Nottie’s best kept secret

2010-02-26 00:00

DON’T worry, the pictures attached to this story have not been tweaked, phot-shopped or even stolen.

This is not some far-flung course on the hills of Scotland. Why, it is actually just up the road, and it has already been labelled as one of KwaZulu-Natal’s best kept secrets by those in the know.

I went once out of curiosity last year, and have been bitten by the Gowrie bug ever since.

And yet most of the city doesn’t know that it exists.

Well, this should clear that up, then.

Gowrie Farm Golf Club recently celebrated its second birthday in December, but it has already matured into an excellent test for golfers of all levels.

Guy Smith, a city lawyer and golf enthusiast, designed Gowrie in traditional fashion.

“I wanted to create something different,” Smith says with understatement.

This is truly a gust, and not so much a whiff, of fresh air.

So, instead of forgiving rough and friendly, accesible pin locations, one gets a true test of the game as it was meant to be played.

The rugged pot bunkers that line the fairways and protect the push-up greens will reduce you to tears if you don’t respect them — and I speak from terrible experience.

John Dickson, the number one teaching professional in the country who is based at Durban Country Club, rates Gowrie Farm as one of his top five courses to play — and he has played a fair few.

Gowrie also plays host to an invitational amateur tournament at the start of the year, and some of the country’s most promising stars have raved about the setup.

If you are lucky — or should that be unfortunate — you will play the Nottingham Road layout on a day when the elements are in conflict with one another.

Trust me folks, this is not your everyday hit-and-hope story.

It is highly penal, with rough that looks like it houses more than just a few water rats.

But this is not to say that the course is unplayable. With some of the lushest fairways in the province, and receptive greens, Gowrie is a shot-maker’s dream.

It is, in my humble opinion, one of the most consistently well-maintained layouts around, with the seasons making no dent to its Sunday-best appearance.

But there is more to the Gowrie tale than just a fantastic nine-hole course.

Smith is trying to build a legacy up Notties­ way and he is using golf as the main driving tool.

Forever it seems, golf has always been regarded as the game of the elite.

Only recently, with the changing of the guard, have we seen a wider spread of the country populating the fairways around the country.

“I must be honest, when I was younger, we never mixed with other races,” Smith laments.

“That was just the way things were, and to be honest with you I am still learning how to socialise with other races.

“But I think that this great game can help this transformation, because a lot of the rules and regulations on the course can be integrated into society,” he says.

He cites etiquette and gentlemanly behaviour as just two aspects, but one can see what he means.

A lot of golf’s traditions are designed with fair play and honesty in mind, traits which would not go amiss in everyday life.

Smith’s plans include introducing the game to those who take an interest within the Nottingham Road area, but that does not merely pertain to just playing.

We are launching a green-keepers’ programme here, and the plan is to breed the next generation of curators,” he explains.

Certainly, the gap is closing between different cultures when it comes to integration.

Smith, a sports nut, says that he is at odds with the quota system used in the country’s flagship codes.

“I think there is a better way to get the result that they are trying to create.

“For example, golf is new to a lot of people. But there will be those who come from nowhere, pick up a club and find the hunger to learn and get really good at it. Those are the guys we should be focusing on, instead of trying to force a new sport among the masses.

“I don’t think that is the way to do it.”

Golf is also an expensive hobby, and Smith has acknowledged this.

To this end, he has introduced special member rates for Pietermaritzburg residents in a bid to make the game more attractive.

The golden carrot attached to all the rates — which vary according to age — is free golf for the year.

That’s right.

No green fees.

It is a heck of a deal, and one that should at least convince hackers and hopefuls to drive up even once to soak in the experience.

Believe me, you will not be disappointed­.


Under 26: R2 052 (Incl of VAT)

26 to 32 years: R1 653

Country membership: R3 192




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