The North Coast heat has already said a firm “good morning” to the golf course as Sports Manager Thomas Raatgever and Pro Shop Manager Brendan Erasmus grab a coffee each and head down to the golf carts. It is the perfect morning for the 14th hole to put our two golf pros through their paces. Let’s go!
“What shall I bring?” Brendan calls down from the balcony outside the Pro Shop. Thomas begins to reel off a few items, then gives Brendan a wry grin. “So, just bring your whole bag, buddy!”
As we park on the 14th, both pros agree this is one of the more interestingly crafted holes on our course. With Ironwood Way just behind us, the hole itself is quite a thing to behold in the morning light. The wind is also starting to pick up just a tad, which provides excellent teaching opportunities.
About the 14th
The 14th is named ‘Mhlabathini’. “It means long and wicked,” Thomas jokes. Directly translated from isiZulu, mhlabathini is ‘on the ground’. This area of the Ladlau farm was quite sandy before it became the 14th hole. When the course was designed, this particular spot was the most convenient for the construction of the greens.
This hole is a par 4, a standard golf hole where an advanced golfer is expected to get the ball into the hole within four strokes. If you do this in less than four strokes, you have made ‘birdie’.
On the 14th hole
The First Shot
“This can be a challenging hole if you do not take the time to think and set yourself up properly,” Thomas says, as Brendan sets up a tee. Ideally, you should tee up on the left side of the tee box, opening up for your shot to land on the right.
“You have a funnel on either side, which should bring the ball down to the fairway. You also have raised bunkers on your left. These can obscure your view to the green,” Thomas says. “This is a long hole, so ideally you want to hit a driver shot.”
In golf stroke mechanics, a driver shot (also referred to as a ‘long tee shot’) is a long-distance shot played from the tee box, intended to carry the ball a longer distance down the fairway, toward the green.
Brendan surmises that a golfer with a higher handicap might be tempted to hit the ball too hard, especially because of the forced carry over the thick grass “Don’t panic,” Brendan tees up. “Stay calm and swing within yourself.”
“Also,” Thomas adds. “On the fourteenth, you are hitting up a hill, typically into prevailing wind. Try to avoid the bunker on the left and aim for the right; your ball has a good landing area. Remember, the ball will come down to the fairway sooner and will not carry as far as normal.”
The pros recommend taking extra club on the 14th; perhaps two more than you would anticipate. Brendan takes the shot with a seven or eight iron. “The biggest part of this hole is the middle section. It can be intimidating, but if you play a well-thought-out shot, you will be fine.”
An average golfer should try to play the hole like a par 5, which Thomas says is respectable. “If you make five strokes, you’ve still done well.” He selects a club to take a swing once Brendan has finished. “Be careful of the flag. Manage your miss: if the pin is on the right, ideally miss left. If the pin is on the left, miss right. This green is like an upside-down saucer and the hole is deceptively long – generally missing short or to the right provides the best chance to get up and down.”
On the green itself, the levels and grain change. Here, Brendan and Thomas advise using a three-wood as a putter. “Practise your shot, then approach it like you would a putt. The green is a tough one to hit, as it has extreme slopes,” Brendan points out. “Keep to the right, and you’ll have a better chance of making par. The landing area is quite small, so this also allows you more of a bail out.”
The Second Shot
Brendan repeats his mantra: ‘swing within yourself’. “If you feel like you need to force the shot, layup and keep it simple.” A layup shot is made from the fairway after the drive, but, due to the presence of a hazard, a golfer must deliberately make the shot shorter or more accurate than usual. He recommends a normal, pitch chip shot, holding the club more aloft than usual. “Again, keep right, here. Your shot is far more playable on the right.”
“Five is a good score on this hole,” Thomas finishes. “Four is a bonus!”
As always, please repair your pitch marks and keep up with the golfers in front of you.
You may notice the golf course looking slightly odd in a few of this edition’s photographs. This is because we shot them while the course was undergoing annual maintenance, specifically a process called ‘hollow tining’.
Hollow tining is a recognised and well-used technique, which our course employs at the beginning of every year, usually after busy festive season. It is an essential part of maintaining greens, tees and fairways.
What is It?
It involves the physical removal of cores, usually between 13 and 16mm in diameter, from the turf using a hollow tining machine. This may look like hundreds of little ‘burrows’ all over the course, which are swept up and removed.
Why Is it Done?
Over time, increased foot and cart traffic hardens and compacts the turf. This lessens the effectiveness of our drainage system and prevents the grass roots from absorbing oxygen. Hollow tining allows the turf to ‘breathe’: expanding it to allow air and moisture back into the course.
Coring also helps remove ‘thatch’: a layer of normal grass stems, roots and other debris that settles on the course over time, during play. Tining allows the older, poor soil to be exchanged for richer soil through top dressing: a thin layer of sand is applied to the greens after they are cored, for this purpose.
Hollow tining is best done in Autumn, to allow the coring to close up before the wet months of Winter arrive.
If you are interested in golf lessons, pop into the Pro Shop to chat to Thomas or Brendan or call 032-946 5407/ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.