By Grant Winter
Courtesy of Independent Online
As a former resident, Ernie Els helped put Kempton Park on the map by becoming a golfing superstar.
Now Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the game’s history, could do much the same with his design of a world-class course falling within the boundaries of the East Rand town.
Golf’s 67-year-old legend helicoptered into the outskirts of “Kempton” yesterday to check on the progress being made on his first signature course in Gauteng – the 27 holes which will form an integral part of the still-to-be-completed Serengeti Golf and Country Club estate.
“The Golden Bear” won a record 18 Majors in his career. Now he’s gaining fame as a designer with 258 of his courses open for play worldwide, while his company – Nicklaus Design – have 54 under construction, including Serengeti.
The American takes his work seriously and the media were told yesterday’s on-site inspection of the first 18 holes taking shape – the contours, greens, water hazards and bunkers are in place and it’s time to start seeding the evergreen grass – would last an hour.
Nicklaus ended up taking four as he enthusiastically and meticulously attended to every detail. And, like his golf, he won’t accept second best. He demanded that an entire hole be changed, a whole green moved, the better part of a sizeable hillside cut away and nasty pot bunkers (he loves bunkers) added at certain points on the course.
And he moved the site of the clubhouse (fortunately it isn’t built yet!) so it can overlook the 18th green and the lake beside it.
All very sensible, and his design team and the developers nodded their approval and adjusted their budgets.
First impressions are that a previously flat piece of ground has been beautifully shaped. Fairways with intriguing humps and hollows routed through artificial valleys, and some potentially stunning water holes are some of the salient features.
Serengeti is 12km from OR Tambo Airport. The upmarket 780-hecatre residential and golf estate is a R4,6-billion project. Security alone will cost R6-million.