Some of the United Kingdom’s top golf journalists travelled south to cover the Volvo Golf Champions and all of them have been impressed by the Fancourt Links course used for the prestige, 35-man event.
The Fancourt Links is rated South Africa’s top course but it was pleasing to see the visiting journalists saying it lived up to its reputation, especially as the United Kingdom is the home of links courses.
While Fancourt, which lies perhaps a dozen kilometres from the sea, cannot truly be described as a genuine links course, the journalists said it was an impressive attempt to recreate the feel of classics such as Portmarnock, Royal Dublin, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale and St Andrew’s.
“Normally I’m very skeptical about faux links courses, for example I didn’t enjoy Whistling Straits when the PGA was held there, it put the sham into the shamrock if you like,” Irish Independent golf correspondent Karl McGinty told SuperGolf.
“But this is a fantastic place and a wonderful course. On Saturday, when the wind blew and it was overcast and rainy, it was like a mild summer’s day in Ireland, but I was very impressed. We suddenly found out what everyone has been talking about and it was a wonderful test,” McGinty said.
Lewine Mair, the European correspendent for Global Golf Post.com, didn’t particularly like the plastic used to rivet the bunkers, but overall she was very impressed with Fancourt.
“It’s such a fantastic venue that I just wonder about the plastic rivetting of the bunkers. I understand it works in terms of maintenance, but I feel such a classy course deserves the old turf blocks.
“But it’s an absolutely amazing place, it blows you away and they’ve done a terrific job – one of the best links creations I’ve seen,” Mair said.
Freelance golf writer and author Graham Otway said he was concerned when Nicolas Colsaerts and others were able to take the course apart on the first two days.
“It’s rated the toughest links course in South Africa, but you question that when you see Colsaerts shoot 64 on the first day and Lee Slattery 65 on the second. But when the pin positions are generous and the weather even more so, these guys can destroy any course.
“But Saturday was the true test of this golf course. Once the wind started to blow, it took no prisoners and that is a better way of measuring its degree of difficulty. It lived up to its reputation,” Otway said.
As Otway pointed out, a true links course is all about the coastal sand dunes that lie beneath and should drain water rapidly, leaving the course dry.
“The Fancourt course has a genuine links feel about it, but I still don’t like the word used outside of its historical context of golf played on the wasteland that linked beaches with the farmland beyond. An inland links, however cleverly built, cannot truly match the real thing,” Otway said.
Mair marvelled at the back tees at Fancourt and joked that it might say something about our future evolution as human beings.
“It’s a real man-sized course and the mind boggles that there are tees even further back than the ones they used. I presume it’s so the course is ready for the next generation of long-hitters – whether they be apes or humans or whatever!” she said.
Otway bemoaned the fact that there are so few chances these days to see professionals put under real pressure on the golf course.
“It’s a pity that tour players don’t get challenges like this more often. Life is very easy for them most weeks and they don’t have to learn how to cope with challenges,” he said.
Volvo, the tournament creators, have also been impressed and the chances are good that the event will return to South Africa in the future.
“Fancourt is a special, world-class venue and we are very impressed with the people and management. Long-term, we definitely want to move the tournament around and showcase it all over the world, but we will certainly look at bringing it back here every third or fourth year,” Per Ericsson, the president of Volvo Event Management, said.