Sun City preparations for 2014 NGC tee off

by Michael Vlismas on

Nedbank Golf Challenge: Day 4At the end of this year, the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge will again focus the attention on a world-class field competing on an iconic course and watched by millions worldwide. And August marks the start of an intensive course preparation programme for the 2014 event.

“This Monday coming we start with our 16-week programme to prepare for the tournament,” says Antonie Els, the Director of Golf at Sun City and who is working on his ninth Nedbank Golf Challenge this year. Sun City is a Sun International Resort.

“They start delivering the scaffolding on-site, and then a week later they already start the building thereof, beginning with the 18th grandstand.”

The preparation process for “Africa’s Major” begins a lot earlier than most golf fans are aware. And with it comes the pressure to create a tournament and a course that is always bigger and better than the year before.

“The biggest challenge we have is that we are consistently the host club of this event for over 30 years,” says Els. “We compare ourselves a lot with a Major like the Masters at Augusta, because you are presenting the same golf course for the same event at the same time every year.”

“A US Open course will know eight years in advance that they will get the tournament. They prepare their course and present it once off. And the US Open might return there in 16 years time. We don’t have that luxury. We have returning sponsors and clients, media and TV viewers year in, year out, and people expect bigger and better every year. It keeps us on our toes, and it keeps away the complacency element. So we challenge ourselves in every little detail to see how we can improve.”

A big part of the ingredient for success is the conditioning of the Gary Player Country Club course.

“Our course preparation is about to kick in. It starts with preparing for Spring treatments and the fertilizing of all areas. It’s a long process, and the programme is set out so that weekly certain things need to happen in order for everything to culminate in the course condition you see on TV every year. It’s not just a case of three weeks before the event jumping in and painting everything green.”

Rain is a critical element in this process, and Els is confident Mother Nature is going to lend a helping hand again this year.

“We did a major upgrade of our irrigation system in 2010, but irrigation only takes you so far. Mother Nature plays a big role, if not the biggest role. Our rains need to come at the right time and right intervals. At the moment, our old wise men are telling us our August winds are starting early so we should be looking at our first rains in September and then good rains in October. But nature won’t be rushed. From our side we make sure that everything is in place. We focus on what we can control. If the foundation is right we’ll manage the rest as and when it comes.”

PHOTO: August marks the start of the course preparations for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and the drive to make the 2014 tournament at Sun City bigger and better than before. Credit: Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour.

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