South Africa – The Awakening of a Sleeping Giant.
SOUTH AFRICA – Destination feature: The Awakening of a sleeping giant
South Africa is a country we all think we know, but in reality we don’t know it at all!!
It has its history intertwined with that of Britain for well over 100 years, they drive on the left, speak English as a matter of course and share our passion for all things competitive. South Africa is country whose people delight in its name of ‘Rainbow Nation’ which signifies its multicultural outlook.
South Africa for so long an outsider from the international community has gleefully be accepted back due almost entirely from the work of one man, Nelson Mandela, the father of free South Africa. Wherever you travel in South Africa you will never be far from his influence and how he is loved by his people.
After many discussions at trade shows and social functions, Quality Golf Destinations Managing Director Neil Adams was struck by their infectious enthusiasm for their country, their golf and life in general. Indeed if you want a quiet night out stay well clear of South Africans!!!
“For someone who loves nearly all sports, indeed has been a sports nut all my life, I have been fascinated about South Africa and its passion for rugby, cricket, golf and more recently football. I must confess that rugby is my number one sport and with this in mind we were always told that if you want to measure yourself in world terms then South Africa was the bench mark. Strange that now we all think the New Zealand All Blacks are the benchmark to aim at but until the British Lions won a series there in 1974 the Springboks had been unbeaten at home. Indeed the All Blacks had to wait quite awhile after 1974 to record their first series win in South Africa.
With the advent of Nelson Mandela and a new South Africa, their sport has been allowed to flourish again on the world stage. This has allowed us to see a new generation of sportsmen and women.
Golf has always been on the world stage with Gary Player bravely pioneering black and white South Africa in world golf. Gary, as fit and active as he ever was, is a truly courageous man who fought all sorts of prejudices during his career. He is an inspiration as someone who never took a step back no matter what the situation. Gary has been followed by great, great golfers such as Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen and I’ve missed out a load more as well.
I had been told that South Africa was the place to visit, so with great excitement I headed to Southern Africa for the first time, wondering what was in store for me. The answer was the trip of a life time”
To visit South Africa you can fly direct from London with several national carriers. Airlines such as South African Airlines, BA and Virgin all fly into a variety of cities. You can fly from regional airports via Dubai, etc. a longer route but sometimes more convenient than travelling to London. I flew Manchester to Dubai and then Dubai to Johannesburg. Flight times were 6 hours to Dubai & 8 hours to J’Burg. (Direct flights are in the region of 11 hours).
Johannesburg & Limpopo Region
I was a bit apprehensive about Johannesburg as I had been told it was quite dangerous. Having been met at the airport by Natalie my guide for the trip I was however reassured about the situation. I felt completely at home, comfortable with my surroundings and somehow amongst family. It was indeed hard to focus on work & not sit back and enjoy the holiday!! We did not go near the centre of J’Burg (you don’t need to). J’Burg is like any other city in the world, if you want trouble you will find it. True there are areas you shouldn’t go too, but that is the same as any other city in the world.
The Fairway Hotels and Golf Resort is situated on the Randpark and Windsor Golf Courses in the suburbs of J’Burg.
The Fairway Hotel & Spa is a member of the Guvon Hotels & Spas portfolio and was the proud host of the 2010 Brazilian Soccer World Cup team.
Golf at the Randpark Golf Club was wonderful. A course in magnificent condition, this was the best way to shake off the stiffness in the legs from the flights. Randpark also gave me my first taste of having a caddy carrying my bag & making my club selection! Standing on the sixth a 170 yard par 3, over water, and to be handed the club that Simon (my new best friend) selected was well, hmmmm, interesting. I thought don’t look at the club selection just hit it. The result was middle of the green and a smiling Simon and a relieved Neil. Crikey this game is easy!!!!
Limpopo: the golf and Safari Route
The name Limpopo somehow always makes me think Africa and big game. In this area you can combine golf with safari. The Limpopo region is just west of the massive Kruger National Park.
I was promised the chance to see the ‘big 5’ (lions, leopards, cape Buffalo’s, rhinoceros & elephants) on a game drive at the Legends Golf & Safari Resort. (I saw 3 out of 5 (lion, elephant and rhinoceros) but what the heck, I also saw giraffe, antelope of several varieties and wart hogs).
The drive to Legends took about 2 hours and on the way we passed 3 other golf resorts. These resorts are:
Golf estates abound in South Africa but none can match Zebula, a stunning and totally unique lifestyle destination a mere 2 hours’ drive north of Johannesburg in the magnificent malaria free Waterberg region of Limpopo Province.
