For those of us who are not living in South Africa, we have the benefit of seeing this course every year on television for the annual Nedbank Challenge tour event. Sun City is just over 2 hours northwest of Johannesburg which feels like the absolute middle of nowhere, with the last 70km of the journey highly recommended only to be driven in day-light hours. South Africa’s answer to Las Vegas becomes visible when you pull into the “Palace of the Lost City”, which is easily on the short-list of the best hotels on earth on any rating scale. The Gary Player Country Club opened for play in the early 1970s named after the country’s most famous golfer. The course is located close to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, so the feeling of being surrounded by the Big 5 is never far away. But that’s when the “walk in the park” ends, as every hole makes you work hard even to make a par. Certain features of the club feel outdated, and the bunkers are a little uninspiring – but the holes are tight with vegetation on either side of the fairways and the rolling land makes for a very enjoyable walk. The course is very long and challenging from the back tees which validates its credentials as a tough venue for the professionals, but offers plenty of playability from the shorter tees. The par 5 10th hole has possibly the smallest green for a long par 5 I’ve ever seen and plays as a true “three shotter” to get the back nine started. The variety of long and short memorable par 4s were the highlights for me, in addition to the unique experience of the kikuyu grass. I hit every club in the bag and sincerely enjoyed the challenge of the climactic 9th and 18th holes over the water. The entire Sun City experience will be a jewel on any South African holiday. Expect not to want to leave!
Date: September 07, 2015