The Toughest of them all!on December 5, 2010
Not for the first time, the fearsome 17th hole has proven to be the least popular with the players in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
To say that this par four is “challenging” is something of an understatement. When the course was originally opened 32 years ago, this was a rather benign par four which measured a little over 350 metres from the club tees, and even at full stretch is was considered to be a birdie opportunity. In early Nedbank Golf Challenges, most players would hit 3-wood off the tee leaving a nine-iron or wedge to the green. But eight years ago Gary Player decided to change the two-shotter into a very different proposition. A new tee was constructed, so now the drive must carry some 200 metres over water before landing on a narrow section of fairway that is well-bunkered. The approach must then be played to a peninsula green (moved from its original position further right), and even the slightest of pulls will result in the ball ending in a watery grave. The safe play is to favour the right side of the putting green, which is protected by a bunker that sees a lot of business. Facing a sand shot to a firm green with water behind the flag is a daunting prospect, even for the best players in the world.This hole now measures 438 metres (480 yards), and during the third round there was not a single birdie recorded here. Television commentator Ewan Murray made a good point when he suggested that Ross Fisher was unlikely to hang a picture of this hole in his lounge. Fisher has twice double-bogeyed the hole this week – yesterday he dumped his approach in the water, and during the first round his tee shot was stymied, he chipped out, hit his approach to the back of the green and promptly three-putted.