Located on 1600 hectares of pristine bushveld in the shadow of the Waterberg mountains, Zebula commands a most spectacular setting. Undulating, indigenous tree covered hills and wide open grasslands are punctuated with frequent dams and waterholes, a diverse landscape that supports a wide variety of game, birds and small wildlife.
The setting for Elements Private Golf Reserve is one of the biggest factors in its favour. The surrounding bushveld terrain varies between natural hillsides and open plains, with mountain views and perennial streams. The golf course meanders through a fertile valley of indigenous vegetation and artful landscaping. Sustainability and the quality of the golf course’s playing surface, is ensured by the plentiful supply of water.
The Clubhouse is located on a rise overlooking the 9th and 18 holes and offers an unsurpassed view of the course and surrounding landscape. Elements Private Golf Reserve was recently rated in the Top 10 Golf Courses of South Africa for the second year in succession.
We called into Euphoria which is a wonderful resort whose golf course was in great condition.
Euphoria Golf Estate & Hydro set in the beautiful Waterberg mountain range in Limpopo is only 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. The 18 hole Championship golf course is the first golf course in Africa to be designed by Annika Sorenstam and provides a perfect links like bushveld experience. The Estate is also distinguished by a cableway which links the club house to the mountain estate and Sundowner Deck Restaurant, perfect for watching the sunset while enjoying breathtaking views. Euphoria also provides luxurious accommodation in the Bush Villas, a Hydro, a golf academy and nature reserve offering hiking, bird watching, fishing, nature drives etc.
Legends have 4 main attractions:
The Legends golf course with 18 holes each designed by a modern golf legend from Luke Donald to Retief Goosen. You have therefore some really contrasting holes, some really technical and some simply monsters. This course was great fun, with magnificent back drop of the game reserve and a spectacular mountain, (more of that later).
A game reserve
The Resort is situated within the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the malaria free Waterberg Region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. This unique resort sets new standards in exclusivity and tranquility. It reflects the rich cultural legacy of this ancient part of Africa. An exceptional residential estate, where the Big Five roam free, epitomizes a wholesome family lifestyle in the bushveld. At Legend I undertook an evening Safari in search of the big 5 (as mentioned before I saw 3 which with my sort of luck was a magnificent effort!!).
Tribute par 3 course
The safari’s can be undertaken early morning or evening. I chose evening because in the morning I had a date with Augusta via Royal Troon!!! Time travel I hear you shout, well yes & no.
Having driven quite sedately from the wonderful accommodation to the Tribute course I was treated to a magnificent breakfast at the Tribute club house. Whilst sitting there I was intrigued how I was going to be amazed on a par 3 course. I was unaware of the inventiveness of one man, course designer and manager Dave Riddle, (a man who has coached 3 top 10 tour pro’s). Dave was on hand to take us on a trip around the world. We played 10 of the best par threes in world golf. These included The Postage Stamp from Royal Troon, the 12th & 16th from Augusta and to finish off the 17th from Sawgrass. Wow what a treat, (I can tell you that 12th at Augusta is a hell of a long par three with a green about 4 feet wide & a pond in front that just says ‘your golf ball is mine, matey’). This was a great way to finish our trip to the Limpopo Region.
Extreme Par 3
Well at Legends the area is dominated with a large peak (500m high). Very nice back-drop you think. Hmmmm some crazy bloke decided to put a golf tee on top & create a monster par 3. Trouble is access is only via a helicopter. So off we went (through the game reserve) with the resident pro & our lovely caddie Brenda to take on the monster. I’m not great with heights I have to say, (OK with a rail in front of me). With this though whilst I was not happy, I was comfortable to be there, even standing on the edge hitting golf balls. (My usual pre shot thoughts of ‘hit the ball’ & ‘move it forward’, were replaced with ‘don’t look down’ & ‘don’t fall off’!). The views were amazing, the golf shots rubbish and the result was (drop a ball on the fairway at the bottom to finish the hole!).
The helicopter ride down was in the very best roller coaster tradition, scary & Sooooo much fun.
To give you some stats; next time you hit a drive get someone to count how long the ball is in the air, it’s probably 5 to 8 seconds. On extreme your golf ball is in the air for around 14 seconds, wow.
Will I do it again, a very big yes?
Will I be as scared, probably?
