guarding the green. If a golfer doesn’t hit the fairway from tee off, making par becomes almost impossible.

Another feat never to be accomplished on the course is an albatross. This is a score of three under par on a hole.

The organisers of the event feel the toughness of the course and its layout make competition fierce.

The fact that not a single hole in one has been registered in the history of the tournament shows the Sun City course is world-class.

Tournament director Alastair Roper said: “We have yet to see who will ever come with these scores.”

Dale Hayes, who was a multiple winner on the European and South African tours, said a hole in one will only be hit when the field is increased. Until 2006, there were only 12 contestants in the Challenge. The number was increased to 30 last year.

“But, like the SA Open, which usually comprises 144 golfers, the Sun City field should also be increased, to boost the chances of players netting a hole in one or an albatross,” Hayes said.

Former Sunshine Tour tournament director, Theo Manyama, said he was looking forward to the time “great scores” like this were recorded.

The media were allowed a chance to critique the course this week and get a feel for the challenges awaiting participants in December. And, as usual, it is unforgiving. Apart from the 8th hole, the 17th and 18th are tricky. The course has now been closed to allow the kikuyu the benefit of the rains before the event tees off in three weeks’ time.

The first 12 players attending the tournament were announced a fortnight ago. They include six of this year’s winning European Ryder Cup team: Thomas Bjørn (Denmark), Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Victor Dubuisson (France), Martin Kaymer (Germany), Stephen Gallacher (Scotland) and Lee Westwood (England).

Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez (a vice-captain for the European Ryder Cup team this year); Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat from Thailand; Englishman Luke Donald; and two South Africans, major-winning Charl Schwartzel and Dawie van der Walt make up the rest.

Another dozen players will be announced next week.

The Gary Player Country Club

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