When apartheid was abolished in South Africa in the early 1990s, Jack Nicklaus said he wanted to be part of something special in the new South Africa. We just didn’t know then how special the new would be when it came to golf course design. Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is the fifth golf course Jack Nicklaus designed in South Africa, and recently it was announced that like the four Nicklaus courses before it, Serengeti has been recognized by Golf Digest as the "Best New Golf Course in South Africa.” The 2010 honor also included a runner-up finish for Houghton Golf Club, a redesign by Jack Nicklaus that opened last year in Johannesburg.
Serengeti, on the edge of Johannesburg and near the international airport, was the first 27-hole Signature Course in Gauteng and was christened by the Golden Bear in June 2009.
Serengeti joins an elite group of almost 300 courses in which Jack Nicklaus has been involved in the design, and a celebrated list of six courses Jack Nicklaus has designed and opened in South Africa since 1998. The four previous courses—Pecanwood (Northwest Province), Pearl Valley (Western Cape), Simola (Southern Cape) and St Francis Links (Eastern Cape)— all won Golf Digest’s Best New Course in South Africa for the respective years they opened, so the bar was set high for Serengeti and future developments. But Serengeti met the challenge.
The 18-hole course, named Masai Mara, has a rugged grassland and dune-scape look and feel, and the 9-hole course, named Whistling Thorn, features classic design elements and a plains-like feel. Serengeti is one of the first courses in the country to use cool season grasses, meaning that the course remains lush and green throughout the year. There are a number of unique features on this course, such as the challenging par-5 8th hole with its island green.
Harnessing the two golf courses is a multi-faceted clubhouse of over 6,500 square meters. This venue is not only aesthetically appealing but incorporates a variety of facilities, including several lounges, bars, two restaurants and banqueting facilities, as well as a Golf Academy and Pro Shop.
There are two layouts at Serengeti—an 18-hole course named the Masai Mara, which has a rugged grassland and dunescape look and feel, and a 9-hole course named the Whistling Thorn, which features classic design elements and a plainslike feel.
The two golf courses will be harnessed by a multi-faceted clubhouse of over 65,000 square feet, with several lounges, bars, two restaurants and banqueting facilities that will be able to host events of up to 1,500 people. In combination the golf courses and the clubhouse represent an investment of more than R200-million ($26 million) by the owners of Serengeti. The estate is being developed by brothers Leon and Gideon van der Vyver and their partner Graham Power, the founder of the Power Group of Companies, leaders in the field of property development and construction. The Van der Vyvers were the founders of the Acugroup of companies, property development and township creation specialists, which merged with Power in early 2009.
“In the four years that we had the privilege to work with Jack in the creation of these courses, we have come to admire his exceptional focus and attention to detail,” said Leon van der Vyver, one of the developers of Serengeti. “We are proud that the end product reflects the hard work of many people, harnessed by Jack’s design skills and leadership.”
Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate is a new private suburb located less than eight miles from OR Tambo International Airport. Its ideal location and the lure of Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf has made the development one of the most notable success stories in recent years. Since its first launch in May 2006—which sold out in less than two hours—the first four phases brought to market sold out in less than two days.