The 101st South African Open teed off at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Thursday, with the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni, Councillor Mondli Gungubele, hitting the ceremonial first tee shot.
After a few practice swings on the driving range, Councillor Gungubele produced a solid opening drive that even drew praise from the official starter, Ivor Robson.
Robson, the official first tee starter for The Open Championship, then ushered in the start of the championship with the first professional group.
This year’s South African Open has a field including defending champion Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and England’s Simon Dyson, as well as a host of the Sunshine Tour and European Tour’s rising stars.
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will host the South African Open Championship in 2011 and 2012. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Serengeti is the first 27-hole golf course in Gauteng and was recently named “Best New Golf Course” by Golf Digest.
The 18-hole course called Masai Mara, which means “wide open plains” in the language of the Masai, has a rugged grassland and dune-scape look. One of the unique features on the course is the par-five eighth hole with its island green. The nine-hole course called Whistling Thorn has a more classic feel.
The courses were constructed in accordance with USGA specifications, with cool season grass that provides green vistas all year round. Designed as a strategic and technical masterpiece that will test today’s best players, the sunken design of the course with its wide corridors is ideal for tournament purposes and provides optimal spectator value on almost every hole.