Nicklaus Prepares for South African Open-A Stunning Design
There are many things of which I was not previously aware when it comes to golf in South Africa. I am familiar with its greatest players, but did not realize that the South African Open is the second oldest national open in the world, behind the British.
Likewise, I did not know that Jack Nicklaus has designed six leading courses in South Africa, thinking rather that such business might be the domain of native son and great golfer, Gary Player. Not necessarily so, however. In fact, Nicklaus courses in South Africa, as they do everywhere else, have been winning one award after another. His most recent, however, is a masterpiece, and has been duly noted as South Africa’s greatest course. More than that, what lies in ambush for the European players in this year’s Open evokes a gasp. Jack is going to make them play – the Serengeti.
All right now, I’m up on my Tarzan episodes from the fifties. I’m up on all the dangers out there. Even now, however, in more enlightened years, my South African friends still report, from time to time, appearances of a rhinoceros or similarly intimidating creature in their back yards when they get up in the morning. Thankfully, Jack’s course is not in the Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya, and it is modern and civilized to the max.
The beautiful design does fit the Massai meaning of Serengeti, however – “great plain.” Coming from the enclosed forest courses of Oregon, I often recoil at such broad, treeless venues, but from the pictures of the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate, it’s actually a breath of fresh air. It sits long at 7,761 yards, but the scuttlebutt is that with altitude and terrain, you can get a pretty good roll. It is also said that the word “rough” means exactly that. There doesn’t appear to be a second cut, going directly from a gorgeous fairway to the kind of grass where lions lie in wait. One feature that I find in so many Nicklaus designs is the employment of dimpled land, with vast twists and turns within seemingly flat ground. Players have commented on the steep slope of Serengeti’s greens, also noting that if you are on a streak of hitting the ball straight, you can really open up and go for the flag.
Still, there’s that wildlife thing. Serengeti is close to a large city, and there are bound to be thousands upon thousands of people, from players to gallery. Perhaps that would be all too intense for major predators in the vicinity – we’ll hope so. Meanwhile, the designs of Jack Nicklaus continue to garner special attention throughout the world. All told, over ninety of his courses have hosted professional tournaments, and quite a few have had majors played upon them. This will be Serengeti’s first nationally prestigious event on a major tour, and South African players couldn’t be happier. The country would love nothing more than a duel between Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, who grew up close by. Rory’s presence is anticipated. He dominates the money list on two continents with only a few events remaining.
Everyone will come for Jack. Such is the level of esteem for both his playing and post-career years that he could probably design a La Brea tar pits course, or something like the Yellowstone Geyser Links, and they would still come. Just in terms of spectacular terrain, however, he clearly sees the great potential for the African continent, displaying one breathtaking scene after another. And you won’t even have to bring Cheetah – although Jane is welcome.