With the Presidents Cup just around the corner we thought we would take a look at some of the best golf courses from the countries of some of the star players who will be doing battle at Royal Melbourne over the next few days. Today we are taking a look at the top 10 golf courses from South Africa; the home country of three of the International Teams players, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel.
1) Fancourt – Links Course
The Links at Fancourt has in fact hosted the Presidents Cup (the only course on this list to do so) and what a Presidents Cup it was. Undoubtedly the best contest in the history of this biennial match saw both teams refuse to give an inch, and following three days of intense competition the teams were forced to select a player each to go head to head in a playoff for the whole shebang! USA Captain, Jack Nicklaus, opted for the all powerful Tiger Woods while South African legend, Gary Player, went for his nearest challenger at the time, Ernie Els. Even they couldn’t be separated and when the sun went down two teams decided to share the cup. A shining example of the sportsmanship that is so important to the game of golf.
The course itself is a real challenge, especially when the wind gets up, and the rolling fairways and thick, lush rough also add to the challenge. Gary Player designed the course and he went through exhaustive measures in an attempt to create a course in the mould of the great links courses of the UK and Ireland, perhaps inspired by his three Open Championship wins. The course is a stunning spectacle and provides a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging golfing experience. Its uniqueness makes it stand out above all others on the Cape.
The 18 hole championship course at the Arabella Country Club overlooks the stunning Kogelberg Nature Reserve which means golfers can enjoy stunning views of a great variety of wild flowers and plant life. Add to this a backdrop of a tranquil lagoon and breathtaking mountain views and this is surely one of the most picturesque places to play golf anywhere in the world. Arabella doesn’t just boast magnificent scenery but also offers travelling golfers a stern, but infinitely enjoyable test of golf.
At 6,900 yards from the tips this classic parkland course is no monster by modern standards but is sufficiently long to challenge even the longest hitters. Water hazards, rugged scrubland and intelligently placed bunkers all add to the challenge although perhaps the real challenge will be to concentrate for a full round in the midst of such stunning natural beauty!
Pearl Valley was laid down by the legendary Jack Nicklaus so it comes as no surprise that it is a world class test of golf. Huge water hazards, scrubland and tall wild grass are among the dangers that lurk at the fringes of the fairways, and with the trademark of Jack Nicklaus stamped all over the course; Pearl Valley is a truly spectacular part of any golf holiday in South Africa.
The Pearl Valley Golf Estate is surrounded by the Simonsberg and Drakenstein Mountains and bordered by vineyards with the Berg River acting as a water hazard throughout the entire course. As with many of the golf courses in this part of the world the natural surroundings are simply unrivalled and are almost worth the trip alone! The Golden Bear took great care with the routing of the holes and the resulting layout means that players have to take different wind directions into account if they are to score well.
4) Fancourt – Montagu Course
Another course on the Fancourt Resort…another entrant into the top 10 in South Africa! Although the Montagu is not as highly rated as the Links Course it is still held in very high esteem and has long been widely regarded as one of the finest in the whole of Africa. As with many of the courses on this list the Montagu Course is always in tip top condition and the fantastic design offers both enjoyment and challenges to a great variety of courses.
While taking in a setting a boasting mountains, water and wildlife players will have to negotiate endless expanses of water, gentle elevation changes and undulations as well as a great number of well placed bunkers in the fight against Old Man Par. It is just as well then that there is an extensive warm up area that features full-length driving range and a chipping and bunker practice area…the perfect place to sharpen up your golfing skills before taking to the fairways. At 6,538 yards this course is more than manageable in terms of length for the average club golfer and can also be played from as little as 5,626 yards.
As with many of the golf courses in South Africa, Erinvale was mapped out by Gary Player who chose to model this course on the great parkland courses of the USA such as Pinehurst. Of course, as a South African course, the setting is stunning, with the Hottentot Holland mountains as a backdrop. Erinvale boasts some extremely challenging holes so there is no doubt that it will provide a stern examination of the golfer’s skill set. Water hazards and fantastic bunkering feature heavily and the slick, perfectly manicured putting surfaces also add to the challenge. Expect a few three-putts if you are a little heavy handed on the odd occasion!
