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Published on : Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Glendower Golf Club is one of South Africa’s most famous old lairs for classic golf and the venue for this year’s South African Open received an emphatic thumbs-up from two major names in the sport on Tuesday.
Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said he felt the course was good enough – and tough enough – to host a U.S. Open, while Charl Schwartzel said Glendower was the best layout in Johannesburg.
McGinley had never played the Bedfordview course before Tuesday’s Pro-Am, but the 76-year-old parklands layout quickly won over arguably the most important person in European golf for the next year.
“I’ve never played here before, but I love the course. It’s fabulous, a throwback to tradition in the centre of one of the major cities of the world. “It’s one of the best I’ve ever played, very visual, really well bunkered and extremely well set up. We don’t get to play on many traditional courses any more and I was delighted. “I could see this as a real potential venue for a U.S. 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 genial Irishman after McGinley made a point of seeking out his number.
“Whoever did the green redesigns did a wonderful job. They are very cleverly designed and 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.
Schwartzel, having travelled around the world for most of the year, is delighted to be home and also felt right at home at Glendower, even though it was a foreign course for him.
“I didn’t know Glendower at all, so I started playing here two weeks ago for the first time in 15 years. It’s very similar to most Joburg courses, but probably the best of all of them. It provides real risk-and-reward golf, probably more so than the others. You can use a big variety of shots around here and you can’t just pull driver out on every hole,” Schwartzel 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 thrilled 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.
Thursday morning will see 156 golfers teeing off for the historic trophy and the winner’s cheque of R2.3 million, and they will be well-advised to keep themselves on the straight and narrow to avoid disappointment.
“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 final word.