With so much at stake at the Kazakhstan Open and the inaugural Russian Challenge Cup, which run back to back next month, it is perhaps fitting that the courses hosting those two events are amongst the very best on the Challenge Tour Schedule.
Zhailjau Golf Resort, venue of the €400,000 Kazakhstan Open, and Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club, which for the first time will host the Russian Challenge Cup, were designed respectively by two of the game’s greatest ever players, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Palmer’s creation in Almaty, Kazakhstan, drew high praise last year from the Challenge Tour membership, including the eventual winner Edoardo Molinari of Italy.
He said: “Like many of the courses on the Challenge Tour last season, Zhailjau Golf Resort was set up like a European Tour course, with very thick rough in places. It was probably the best course we played on all year, which is how it should be for the biggest tournament on the Challenge Tour.”
The Italian’s sentiments were echoed by Welshman Rhys Davies who, like Molinari, went on to capture his maiden European Tour title this season after graduating from the Challenge Tour.
He said: “It’s a very good course – I really liked it. There are quite a few par fives, and also quite a few exciting holes. There are plenty of birdie and eagle chances out there, but also some challenging holes, particularly where the rough’s up. It tends to be thicker on the tougher holes as well, so if you do stray off line you’re really struggling to make par. So you’ve got quite a good variety of holes out there, which makes for a good test.”
The stunning Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club, which is located on the outskirts on the Russian capital Moscow, seems certain to be equally well received when it makes its debut from September 16-19.
Described by 18-time Major Champion Nicklaus as “one of the top ten courses I have built so far”, the 7,491 yards, par 72 course, which opened in 2008, is the first Nicklaus Design course in Russia.
The signature hole is the par four seventh, featuring a blind tee shot to a downhill fairway which dog legs from right to left. The green is well protected by a water hazard to the front, and two bunkers on either side.
Nicklaus said: “We hope the players get as much enjoyment from playing the golf course at Tseleevo as we did from designing it. Tseleevo is a great source of pride for me and my design team. It’s not only our first golf course in Russia, but we believe it also stands as a testament to the quality and to the great potential of the game in this country. The canvas we were given to create the course at Tseleevo was a beautiful one. It was, and remains, a gorgeous piece of land, with gently rolling terrain and beautiful trees throughout. We were blessed with several water features which we were able to incorporate into the course to enhance its natural aesthetic value.
“The front nine plays through the more elevated areas of the terrain, whilst the first five holes of the back nine play through a spectacular valley which features a natural stream flowing through the area. We simply used the existing terrain there, and designed the holes on and around it. The remaining holes work their way back up to the top of the valley to present a beautiful finish to the round. Overall, we believe Tseleevo is as pleasing to the golfer’s eye as it is challenging to their game. I think those players who are fortunate enough to compete in the Russian Challenge Cup will really enjoy the experience, and hopefully find it to be a memorable one.”
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