The players battling it out over Nurtau Golf Club at the lucrative Kazakhstan Open have been effusive in their praise of the challenging and enjoyable lay-out at the Almaty venue, saying that it would be perfectly fit to host a European Tour event.The Challenge Tour stars in attendance at one of the season’s biggest events on the 2013 schedule have been rewarded by a pristinely-presented lay-out, with the tight fairways and difficult rough rewarding accuracy off the tee and punishing wayward drives.
On top of that, the undulating but pure greens have sorted the men from the boys on the dancefloor. Those getting to grips with the reads and the pace have seen their putts stay true to the line and drop, while those in two minds have not been quite so lucky.
It is the kind of test which every golfer relishes and one of the most experienced players in the field this week, Oliver Wilson, has compared the set-up to that of one the greatest championships in the world, The US Open – which he played in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 with a tied 23rd finish four years ago his best result.
“It’s just a good golf course and it’s really well set up,” said the 2008 Ryder Cup player. “It’s a US Open-style fairway and rough lay-out, which is good.
“The greens roll great, they’re really nice. It’s in perfect condition really. It’s good because it rewards the best golf. If you struggle, it’s really hard to shoot a decent score, whereas if you play well you can go low.
“I think the scores are much more stretched out this week than normal and that’s because of the golf course. I think I'm experienced enough to get it around with whatever game I've got but I need to have my A-game for the rest of the week.”
As with any golf course ahead of such a huge tournament as the Kazakhstan Open, months upon months of preparation have gone into presenting the venue in the best manner possible for the Challenge Tour’s stars and Wilson thinks they got everything right.
“It’s nice to come to tournaments where they obviously have a little bit of money to put behind the event and they have had a consultant come out to get the course ready and you cannot ask for any more from this course,” he said.
“It’s like a normal European Tour event, in fact it’s possibly set up tougher than a European Tour event, which is good.
“It’s the mark of a good golf course where you need good course management and a good strategy, good iron play and good putting. You will have to grind it out sometimes and also think all the time. That’s what a good golf course is.”
Scott Arnold was leading heading into the weekend at Nurtau and, having started his season on The European Tour in 2013, he has nothing but praise for the host venue this week, also comparing it to the set-up of that of an event on the top tier.
“The golf course is lovely,” he said. “It’s nice and tight, the rough is long so it’s a proper golf course and you have to play well on it.
“This one is similar to courses on The European Tour, they’re mostly set up like this out there. It’s similar to courses like in Germany (Golfclub München Eichenried for the BMW International Open) and Crans (Crans-sur-Sierre GC for the Omega European Masters).
“There were a few pins for the first two days that were quite sneaky so it’s a surprise when you look at the book and those pins haven’t been kept for the weekend but it’s definitely set up fair.”