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Golf & Sport
Golf & Sport
The last registration
Randpark Golf Club

Type: Golf

Location: 2194 Johannesburg

Address: Setperk Street

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The radical transformation of Randpark’s renowned Firethorn course, which has hosted two South African Opens and many other tournaments, is complete!
There are seven brand new holes,  18 new greens and greens complexes moulded into shape by internationally acclaimed course shaper Alex Ligowski, major changes to the bunkering have been undertaken, the river that runs through the course has been cleaned up and refurbished, and alien vegetation removed to the point where Firethorn is an eco-friendly "green lung".
"Essentially, the old Firethorn needed a facelift, the course features were dated and greens and bunkers were more than 20 years old,” says course designer Sean Quinn.
"Many of the greens were unnaturally perched, which was the style in the 1980s and early 1990s. The high sand bunkers although impressive, were extremely problematic to maintain, particularly during the stormy summer months.
""The river flowing though the property was a massive engineering nightmare, it continually eroded and was completely overgrown with alien trees to the extent is was not visible in many places other than the opening and finishing holes.
"The old par-3 second hole was a problem from an erosion perspective. The retaining wall that held up the green had been rebuilt at huge cost and was continuing to fail. We decided the hole should be eliminated entirely. There were numerous cross-overs which we tried to eliminate, but after about 12 alternate layout proposals the late Doug Bain and I decided on the current configuration.”
Randpark’s director of golf Mellet Hendrikse feels two of the best holes are the new par-5 second, with the river running alongside the entire length of the hole, and the par-4 sixth which has a distinctly US Open course look about it.
"I would agree with Mellete as No 2 and No 6 were good changes,” says Quinn. "The new  No 2 (the old par-4 third hole) was always a low stroke hole, but in my opinion unfair. Strong players could carry the corner which was essentially the overgrown river bank, whilst weaker players had to play the full length of the dogleg resulting in a stroke imbalance.”
"By clearing out the river and pushing the tees back we made this into a par 5, where the stronger players will no longer gain the same advantage over the weaker players by cutting the corner to the same extent. Also, opening up the river-scape, removing the wall and lowering the bridge has made for one of the more picturesque holes on the course.”
"This river has some magnificent rock outcrops that were completely hidden by years of alien vegetation growth. The old course made very poor use of the river in terms of strategy, and we now have eight holes that relate to the river in some form.”
Quinn is most excited about the front nine changes to holes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. "Essentially we reversed 6, 7 and 8, and I believe all three are better holes now. The par-3 at No 2 has been replaced with a new par-3 at No 5. We removed the artificial ponds at the short 7th, reversed the hole and now make use of the river as the water hazard. The 9thhole, we lowered the green, opened up the right side of the fairway, added better bunker strategy, and made this a very exciting short par-4 with many options on how to play it.”
Quinn believes it will prove a very user friendly course, as long as the correct tees are used for the level of play. Many of the old fairway bunkers designed back in the early 1990s were too much in play for shorter players and way out of play for the longer players. So the Golf Data team moved the fairway bunker strategy out about 15-20 metres on average, in a bid to make the course fairer.
"A priority throughout the design and construction process was to provide players with options on every hole,” says Quinn. "It’s very much a risk/reward design philosophy, and entirely feasible for players to steer away from trouble; but to score well, one must take on an element of risk. We have tried to limit forced carries from the forward tees. The large greens have some interesting contours but nothing too dramatic, and there are numerous bail out areas around the greens. We have strived to open the course up visually, and have lowered greens to make the putting surfaces more visible.”
 Firethorn’s old par-5 18th hole has been transformed into a long par-4, a tough hole that will make for a demanding finish to the round. It is stroke one on the card.
Quinn has been a Jack Nicklaus designer since 2004, but held a dual design role with Golf Data until the end of 2013. He is now fulltime with Nicklaus. In South Africa, on behalf of the Golden Bear, he has designed St Francis Links, Serengeti, Houghton and more recently Steyn City. Overseas he was involved with the Australian Golf Club which hosted last year’s Australian Open.
For Golf Data, amongst numerous other courses, he has redesigned Parkview, Country Club Johannesburg (Woodmead and Rocklands), Durban CC, Glendower, Humewood and a few others.
Three years ago he was also involved with the re-design of Randpark’s other course, Bushwillow (the old Windsor), which has been an unqualified success.
On behalf of Nicklaus, he is currently busy with 14 projects in Asia all at various stages of design and construction, and he commutes regularly to China, Japan, Cambodia and Vietnam. 
Although the course revamp is complete, Randpark experienced the worst flood in living memory just last month after a deluge of rain in a short space of time. Bridges on the course were washed away and damage was extensive. A clean-up project will take a while to complete, according to project manager Tom Buckle. "You know,” he said, "the very day before the flood I said to myself that we had finally finished and all was well. Then we got the rainstorm and the massive damage and I felt like I was a tractor with a flat tyre. We’ll get it right, though, and fortunately the course itself is fine.
"I just wish Doug (Randpark’s CEO Doug Bain who succumbed to cancer late last year aged just 42) was still with us. The transformation of Firethorn was his dream and his passion. He was the driving force behind this project and he must take much of the credit for the success it has become.”

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