CAPE ST FRANCIS, Eastern Cape – Golf in the sand dunes and bush of the St Francis Links can be a confusing experience for those who do not know one of South Africa’s top courses well and director of golf Jeff Clause, a Master PGA Professional, says the Vodacom Origins of Golf Sunshine Tour event that will start there on Thursday will be a test of temperament.
Being the fun-loving, entertaining character he is, Clause uses a song to describe how the professionals should approach the magnificent Jack Nicklaus designed course.
“It’s like the Kenny Rogers song The Gambler – ‘You’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them’,” Clause says. “There are holes that demand much respect and others, if you’re with the wind, that you can attack.
“When you’re out there in the dunes, there’s more to the course than meets the eye. It can be visually distorting and often there is more room than what you see. I think this course really excels in some wind, but not necessarily the tough conditions we had on the first day of the pro-am.
“All links and coastal courses have wind as a factor in the design and we are generally an east-west course. There are three par-threes that go across north-south, and one par-four and one par-five, meaning there are 13 holes that will be either downwind or into the wind.
“The difference can be three clubs. But we’ve given golfers as much landing area as we can and the course is a lot more playable than when we opened in 2007. This will be our 12thVodacom Origins of Golf event and, in the first one, +9 made the cut, while 13-under was the winner last year,” Clause says.
“Our aim is to make it more than a putting contest. It takes more than that to win here. Why I love links golf is because it requires more shots. If you learn to play here, you can play anywhere.
“It’s more about shot-making, where you put the ball, where you leave it for the next shot. You can burn up every hole or you can blow it, so you need a strong mind around here.
“Steve Surry had a putt for 62 here last year in the PGA Championship, while on a bad day, pro golfers are tiptoeing around 90 here.
“Next year is the 100th anniversary of the PGA Championship, and our aim is to return that tournament to past glories.
“But we also love the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, we love working with them, I like the format which brings the amateurs in to enjoy our course. We have property owners here who have bought because of this tournament,” Clause says.