Swaziland – named after Mswati II the 19th century ruler – is a land locked country, bordered on its eastern side by Mozambique with South Africa surrounding it on its other three sides.
Independent from Great Britain since 1968, the one million inhabitants of Swaziland live in a country comparable in size to Wales (measuring around 125 miles in length by approximately 80 miles wide) with most of the working population employed in subsistence agriculture. A sad fact of life for this impoverished country is that it has the highest HIV infection rate in the world (a quarter of all adults) and the lowest life expectancy (32 years).
Both of these shocking statistics affecting the ordinary people of Swaziland makes the pursuit of golf within the country appear something of a grotesque irrelevance somehow. But despite this, there are in fact around a dozen golf courses in the country and the pick of these is a Peter Matkovich remodel at the opulent 4-star Sun International Resort of Royal Swazi Spa.
We learned about a new course at Nkonyeni in the summer of 2020 when we received the following information about the project from Louis van der Walt, design associate of Peter Matkovich: ”Nkonyeni has two courses. The first bushveld/parkland course was built several years ago by the developer and an independent contractor. We have been involved in the second course: Louis Oosthuizen was originally signed by the client to do the design, wanting a ‘links-style’ course on a much more open piece of land.
With Peter’s association with Louis Oosthuizen, we were asked to assist, and got involved in the routing and further on site and detail design. The first nine holes of the ‘Golden Eagle Links’ course has been completed and is open for play, with the second nine planned for 2021/22.
The course plays across an area of old farmlands, adjacent to the Great Usuthu River, following a traditional out and in routing. The holes built as the first nine is a loop combining the starting holes (holes 1-3 and the 7th) with the finishing holes (holes 14-18) to create a 9-hole initial loop. It’s planted with Bermuda which should allow it to play fast and firm.