25th April 2019 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Bradley’s advice for Observatory 29 Apr – 1 May
In a new feature for 2019, the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour will speak to the club professional at every club we visit during the season to get the keys to the course from the person who knows it best.
Next up it is Bradley Sean Smith, General Manager, Observatory Golf Club, host of the Big Easy IGT Challenge #2 29 Apr – 1 May 2019.
About Observatory Golf Club
Golf started in Observatory over a 9-hole course in 1912 and Observatory Golf Club was officially established in 1914, with the course extended to 18 holes in 1922. Observatory Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Johannesburg still operating from its original grounds, celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2014.
The layout of the course has changed somewhat in this time. The course is not that long, but with narrow fairways & smaller greens, is a true test of intellectual golf. The current Committee has been working tirelessly over the past few years to improve the course, with a bunker renovation plan, additional irrigation on the fairways & small cosmetic projects on the course itself. The Clubhouse has seen many changes in the past two years, with a newly renovated Halfway House, function room extension & renovation of the bar.
Observatory Golf Club boasts a history rich in character:
Bobby Locke, one of South Africa’s greatest golfers, won the Open Championship four times playing out of Observatory as his home club & the “Bobby Locke Corner” in the bar shows a picture history of this. Further, the Henning brothers learnt to play their golf at Observatory.
The club has an active presence on social media and their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds are updated regularly.
The course has three signature holes:
The Par-5 7th Hole is a picturesque hole with a view of Johannesburg City Centre from the raised tee-box with a blind fall to a smallish green guarded in front by a pond.
The par-4 10th Hole is stroke 1 for a reason. The out of bounds boundary fence running along the right hand side of the narrow fairway, with a tree line along the left hand side, is intimidating enough to make many a golfer leave the driver in the bag & rather use a safe iron shot off the tee. Bunkers guard the long, narrow green left and right with a steep slope off to the left if you miss the green. This hole has proven many a golfer’s nemesis.
Last but not least is the often intimidating 15th which has seen the average golfer coming undone and walking away with bogey or worse. The elevated tee box plays down to a small “island like green” protected by a sizeable front bunker. The wind is more often than not a factor and along with severe run off on the back and right side and requires a delicate and precise chip in order to save par.”
“There are a couple of short par fours where it is possible to hit the green from the tee,” he said. “The 5th, 12th, 13th and 16th are drive-able and definitely good risk and reward holes depending on wind conditions and the tee box placement. I expect the calibre of golfers at the Big Easy IGT will definitely be making birdies or at worst par.”
“For the top amateur players our par fives can also be taken advantage of and many long hitters are likely to reach in 2 shots. The wind as always will play a role especially taking a long iron into the small 7th green protected by a waterway on the left and a dam in the front. The 9th is slightly more intimidating where an errand tee shot to the right or left can have the golfer in trouble.
“Putting will be key to low scoring and our greens staff are busy as we speak getting the right cut to ensure some true roll and some pace on the greens for next week. I’ve had a few seasoned golfers coming through who have admitted to struggling with the read. I don’t see any issues but maybe playing at a course for more than 10 years gives some experience” he joked.