Soweto Country Club has come a long way since golf was first played at Pimville in the 1970s on sand greens. Converted to grass by Gary Player Design in the 1980s, the course fell into disrepair until the Sunshine Tour’s Selwyn Nathan championed a complete course rebuild which Phil Jacobs of Gary Player Design completed in 2019.
The original course came about due to black players like Vincent Tshabalala badgering the authorities in Johannesburg for a suitable site and the City of Joburg responded positively again when calls were made to upgrade the facilities, bringing in the PGA Tour, European Tour, R&A and corporate sponsors to help establish a worthy legacy development.
The tree-lined fairways on the refurbished layout lead to new bent grass greens, which really elevate the playing experience to a higher level. There are only three par fives and three par threes in play, with just the one short hole on the back nine at the 17th. There’s also a single water hazard on the entire course, positioned to the right of the putting surface on the 10th hole.
Soweto is quite a deceiving course, which looks pretty short and easy at first glance. One would be tempted to thinking that level par (with handicap accounted for) is a big possibility. Nothing can be further from the truth. Firstly, it is not as short as it promises because its a tricky little bugger. The layout is a challenge for a start, with narrow fairways and very few straight holes. There are only two water hazards, on the right of the tenth green and behind the eleventh green. The trees are not very high either which is one of the things that would make a golfer think: 'piece of cake'.
The difficulty comes from the rough, the greens and most notably, the penalty areas. Most of the penalty areas seem to be playable as golfers will find their balls most of the time. Getting out of them is a mess, rather take a penalty drop and go to the fairway, otherwise you are guaranteed to lose strokes on the hole. The rough is also tricky, although playable, a glofer is advised to take a very careful look at their lie before deciding on the club and shot to be played. Any mistake will add to your strokes.
The greens are immaculate, undulating and relatively large. It is not enough to be on the green in regulation, you need to be as close to the flag as possible... the further you are (you guessed it!) will add strokes. The breaks on the greens are tricky, the longer the putt, the more difficult the read. Beware of short hole no. 7, a par on this hole is as good as a birdie; it poses one of the more difficult greens on the course in terms of undulation.
You will definitely enjoy the course as it will challenge your golf, it will reward you for good golf but it will certainly punish you for bad golf (or rather poor decision-making). I dare you to beat this course, but even if it gives you a hiding, you will enjoy every minute of it.