Will I hit the green, only if someone else takes my shot?
From legends we moved onto Cape Town. (This was a 2 hour drive back to J’Burg airport & a short flight to Cape Town).
Cape Town & Stellenbosch Wine Region
When Natalie asked if I wanted to visit Table Mountain, play golf & go wine tasting, I considered it for all of 30 micro seconds before saying well why not!!
Cape Town was magnificent. I stayed at the 4 star Commodore Hotel part of the fantastic Legacy Hotel Group on the Victoria & Albert waterfront area. My window view was of Table Mountain, (I still can’t convince my wife I was away working). The waterfront area is very beautiful and safe with lots of restaurants and bars all busy & all the staff were most obliging.
‘It was here I had to buy Natalie dinner as she beat me at Legends. She also beat Dave Riddle (a pro golfer) & I combined on the Tribute course, (Dave walked off a broken man). She also won at Pearl Valley, (you getting my picture now). This girl kept smiling sweetly whilst saying, “But guys my handicap is 20”.
We went up Table Mountain (very dependent on the wind as it can only be reached via cable car). You can spend from an hour to 4 or 5 hours walking around up there, (ideal to take a picnic with you). The views are amazing & you can see Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for so long as well as all of Cape Town and large stretches of the coastal region.
Pearl Valley Golf Course
We went to play Pearl Valley Golf Course during our stay in Cape Town. The Pearl (as I instinctively called it) is rated in the top 3 courses in South Africa and I thought it truly magnificent. In immaculate condition, with some classic golf holes it is a must play course. The facilities were faultless & the staff so warm & obliging, (really South Africa summed up on a golf course). It was here that I found out the South Africans incredible will to win is not made up. What a match we had (lost again Mum to that Natalie woman!!), but we were all like long lost buddies in the club house later sampling a rather wonderful South African Ale. (Honest dear it was not a holiday!!!).
Clovelly Country Club
Nestled in the pristine and tranquil Silvermine Valley close to Fish Hoek in Cape Town Clovelly Country Club is one of the finest golf courses in South Africa, Clovelly offers its members and visitors a memorable experience. A visually stunning golf course, which will have you running from the car park to the first tee.
Steenberg Golf Club
The luxurious Steenberg Hotel is situated on the Cape’s oldest farm, a mere 20-minute drive from the bustling heart of Cape Town. The hotel nestles in the tranquil Constantia Valley, against the slopes of the Steenberg Mountain, offering sweeping views over the False Bay. Its buildings, dating back to 1682, were lovingly restored and have been declared a National Monument.
Steenberg has a beautiful hotel, vineyards and again a stunning golf course. The most frustrating thing with this job is you get to visit great golf courses and you haven’t time to play them. (I can feel your tears of sorrow welling up for me!)
Kleine de Zalze
Located just 3 Km from Stellenbosch this is a world famous winery, hotel, golf course & award winning restaurant.
This was an absolutely fantastic place to end a most memorable trip.
With a magnificent back drop of vineyards, (so European and so familiar you could indeed be in the South of France). This was the very essence of South African wine making. The accommodation, all named after grape varieties, (I stayed in a complex called Gamay), was very spacious and superbly finished. The golf course was a great test of your golfing prowess especially after a wine tasting with our charming host Melvin de Kock (the best Kevin Petersen look-alike you will ever see). All this was finished off with a meal in the award winning Terrior restaurant.
My overall thoughts:
A nation of genuinely friendly people who are delighted to meet you, chat with you and party with you.
A competitive bunch, who work hard and play hard. This is a country of seemingly endless blue skies and vast open plains. A place to see memorable sites, play memorable golf courses and get great hospitality.
When I boarded the flight at Cape Town airport, I looked around & said to myself, “I will be back, sooner rather than later”.
I would like to give special thanks to Natalie van Blerk, (don’t take her on for money!!!), a truly wonderful guide and host. I would like to thank all who hosted me, wined & dined me & beat me at golf (that’s her below with her pet zebra!!). Warren, Adam and all at Giltedge.
Thanks to Pete (a Halifax lad who could do a braai (South African barbecue) as good as any local). Dave and all the Extreme crew for getting me there & back again safely. Finally all those I haven’t mentioned who made my trip memorable, you know who you are, thanks guys.
At Quality Golf Destinations we tailor make the golf package to meet your needs, if you are interested in a South African Golf Holiday, Contact Rachel or Rob on 01782 510800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org