JOHANNESBURG - With this week’s Joburg Open at Randpark in mind and us fans wanting to see plenty of sub-par blitzes and, I might have hinted at this before, the secret to lowering your score by as many as 10 shots a round was quite by chance leaked to me by an unlikely source - a fireman in Scotland.
One Steff Gardner is a member at Anstruther, a nine-hole course not far from St Andrews, and he told me he held the course record there of 61. “Sixty-one!” I exclaimed. “You sound like another Branden Grace (who in this year’s US Open shot 62, the lowest score in Major history)!”
“Well, no, it’s just that par for 18 holes at Anstruther is 62 and I was one under that day,” was his explanation.
And right there, of course, the secret was out. In South Africa and indeed most countries, courses are par-72s, but in Scotland many little towns and villages have shortish lay-outs with par in the 60s. So off my 12 handicap I should be able to shoot 74 at Anstruther, whereas at par-72 Randpark it’s 84. So how to knock 10 shots of your score is simple: Tee it up at Anstruther.
So what has this got to with the Joburg Open beginning tomorrow at Randpark - my home club for over 30 years? Well, I can reveal to the top pros a secret to low scores for them for the four days of the tournament: speak to two or three of the TATS members!
TATS is a club within the club, for about 40 or 50 of us older guys who play every Tuesday and Thursday morning (and often a whole lot more). There’s no doubt that three or four of the chaps know Randpark’s two courses - Firethorn and Bushwillow - like the back of their hands. And most importantly, they know the exact lines and exact speed of the putts. And we all know that in golf you drive for dough and putt for dough.
Take 68-year-old Tom Buckle, for instance. He played no less than 319 rounds of golf last year and is up to 336 this year (pretty much one round a day on average), most of these at Randpark (including, as an aside, three hole-in-ones in 2017). Does he know precisely where to putt on Firethorn and Bushwillow? You bet he does. And the same applies to Koos Loots, 73, past club captain and president. He’s still one pretty good golfer and he regularly rolls in putts from all over the place at Randpark - not surprisingly since he’s got to know the greens so well in the 39 years he’s been a member.
Our long-serving TATS committee hierarchy, Scot Doug Millar and Jurie van der Nest, both have developed an intimate knowledge of the greens over many years and they’ve both got natural touch, anyway. I often think that if some of the pros could putt as well as still fit Doug, who’s 81, they’d make a lot more money than they are doing right now.
So, okay, maybe not 10 shots like at Anstruther, but if you want to knock one or two shots off your Joburg Open rounds, then speak to one of us about putting at Randpark, especially on those big, tricky Firethorn greens. A fee? Well, let’s talk.
I do know that from tomorrow, us TATS from behind the ropes will be watching the pros lining up their putts and saying to ourselves: "He might be able to hit 300-metre drives, but no doubt about it, he’s going left edge on that putt, and it’s definitely right edge. He’s going to miss it. You can bet your bloody life on it. You should have talked to us."