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The suburb of Bryanston was founded between the wars by the SA Township Mining and Finance Corporation â€“ part of the mining giant Anglo American. A new golf course was promised as an incentive for residents of Johannesburg to make the twenty kilometer trek north. But by the time the war ended there was still no sign of a course, so in 1947 a committee of golfers was formed and a deal made with the developers who sold a tract of land to the newly formed club. The celebrated golf course architect Charles Hugh Alison was then commissioned to design the course. Alison was regarded as a maverick in his day and his designs considered radical, but they have stood the test of time and many of his â€œquirksâ€ have become standards today.
Alisonâ€™s design for Bryanston was not as radical as some of his courses, but there are several unique holes here. Unusually, the layout starts with back-to-back par fives and then there is a stretch of four par fours from the 5th. Yet there is a good mix in the shapes with five holes doglegging to the right and an equal number doglegging the other way.
The 453-metre par-four 10th is a huge test of ball striking and is possibly one of the toughest stroke-one par-fours in the country. The drive is over water to a fairway running at right angles to the tee. A good drive will leave a fairway wood or long iron over water to a two-tiered green. Two good putts on a sloping green are required before one can walk away with a satisfying par.
The par-four 16th offers another stringent test of ability. Here you are faced with a tight drive off an elevated tee with trees guarding the fairway left and right and water ahead. Your approach is over water to an elevated, kidney shaped, two-tiered green, while a deep bunker in the front curve guards any back left pin placements. Slopes on the green add to the difficulty in your quest for par.
The par-threes are all magnificent holes, with plenty of variety. All have the extra defenses of tricky sloping greens requiring you to hit the tee shot towards the correct area of the green to ensure a two-putt par.
The greens were rebuilt early in the new millennium to give Bryanston extra defenses against new technology and to cope with the further-flying golf ball. It has garnered mixed reactions with many believing that the undulations are too severe and not in keeping with the character of the course. The course is certainly not a pushover for even the finest golfers, but not punishing enough to spoil the enjoyment of the average player.
Bryanston was once seen as a rather snooty country club, altogether unwelcoming and snobbish. Thankfully, this image has been well and truly discarded and the club is now a vibrant meeting place of young and old with a strong, dedicated membership who make visitors extremely welcome. Put Bryanston on your list of must-plays.