The front nine winds its way through relatively flat parkland while the back nine heads into the foothills of the surrounding mountains, also providing spectacular views of False Bay. This contrast between the two nine hole loops means the golfer cannot afford to get too comfortable as the challenges of the course are constantly changing.
6) Fancourt – Outeniqua Course
The Outeniqua takes its name from the dramatic mountain range that guards over the Fancourt estate, and is another on this list to have been conceived by Gary Player. Its character is similar to the neighbouring Montagu layout, with immaculate fairways and greens carved through the rugged dunes and expanses of water that characterise the landscape.
As with all of the Fancourt golf courses, there are a variety of tees from which you can choose to play from, ensuring that you never feel overwhelmed by the course, no matter your ability or level of experience.
De Zalze was designed by well known South African golf architect, Peter Matkovich who is also responsible for the number two entry in the top 10, Arabella. This well respected designer has certainly made the most of the stunning natural surroundings. Set amongst the vineyards, and charming orange groves of the Cape’s wine country, golfers can enjoy views of the Blaauwklippen River and the not too distant mountains while having their games put to the test by this fantastic parkland classic.
Golfers are eased into the round before the challenges become more severe as the round goes on. Trees border many of the fairways which places an emphasis on accuracy from the tee while bunkers, boulders and natural water hazards also all come into play at varying intervals. Watch out for the short par 4 12th which can certainly be driven in one if you have the guts and the length to carry a large water hazard.
Steenberg is a well established and mature golf course, set in charming surroundings to the south of Cape Town. Designed by Peter Matkovich, the layout is characterized by some truly remarkable and fascinating holes, not least the famous short 7th. This outstanding par 3 features a green that is circled by sand, with water guarding the front, left and right of the putting surface.
The stunning collection of holes takes the golfer on a journey through four distinct areas including wetlands, parkland the Cape flats and fynbos which are South Africa’s answer to the heather found on the famous heathland courses in the UK such as Sunningdale and Swinley Forest. Just shy of 7,000 yards from the tournament tees, Steenberg, with its mature woodland and great expanses of bunkers, is a true test that can be enjoyed by all thanks to a number of tee positions.
Views of the Knysna Lagoon and the Indian Ocean set the scene for the magical Pezula golfing experience, and across the cliff tops of Knysna are stretched some remarkable holes. Pezula is a genuine championship test of golf, and its extraordinary setting makes it one of the most rewarding facets of a golf holiday on South Africa’s Garden Route.
Pezula course will prove challenging to the expert, yet like many top class resort courses it boasts a multitude of tees to enable golfers of all abilities to sample its delights. Changes in elevation mean club selection will have to be shrewd while a great number of bunkers also add to the challenge of safely negotiating this stunning layout in a desirable number of shots.
Royal Cape, located in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, is one of the country’s most prestigious and best established golf clubs, having hosted the South African Open on no less than ten separate occasions. This course boasts a history like no other and is in fact the oldest golf club in South Africa, having been founded in 1885.
As with many of the golf courses on the Cape, Royal Cape boasts a stunning setting. It lies in the shadow of Table Mountain and hallmarks of the course are its extremely narrow, tree-lined fairways, which demand pinpoint accuracy from the tee, and the huge expanses of water which can quickly lay to rest any hopes of a good score. The greens are also notoriously quick so expect the odd three-putt if you aren’t used to such slick surfaces! For genuine championship golf in the Cape Town area that is accessible and welcoming, there are few finer options than adding the Royal Cape Club to your next golf holiday in South Africa.
For information on South African golf holidays please visit www.yourgolftravel.com or call 0800 043 6644.
The resident golf geek at Your Golf Travel. Have been lucky enough to have travelled far and wide playing golf and if I’m not writing about it at work, you will probably find me hacking it around my local course. Owner of 2 holes in one and some of the most crooked drives you have ever seen!