Player Design opens Blair Atholl


Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The new golf course at Gary Player's former South African residence, Blair Atholl, opened on Saturday 21 April.

The Blair Atholl estate, north of Johannesburg, has been the Player family residence for the past 25 years and, in fact, the family has retained the homestead around which the low-density residential golf estate has been developed.

The course has been designed by Player's practice, and includes 11 holes featuring water hazards, some alongside the Crocodile River, which runs through the entire estate, and others by natural dams. Player reckons the design will be both challenging and rewarding.

The course length is in excess of 7,700 metres (8,500 yards) from the back tees, making it the longest course in Southern Africa. The design has the course playing as a single loop, with the halfway house set over the Crocodile River after the eighth hole.

Being a single loop, the course does not have any holes (apart from the first and eighteenth) running side by side, a rare experience for the average golfer.

At the official opening Gary Player was typically upbeat about the future of the course: "I am very proud of what we have achieved here – I think this course is going to be the very best in the whole of Africa in years to come. My congratulations to Robby Wray of Wraypex [the developer of the estate] on what he and his team have achieved here. This place is very close to my heart and I am thrilled with every aspect of the development." The Player Design team is also busy remodelling the Arabella Golf Club course, located outside Hermanus in the Western Cape region of South Africa.

"Gary Player has gained an intimate knowledge of our course over the past four years. His wealth of experience as a champion, professional and golf course designer worldwide makes him the best person to help us to perfect what is already ranked as one of the finest courses in the country," said ArabellaStarwood's area manager Heinz Grub. "We believe that with Gary Player's input, we can continue to set the benchmark in the Western Cape and affirm Arabella Country Estate's position as a premier destination for golf tourists from South Africa and around the world." "I am delighted to be involved with the redesign of Arabella's course and look forward to adding our input in every one of the 18 holes that make up the course in this uniquely beautiful setting," said Player. "I have so enjoyed coming here each year to play the Nelson Mandela Invitational.

Furthermore, as the tournament host, I am very pleased to announce that the Nelson Mandela Invitational will be held here for the next three years." Work will begin immediately on the redesign of Arabella's existing course, with an eye to causing a minimum of disruption to the playability of the course.