course for all seasons

Meshack Motloung

Meshack Motloung

Golf will once again take centre stage when 12 world-renowned players take to the fairways, gunning for the enticing $1200000 (R12 million) first prize in the Nedbank Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City on Thursday.

Out of the field of 12 participants, three will be taking part for the first time in this yearly event.

They are Swede, Robert Karlsson, KJ Choi of Korea, and South African James Kingston.

Apart from making their debuts in the Challenge, Karlsson and Choi will also be playing this course for the first time, while Kingston is familiar with it's fairways and greens.

Although the rest of the field have played at this venue, which is said to be difficult and demanding, the three newcomers cannot be discounted.

Defending champion, Trevor Immelman also took the golfing world by surprise when he made his debut in this prestigious event, so this could be anybody's game.

The course requires stamina and accuracy from players and the South Africans, in Kingston, Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, who have played here on a number of occasions, could have one up on the rest.

The comparatively flat nature of the course is misleading - water hazards, cunningly sited bunkers and pins hidden away on kidney-shaped greens - make up for the lack of gradient.

Off the back markers the course, which has been the home of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since inception in 1981, measures more than 7000 metres making it one of the longest in the world.

But a variety of tees render it playable for all levels of golfers.

A distinguishing feature of the course is its greens complexes, with strategically placed bunkers, swales and mounds that protect the super slick clover shaped greens. With pristine kikuyu fairways and excellently bent grass greens, the course is kept in perfect condition all year round.

Other players who will be taking part are Segio Garcia, Miguel Jimenez, Anthony Kim, Kenny Perry, Justin Rose, Hendrik Stenson and Lee Westwood.