ST FRANCIS – LINK WITH THE PAST

Features

The glorious beaches of St Francis Bay offer a delightful escape – until you step up to the first tee of the adjacent St. Francis Links.

The glorious beaches of St Francis Bay offer a delightful escape from the pressures of life – until you step up to the first tee of the adjacent St. Francis Links.
Prepare for a round that is Links golf at its most challenging – a true test of the game that will be both exhilarating and frustrating.
The first Links courses developed in the 14th century on the long stretches of land that combined the Scottish shorelines with adjacent land that had little or no agricultural value.
People from the local communities used these ‘commons’ to play the early forms of golf.
Today, famous links courses such as the Old Course at St Andrews are still regarded as common areas by the local community.
The layout of holes on Links courses evolved by players taking the most exciting and natural routes around the area.
Sandy blowouts, most often used by sheep as protection against the brutal coastal winds, became bunkers and flat areas evolved into tees or greens, often in the same area.
After holing out, the old-time golfers would simply tee off from right next to the hole and carry on with their quest.
After some decades, the more proficient players, including Old Tom Morris, started dictating a route of play and thus Links golf design started its development as a profession.
The single biggest difference between conventional golf and Links golf is that the latter requires a much greater deal of imagination.
Given the high level of wind and the fact that greens are more undulating and firmer as compared to Parklands courses, golfers have to be more strategic in their approach.
To play a Links course, one almost has to plan in reverse.
Where a Parklands course allows for more attacking shots aimed directly at the pin, Links often rewards the golfer who plots his way carefully and with patience, rather than stepping up to the tee and firing at the pin.
The ‘Road Hole’ at St Andrews has probably broken the hearts of more target golfers than any other hole in the World.
The Links layout allows for more bump-and-run shots, utilising the land to fight the adverse effect of the wind. It demands skill, strategy and strength of character from all who stride its fairways.
It was with this philosophy that the great Jack Nicklaus created the spectacular St. Francis Links.
Ten years after he first walked the St. Francis dunes and surrounding fields in 1996 and visualised this unique golf course hidden in this gentle, undulating shoreline landscape in the East Cape of South Africa, Nicklaus had the pleasure of taking the best Mother Nature could offer and signed his name to a course that easily compares with the most challenging layouts in Scotland.
Nicklaus has singled out his creation as the best course he has ever seen, let alone built.
Set in the between the beach and arable land, St. Francis Links is open to the elements and the layout combines every element of shot making with its undulating terrain, greens and surrounds as well as its variation in length and direction.
Its bunkers, which truly define the quality and character of St Francis Links, look as if they have simply been ploughed out of the land and the greens rising from the natural movement of the land, seem simply to have placed on top of the sand and change shape in construction as the wind change sits mind.
St Francis Links carries a look and feel that breathes history from times gone by. It will challenge all who play it and reward those who respect it.
The 2007 Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final, which celebrates the origins of golf, will appropriately brings down the curtain this week on another memorable series at the formidable St Francis Links.
From Lali Stander at the St Francis Links

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