A former host of the Dunhill Championship and a regular venue for the South African Open, the Houghton golf course was first designed in 1926 by club professional A.M. Copland. The layout has been altered continually ever since. In 1993 Peter Matkovich remodelled several holes and introduced new water hazards while Gary Player’s company upgraded the bunkers around this same time. In more recent times, the course was actually closed down for a couple of years while the clubhouse site was redeveloped into apartments, and the golf course overhauled by Nicklaus Design.
We saw this highly rated championship course prior to the Nicklaus changes, and although there were some decent holes we were generally underwhelmed. The redesign appears to have improved the bunkering, and certainly made more strategic use of the ponds and water hazards. It also appears tree removal has opened up more play space for golf, which is a positive. We look forward to a return visit sometime in the future to properly review the changes.
The club describes the new Nicklaus Design work on its website as follows:
The new design at Houghton is not brutally long, especially given the rarefied air of the Highveld. In order to defend the golf course from the longer hitters strategically positioned bunkers have been used extensively to catch the wayward drive, thus making club selection essential. The new greens have been contoured with rolling undulations and subtle slopes to protect the integrity of the course.
The parkland layout is dotted with ponds and dams, an abundance of flowering shrubs also provide great variety and colour. Situated adjacent to the greenbelt of The Wilds the site is a perfect extension to Johannesburg’s natural fauna and flora and is a proclaimed bird sanctuary with Egyptian geese, guinea fowl, dikkops, plovers and a variety of waterfowl in being present.