2009 Nedbank Golf Challenge – Fairer, Not Easier

by John Botha on

The Gary Player Country Club’s course will have a slightly different look this year. Immaculately groomed as usual, the 7 162-metre layout will have a “graduated cut” from the edge of the fairways towards the deep rough. In past years, we have seen a player missing a fairway by even the smallest of margins, and finding their ball nestled down in the cloying kikuyu, making the recovery shot extremely difficult. This year, bordering the fairway is a strip 1, 2 metres wide which will be cut at a height of 30 mm. Next to this is a 3 metre wide strip that is cut at 75mm, and then the 100mm and higher rough.

“It is really about fairness,” says Sun City’s Antonie Els, Director of Golf and the man in charge of the preparation of the course where South Africa’s biggest golf event will be played. “We have eliminated the possibility of a player who has say, missed the fairway by a half a metre, effectively being unfairly penalised. In the past we struggled to produce a consistent height of rough – areas that are reached by the irrigation sprinklers were obviously long and lush, while other areas allowed for a relatively easy recovery shot.”

Another change that will be noticed is to the areas surrounding the bunker lips – in the past the kikuyu was allowed to grow around these hazards, often resulting in the ball becoming snared in these areas which left a player with an extremely tough shot from an awkward stance.

The severity of the infamous rough on the course is very much dependant on the amount of rainfall, and there hasn’t been a lot in the lead up to the tournament this year. This could suggest that scores will be lower than usual.

Another talking point has been the speed of the greens – one of the defences of this course against the onslaught of the best golfers in the world. “We will expect the greens to be running at a little more than 10 feet on the stimpmeter for the Pro-Am tomorrow,” says Els. Depending on weather conditions during the tournament, these should speed up to around 12 by Sunday. “It is our aim not to necessarily make the greens lightning fast, but we are more concerned to have each green running a consistent speed,” says Els.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge kicks off at the Gary Player Golf Course on Thursday – see the broadcast schedule for more info on the event.

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