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Steyn City: SA's futuristic golf center

Steyn City Golf Course's 18th-hole.jpg
An aerial view of Steyn City’s risk and reward 18th hole with its high-tech clubhouse (centre right) and Douw Steyn’s R250 million mansion (left corner) in the background

Played the heavily hyped Steyn City Golf Course and wow! What a course! What a club!!! It fully deserves all the hype it has been getting.

When the many hundreds of saplings that were planted on it grow to full size, it's very possible that this awesome new Jack Nicklaus-designed layout with its many strategic bunkers, oceans and undulating greens will come to be known as the Augusta of South Africa for already its imported rye and fescue grassed all-season fairways and first cuts and its bent grass greens and tees are as pristine as you can get anywhere in the world. I hardly saw a blade of grass out of place.

Though opened just under 5 years ago in October 2014, Steyn City can already boast greens that are as fine and as true as they are challenging and unbelievable tees that are as smooth as billiard tables - thanks to being seeded for the first time in South Africa with a super new strain of Bentgrass known as Bent 007.

Clearly nothing has been spared in terms of design, construction and maintenance on this new golfing wonder way, built in an old quarry in Gauteng's Midrand on either side of the Jukskei River which wends its way through the hugely ambitious, 6.5-billion rand, upper-income, walled estate and I have no doubt that, in the not too distant future, it will jockey with Leopard Creek, The Links at Fancourt, Arabella, Blair Athol and the Gary Player Country Club for the premier position on the list of South Africa's 100 Top golf courses.

Compleat Golfer has more about The Club at Steyn City

Steyn City's brief to Nicklaus was to make a golf course that was as user-friendly as possible for the average handicapped golfer but also challenging enough to stage top-ranked professional tournaments and this has certainly been achieved in typical Nicklaus style on a course that is 7 054 metres off the back tees, 6 636 metres off the club tees, 5 973 off the blue markers and 5 269 off the ladies tees.

It has a standard par-72 layout with two par-3 and two par-5 holes on each of its two nine-hole loops that start and end at its standout, eco-friendly clubhouse which features a 'green' roof subtly covered by living vegetation, marble floors, a half-way house, restaurant and bar of distinction, a fully stocked pro-shop, luxurious change-rooms, a high-tech gym and yes, believe it or not, even indoor parking.

Off the club tees its longest hole is the par-5 6th at 558 metres and its shortest the par 3 12th at 159 metres.

You get an early inkling of the exciting challenge Steyn City poses to all levels of golfer at the very first hole, a risk-and-reward challenge that involves crossing the river. And you are constantly reminded, thereafter, of this fact as you progress, especially on the stretch between holes No 7 and 10 which Steyn City's golf general manager, Ken Payet, has described as "our own Amen Corner".

For the average handicap golfer, the fairways are wide enough to ensure fun days without too many lost balls, but scoring well on your first attempt won't be easy. Nicklaus's subtle bunkering and water guards, as well as his undulating greens and their surrounds, provide a challenge that will make sure of that, no matter what tees you play-off.

And yes, don't go expecting to walk the course. Its slopes are less severe than Pezulu in Knysna in the Southern Cape, but it's uphill and down dale character nevertheless makes a golf car a necessity - and besides, the cars are all equipped with GPS's, electronic scorecards and a built-in marshall who tells you when to return to the cart path and when to slow down for humped bridges, etc.

The cars also come equipped with iced water, which is just one the many little touches that make a round of golf here so pleasurable. The wet towels presented to you at the entrance to the halfway house is another - and the broad smiles and helpful attitudes of all its staff serve only to enhance this.

This wonderful new addition to the South African golfing scene which now features several high profile Tour events, is only a small part of Insurance magnate Douw Steyn's realization of a dream to build a 6.5 billion rand walled city of some 2000 acres offering 10,000 upper-end homes, office blocks, shopping malls, schools and health care and sporting facilities where residents will be able to walk, run, work and play in a beautiful green environment free of crime.

I saw only a dozen or so houses in our drive from its huge and impressive 'Gateway' entrance to the golf club, but if they and Steyn's own 250 million Romanesque villa that looks out onto the clubhouse between two long and thin waterfalls, mean anything, this planned for largest ever South African walled estate is also something positive to talk about in a country with too much negativity right now.