A golfer plays his approach shot at the Gary Player Country Club. Picture: SUPPLIED
A golfer plays his approach shot at the Gary Player Country Club. Picture: SUPPLIED

The SA Open has shifted venue with 2020’s 110th edition set to be played outside Gauteng for the first time since 2010. The tournament moves to the Gary Player Country Club (GPCC) at Sun City in North West province from December 3 to 6.

In essence, it more or less takes over the slot occupied by the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) with the precinct and sponsor giving it a familiar ring. The tournament‚ however‚ will be different to the NGC with a larger field‚ no frenzied spectators and course alteration helping to create a mini makeover.

For this year’s tournament the back nine will be played first‚ which means the picturesque but daunting par-five ninth will be the closing hole.

“It is creating a differentiator between the other tournaments that have been held at Sun City. That was the biggest consideration‚” said Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt. “The numbers that can happen on that hole from a three to a seven can happen quickly. It brings the Sunday to a fitting close. Even if you play it conservatively you could still make a seven.”

The one positive from the lockdown for the GPCC is the drastic reduction in traffic on its fairways and greens. It has given the course time to flourish.

“The GPCC is in pristine condition as a combination of being well-prepared for the NGC before we had to cancel this year’s event‚ and the lack of significant traffic as a result of the national lockdown‚” said Anthony Leeming, CEO of Sun International. “So we are confident this year’s field will encounter a golf course in excellent condition and very much worthy of this great championship.”

The SA Open‚ with  prize money of R19.5m‚ will complete a three-week run of tournaments‚ including the Joburg Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship that are co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

Though no spectators or media will be allowed, the Sunshine Tour believes it can bring the events front of mind for golf fans.

It will have less of a challenge convincing players that they need to stay in their bio-bubble. “If any of the protocols are broken by the players they are automatically disqualified. Only one player has been disqualified for that reason across the European Tour events‚” Abt said.

The organisers are unable yet to reveal the strength of the field but at least one former champion has given this year’s tournament the thumbs up.

“We have engaged with some of our past champions. We have no confirmations yet‚ except for our champion from 2017, Brandon Stone. He will be coming to play all three tournaments‚” Abt said.

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