With the end of both the European and US PGA Tour seasons, South Africa takes centre stage with 12 of the world's best players competing for the top prize in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City's Gary Player Country Club.
Open for play in 1979, this is the only one of his 300+ designs that officially carries the name of golfing icon Gary Player. The course is located adjacent to Pilansberg National Park in a spectacular setting and is superbly conditioned with kikuyu fairways and Bentgrass greens. At almost 7300 metres, this par 72 is one of the longest layouts in the world.
Though relatively flat and with no dramatic change in elevation the course is very challenging and demanding beyond its extreme length which calls for accuracy with the longer irons and stamina. There are numerous water hazards and cunningly placed fairway and greenside sand traps, but the course's ultimate line of defence is the ingenuity of the greens complexes.
The undulating, kidney-shaped super slick putting surfaces are bordered by mounds, swales and run-offs that give par a further level of protection beyond the tucked away pin placements. Each nine finishes with a pair of extremely difficult holes. The 8th is a devilish 450m par 4, followed by the 9th, the course's signature hole and the ultimate risk and reward challenge. This 540m par 5 has an island green that will entice the brave or foolhardy to go for broke before making the turn for home. The round finishes with two long and spectacular par 4's that will punish any let-up in concentration as both holes are protected by water.
Gary Player Country Club has been the distinguished home of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since 1981 and its beautiful parkland layout is carved through pristine African bushveld in the crater of an extinct volcano. The design rose rapidly to the top of South Africa's golf course rankings when it opened over 30 years ago, and today Gary Player Country Club continues to be the benchmark against which all the other pretenders are measured.
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