Royal Johannesburg and Kensington – East Course
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Club: 6465m (7070 yards)
Ladies: 5466m (5978 yards)
Championship: 7001m (7656 yards)
To try and define what it takes to make a course a challenge on the European Tour is something better left to the experts, but when you are looking for overall balance of play, The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East Course is as near to perfection as one could ever hope to see. Home of the European Tour’s Joburg Open, this par 72 parklands course is both beautiful and tough. Affectionately known as ‘East the Beast’ by many locals, the East Course can turn little mistakes into big ones. Fairways are lined with huge established trees; bunkers are positioned in exactly the wrong place for players and all the right places for a tough green keeper. The greens run true and quick with fleeting elements of water littered throughout the course which make for very interesting golfing.
The length of the course is manageable if you can find the short grass off the tee box, but it is also unforgiving to mistakes. Ranked well inside the country’s top ten courses according to Golf Digest, East the Beast should be a tourist attraction and not just a golf course. It has everything you could ever hope to find on a five star golfing adventure. If you love golf and someone offers you the chance to play this world leading course, grab the opportunity with both hands. And if you don’t love golf and someone offers you a round at this course, take it; it will give you a love and appreciation for the game you might not have known you had.
If one were to take a picture for a class on golf course design, then the par 5 6th hole would be the one to use as an example. Using length, hazards and elevation to maximize the hole’s challenge and visual appeal is exactly what the 6th has and does. It is a fantastic looking hole that swoops downhill and has a very slight dogleg right and left before actually reaching the hole. The landing zone for your downhill drive is guarded by two bunkers on the left and a water hazard on the right. If you decide to take on the big second shot into the green, you will again have to take on a water hazard front and left, and a semi-pot bunker guarding the green to the right. Overshooting the green will also land you in trouble, so the sensible play is to lay up and try and attack the small green with a short iron. It is hard to believe that this hole is regarded as one of the easier on the course, but par is acceptable and birdie exceptional.
The stroke 1, par 4 11th hole is a real test of character and golfing brains from the tee to the green. You need to make 100% sure that you visualize the outcome of every shot you play before you play it, because this hole has the ability to turn the okay, into the horrible with one mishit. The tee box is extremely elevated, laying out in front of you the canvas of your own potential demise. The hole is beautiful, but has that evil allure you’d expect from the course’s toughest hole. The landing zone is not protected from anything other than your own aggression and the biggest mistake you can make off the box is over hitting the fairway through the dogleg right. Your approach to the narrow green is intimidating. The green slopes heavily from back to front, and the front is protected by water. Overshooting the landing zone means you will have a very tough downhill putt or chip and with the bunker to the back left, the putting surface is a tough target to hit. Walking away from this hole with a par is a good achievement, and like the rest of the course, it is a beautiful example of golfing perfection.