HumewoodGqeberha, Eastern Cape
Humewood Golf Club was rated by the late, great Bobby Locke as one of the best links courses he’d ever played and for a man with four Open Championships to his name between 1949 and 1957, he was certainly well qualified to voice such an opinion.
Dr Charles M Murray invited a representative from the English design partnership of Cecil Hutchison, Sir Guy Campbell and Colonel Stafford Vere Hotchkin to visit South Africa in 1929 and it was Hotchkin – of Woodhall Spa fame in Lincolnshire – who laid out the 18 holes. Unusually, the original course had a par of 76, thanks to a configuration that included no fewer than eight par fives.
Four of these holes (4, 8, 10 and 13) have since been reconfigured as par fours but the intuitive double loop routing has remained intact. More recently, Donald Steel re-bunkered a number of holes in the 1980s then all the greens were replaced by Golf Data in 2008, when a burn was also introduced in front of the par five 17th green.
The signature hole on the course is the 449-yard, par four, 13th. An arrow-straight uphill hole, it normally plays into the prevailing wind and its elevated green is tucked behind a dune with a deep bunker to the left and a waste area to the right of the putting surface.
Located in the sand dunes of Algoa Bay, just south of Port Elizabeth, Humewood is a fine test of links golf where fairways are generally wide to compensate for the strong winds that can blow in off the Indian Ocean but concessions to the elements end there. The rough can be penal in places, and is complemented by dense coastal bush flanking some of the holes, which makes straight driving a priority.
Bunkers on the course are not plentiful but penal whilst fairway rough largely consists of dense coastal bush that will devour stray shots. Greens are firm and fast, requiring a sure putting touch – which was certainly needed when the South African Open returned for the fifth time to this top class links in 2006 (won by Ernie Els).
Writing in True Links, authors George Peper and Malcolm Campbell commented as follows: “Humewood, in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is a bona fide links, Kikuyu and Bermuda grass – two notoriously poor links grasses – cover the fairways, and yet those fairways bounce and roll as if they were in Great Britain. Somehow Humewood not only exists but thrives, the world’s only links whose resident fauna include meerkats and monkeys.”
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Hotchkin joined forces with Hutchison and Guy Campbell with the “Three Majors” becoming partners in a new company called Links and Courses, which operated from The Manor House, Woodhall Spa.