Strand and deliver
Those golfers old enough to remember the original Strand golf course will fondly recall a short, tight course surrounded by dense coastal scrub and a seemingly ever-present howling Southeaster.
When the course was moved down the road to its current location in 1994 – as a result of the development of the beachfront property that was home to the original layout – members suddenly found themselves with a brand-new golf course that could not have been more of a contrast to the original.
Same but different
While the Southeaster continued to whip off False Bay and over the course with great gusto, the new version of Strand Golf Club presented golfers with longer, wider fairways, more water hazards and an entirely new challenge, with only a few holes, notably the stretch from the par-five 2nd hole to the short par-four 4th hole, bearing a close resemblance to the pre-1994 course.
Robbie Marshall of Golf Data, the designers and developers of the course, explains that these holes were built on a very sandy base, whereas the remainder of the course was constructed on solid clay.
“Most of the land there was low-lying, swampy farmland and the challenge [designer] Mark Muller had was to raise the level of the playing surfaces so that the course would be playable during the wet Cape winter,” said Marshall.
Muller successfully achieved this by removing a substantial amount of earth and using it to raise the levels of the playing areas, from tees through the fairways and the greens. The excavated areas were transformed into dams and water hazards that improve the aesthetics of the course tremendously and also serve as reservoirs during the dry summer months.
In the first year in its new location, the club planted some 2 500 trees around the course, and while some of these trees have grown up a little faster than others, most are only now helping to mature and define the layout.
As a result, the tree-lined corridors, together with the numerous water hazards and bunkers, are a prominent feature of the course. On a benign day, of which there are relatively few, many would consider Strand to be an undemanding test of golf – and in fairness it is a layout that is not tricked up or in any way deceptive.
However, when the Southeaster does decide to bare its teeth, the course is transformed into an almighty battleground and the prevailing wind, which cuts laterally across many of the fairways instead of assisting or impeding, makes for an interesting test of one’s ball control.
The condition of the course has been consistently good in recent years and Strand received Compleat Golfer’s ‘Most Improved Course in the Cape’ award in 2007. This has been achieved despite being one of the most affordable courses in the Western Cape, both in terms of membership and greenfees.
With a large membership base of 1 600 – of which 60 percent are active members and 25 percent are ladies – Strand Golf Club is loyally supported and, like any true members’ club, it has a real community atmosphere.
Looking forward, the club has recently opened its new driving range – something that had been missing from the club’s facilities until now – and the full-length hitting area serves as an ideal warm-up spot as well as a location for the local professionals to ply their trade. The new burn running down the left side of the 12th fairway has grown in nicely and obscures any view of the adjacent motorway, while the club has also begun the process of constructing cart paths on the course – something which will stand it in good stead in the future wet winter months.
The first few holes of Strand’s front nine may not be particularly long, or even particularly demanding, but they do offer an intriguing, if somewhat deceptive, start to one’s round. Intriguing, since they are short enough for one to really score well on, but deceptive since they do not really reflect the overall style of the course.
The three-hole stretch from the 2nd hole is typical of any coastal course in the country, and while the holes are all high strokes, they are quite capable of ending a good round before it has really even begun. The 2nd, at just over 400 metres from the club tee, is a very short par five with an entrance that narrows sharply near the green. It is either a relatively simple lay-up hole as a three-shotter or a seductive two-shotter, protected by some nasty coastal bush.
The 3rd hole is a testing par three that can be stretched to 177 metres from the back tee, while the 4th is a reachable par four, even for the shorter hitters, measuring just 241 metres. The smart play on this hole would be to lay up onto the fairway with an iron, as there is plenty of bush, deep rough and other trouble en route to the green, but for most this will be a temptation too hard to ignore.
The tee shot on the par-five 5th has become more daunting since the establishment of the driving range to the right – it is now considered out of bounds – but should you find this narrow fairway, the hole does tend to open up. Here one is given a first taste of the many impressive water hazards on the course in the form of a lake that protects both the 5th and 7th greens and is likely to discourage the conservative golfer from trying to hit the green in two.
The final three holes of the front nine represent real scoring opportunities in the form of two short par fours and a medium-length par three. All three holes incorporate a water hazard of some sort, but if played conservatively, golfers shouldn’t have too much difficulty making par.
The outward loop plays almost 300 metres shorter than the inward loop, and if the start to the opening nine can be considered easy, then the reverse is true for the back nine. The five-hole stretch from the 10th to the 14th holes, consisting mainly of low-stroke holes, is a particularly challenging sequence, with the tree-lined fairways dictating that any shot straying off-line from the tee will see a par score become a great result.
The par-three 14th hole is a beast of a hole that plays to 226 metres from the tips and can at times require a well-hit driver just to reach the putting surface.
This corner of the layout is strangely out of character with the rest of the course and has a slight links feel to it, with few trees to punctuate the skyline and a generous sprinkling of waste bunkers and sand traps.
The par-five 18th hole is rated as the hardest hole on the course and should be respected as the three-shotter it rightfully is. At almost 500 metres from the club tee, the hole is protected by water to the right of the fairway as well as in front of the green. The lay-up area may be generous, but the approach to the green is treacherous and is likely to be discussed by the members watching from the bar above the putting surface. It is certainly a fine hole to end a quirky, yet highly entertaining golf course.
Strand’s 18th may look pretty, but this stroke-1, 517m par five demands respect. A fine finishing hole indeed.
The par-four 13th hole forms part of a tough opening stretch on the back nine. Despite playing only 356m, the hole is quite challenging as water is very much in play off the tee.
The par-four 11th hole plays away from the clubhouse and towards the Hottentots Holland Mountains. A wide entrance to the green is the reward for safely negotiating this tight driving hole.
Picture 4 : The clubhouse
As a typical members’ club, Strand has a clubhouse that is lively, entertaining and full of atmosphere.
- The relaxed, friendly club atmosphere – a real members’ club.
- The clever use of water features which add to the aesthetics of the course.
- The price – it’s one of the most affordable rounds of golf in the greater Cape Town area.
… and dislikes
- The overall course design is a bit jumbled. It’s some parts coastal, some parts links-like, but mostly parkland.
- With roads on three sides of the course, traffic does come into play, if not off the tee, then in the form of noise. For good measure, there’s even a road that runs straight through the middle of the course.
Getting there: From Cape Town (N2) take the Helderberg/Broadway Boulevard turnoff. On the R44 turn right at the traffic light. Pass Somerset Mall on your left. At Beach Road turn right at the traffic light. Strand Golf Club will be on your left.
Course: Parkland, kikuyu fairways, bent/poa greens, 6 061m, par 72.
Designers: Golf Data (Mark Muller), 1994
General Manager: Cornie Blom
Course Superintendent: Andrew Small
Club captain: Stanley du Plessis
Club champion: Dylan Erasmus
Professionals: Francois van den Bos, Ian Martin, Dan-Alex Heyns
Greenfees: R215 affiliated, R420 non-affiliated
Contact: Tel: 021 853 6268 E-mail: email@example.com