Golf Course Architecture - Issue 60, April 2020

72 HOL ING OUT A T20 for golf? South African club hopes its par-three course will help establish a new format for golf Photo: Tyrone Winfield I n February this year, Serengeti Estates, near Johannesburg in South Africa, hosted the Canon Serengeti Par 3 Challenge on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, fulfilling one of owner David Nagle’s ambitions for the club’s new 18-hole par-three course, Whistling Thorn. The next ambition is to drive adoption of a new format for golf. The club opened in 2009 with 27 holes by Nicklaus Design. In 2018 though, Nagle approached local golf course architect Dino De Abreu with the idea of transforming nine of those holes into eighteen par threes, drawing on the sport of cricket for inspiration. While cricket is something of a curiosity for most Americans, it is among South Africa’s most popular sports. It’s widely played in other countries too, including England, Australia and India. But cricket matches traditionally take up a full day. Or for the elite format, test cricket, five days. In the early 2000s, the English Cricket Board introduced Twenty20 (or T20) cricket, a shortened form that can be completed in less than three hours. It exploded in popularity and is now played around the globe. “The brief was to create a memorable experience that was novel and would tick the boxes of every calibre of golfer who played it,” said De Abreu. “Speed, memorability and diversity was my design approach.” The concept of #P3Golf emerged – 18 par threes that will require golfers to use every club in the bag. Whistling Thorn’s holes range from 97 to 305 yards. There are a variety of water hazards and elevated tees provide good visibility of large greens with scope for a range of pin positions. Crucially, the course is playable for all. “The course is laid out with spectator value in mind, as seen at the large crowds at a T20 match,” said De Abreu. “Like the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the opportunity exists to set up large stadium-style seating with views of multiple holes, something very difficult to achieve on a traditional course. The first two holes and the closing two are a great example of this, with all tees and greens visible from one vantage point. “Serengeti has also mixed it up with the competition formats on the par-three course – a change away from the traditional and mundane competitions.” GCA Visit the GCA website for our full interview with Dino De Abreu Image: Dino De Abreu