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Golf course review: Eye of Africa

 

The Eye of Africa Golf and Residential Estate will forever be known as the home of Greg Norman’s first course design project in South Africa, and like all of the golf course layouts that Norman has put his name to, this one is rather special.
The planning and development of the Eye of Africa golf course

I must admit that I had my doubts when I heard that Medallist Developments (a joint venture between Greg Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises and the Australian Macquarie Group) would be creating an upmarket estate to the south of Johannesburg.

But during my first visit to Eye of Africa I was struck by the beauty of the area – dominated by classic Highveld koppies with beautiful rocky outcrops (a total of 677 hectares with 1 200 freehold title stands), and it was clear at first glance that this was a proper golf course built on terrain that is anything but flat.

Wide, undulating fairways, large multi-teeing areas and huge, interesting greens greet the player, and it is clear that no expense was spared in constructing the golf course that is Eye of Africa: a serious test of golf from the tips.
Eye of Africa’s specifications and construction

It is clear that meticulous care went into the master-planning of Eye of Africa, and the routing of the golf course layout, which the large area allowed for.

On the technical side, 30-ton excavators, 20-ton articulated dump trucks and 10-cubic-metre tipper trucks joined a fleet of graders and compactors to move and shape some 300 000 cubic metres of soil, and the result is a golf course layout that does justice to the surrounding countryside. Eye of Africa’s fairways are planted with eco-friendly Gulf Green and the greens are clad in A1/A4 bentgrass.

The golf course layout’s construction was done by Servest, the company that is also contracted to maintain the course. Servest’s Vic van Eyk tells us that things were done properly here from the start.

“Working to the most stringent ecological and safety standards, for which Medallist is known, was both challenging and enlightening, but the final product speaks for itself,” says Van Eyk about Eye of Africa. “I can imagine that golfers of all skill levels will love playing this course.”

A special ceramic and silica mix forms the growing medium for the greens, which cannot be faulted in any golf course layout.
Eye of Africa’s current and future success

At the moment, the course attracts around 25 000 rounds a year, which will obviously increase as the estate fills up with new homes. Dave Usendorff’s Inside Right Club Management runs the golf operations, and although operating from a temporary pro shop and clubhouse (formerly stables on the original farm), there is a welcoming feel to Eye of Africa, which certainly fits into the ‘country’ genre even though it is not far from the Johannesburg CBD.

It remains to be seen just how the building of homeswill affect the look of certain holes at Eye of Africa, but it is doubtful whether they will, because there do seem to be fair-sized buffer zones between the areas of play and the residential sites – again, the developers wisely avoided jamming too many stands into the available space.
Eye of Africa’s golf course layout

All designers will claim to have created a course that is both a championship golf course layout from the back tees and a user-friendly track from the club markers, and this is certainly true here. (The course is some 800 metres shorter off the club tees.)

The bunkering is also both artful and practical, and adds value to both the aesthetics and the shot values of the course. Eye of Africa’s fairways are generous, but should a player hit a truly wayward shot from the tee, it will be punished.

This is one of those courses that is likely to grow on everyone that plays it – there are ideal angles from which to approach the targets that are not always obvious, but even the first-timer will surely enjoy the golf course layout. Even missing greens leaves reasonable chances of recovery, and it must be said that for a modern course it is not ridiculously long or in any way gimmicky.

Eye of Africa is one of Gauteng’s ‘must play’ golf courses, and if this is typical of Greg Norman’s design philosophy, the golfing public will surely welcome more of his work in South Africa.

 

LIKES

→ Eye of Africa’s classic Highveld feel with indigenous veld grass lining the golf course layout.
→ The overall routing, with no cramping of holes.
→ The closing three holes – a par three, a par five and a par four.

… AND DISLIKES

→ Getting to the Eye of Africa golf course can be problematic in traffic, but once there it is well worth the drive.
→ The fact that the original farmhouse will be demolished – a pity as the structure oozes character.
→ A rather quirky rough part of the golf course layout in the 17th fairway known as ‘Norman’s Nob’ – it has no value except to punish the wrong player.

 

EYE OF AFRICA FACT FILE

Course – Par 72, 6 934 metres.

Golf Course Layout Designer – Greg Norman

Course Superintendent – Johan Knell

Golf Operations Manager – Dave Usendorff

Greenfees – Affiliated Weekends R350, specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays

On-site Sales – 010 500 0405

Golf Bookings – 010 500 0300

Websitewww.eyeofafrica.co.za

Getting There – From the M1 South, pass Gold Reef City, and turn into Klipriver Road. From there signposts will direct you. From the R59 highway, turn right into the R550. After 11 kilometres turn left into the road leading to Eye of Africa Golf and Residential Estate.

 


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