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South Africa - golf simply doesn't get better than this
May 16, 2012

Golf in South Africa is a once in a life time experience. If you like golf in the sun, love the outdoors and want to sample some of the best wine and cuisine in the world, then South Africa is the place to go.

Plettenberg Bay Country Club - natural beauty, carefully retained
(read more about 'Plett' here)

As the lights go on in Europe and we prepare for those long winter months, why not book yourself a holiday on the Garden Route of the Western Cape? Fly from London to Cape Town, hire a car and turn out of the airport on to the N2 towards Somerset West - then keep going. As the outskirts of the city recede and you climb up Sir Lowry’s Pass through the Hottentots-Holland range of mountains, South Africa opens up in front of you. There are 4-5 hours of road ahead to the start of your holiday, however it is a road you will be pleased to have driven. Take your time and enjoy the views. It clears the mind and body of those hours in the 'plane and builds anticipation for the pleasures ahead.

The Outenique Course at Fancourt

As you approach Mossel Bay you enter the Garden Route which runs for 140 km through to Storms River. It was conceived over 50 years ago to promote the diverse and beautiful coastal plain that lies between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains to the north and majestic Indian Ocean to the south. Pristine fynbos dunes and cliffs merge with towering forests. Gentle rivers meander on the lower plains, while steep-sided gorges cut through spectacular mountains.

The delightful Fancourt Hotel

At the foot of the Outeniqua mountains is the town of George (those who do not like driving will have flown there from Cape Town). This is the home of Fancourt which is one of South Africa’s premier golf resorts. There are three courses which ranked in the top 20 courses in the country in 2011. The Montagu and Outeniqua are glorious parkland-style courses sculpted into the terrain making for a wonderful walk among the Egyptian geese which are colourful and abundant. Fancourt’s traditional Dutch-style housing is an elegant feature of some of the holes with the Outeniqua mountains as a back drop. It is no surprise that Ernie Els has made Fancourt the home of his famous academy.

The 16th hole at the Gary Player-designed Fancourt Links

The Gary Player-designed ‘Links at Fancourt’ was added ten years ago and in 2011 was ranked as the No 1 golf course in South Africa. Inspiration for the design was taken from links courses in the UK and the result is a masterpiece. Wonderful tight turf, wicked rough and fast undulating greens, the course is not for the casual golfer. It’s like Muirfield in July. With a breeze blowing and off the medal tees, if you play off 10 or thereabouts, you will do well to get round in less than 90.

Pezula Championship Course

Your next golfing treat, a little further up the N2 in Knysna, is the Pezula Championship Course built in a spectacular position on the cliffs above the Knysna Lagoon and Indian Ocean. Completed in 2001 it ranks as one of the best golf courses in the world. With luxury accommodation adjoining a resort and spa it makes for a fabulous stop on your way up the coast. Golf course architects Ronald Fream and David Dale have sculptured an extraordinary layout demanding your very best shot-making.

You will need a buggy to take you around Pezula and if you spend any time in the fynbos, you will be glad of it. There are some very special holes. No. 1 is a par 5 that requires a lay up off the tee and you are soon aware that this is a thinking man’s course. No 13 is a par 5 which drops a precipitous 200 feet towards the ocean making for a hugely enjoyable blast off the tee. Remember to look back when you reach the green. The signature hole is the 14th -a brilliant little par 4. A small emerald green amid white sand bunkers set against the glorious blue sea. Picture postcard golf.

Pezula Championship Course

Set high on the hills above Knysna, Simola Golf & Country Estate commands awesome views of the famous lagoon leading to the Heads & the open ocean (an opportunity for an adrenalin-filled boat trip for the more adventurous visitor). Complete with 5 star hotel, spa & luxury lodge it is no wonder that Simola is one of South Africa’s premier golfing destinations. It is the first Jack Nicklaus Signature course on the Garden Route, reflecting the maestro’s philosophy of marrying the layout & design to the natural contours of the land. Simola offers challenging golf amidst spectacular scenery. If you tee off early, take the time to have a fabulous breakfast at the half way house.

Simola Golf & Country Estate

Continuing up the N2, the perfect spot to settle for a few days is Plettenberg Bay. A few minutes on Google will provide as much information as you will need on where to stay. However if you want somewhere with a difference – go to the Emily Moon River Lodge.

Emily Moon River Lodge

For peace and quiet in a beautiful natural setting, you will not do better than this. As you sip a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, you can watch the Fish Eagles hunting over the Bitou River - from your bath. Follow that up with an Ostrich steak and bottle of Shiraz for dinner and you will be ready for your golf the following morning.

Plettenberg Bay Golf Club

Plettenberg Bay Golf Club is a lovely parkland style course, set in a nature reserve with a unique character. No pushover, many of the holes are quite tight and there is plentiful use of ponds and water features. The natural beauty of the course has been carefully retained, vervet monkeys and baboons are casual observers and it is a haven for birds. The Knysna Loerie is a rare inhabitant of the course distinguishable by its green crest and crimson wings in flight. Plettenberg is a golf course you will not forget.

Plettenberg Game Reserve

Take a day off from the golf to visit the Plettenberg Game Reserve which is the largest reserve in the Southern Cape. A few kilometres out of Plettenberg Bay, it is easily accessible for day visitors who want the big game viewing experience in an open 4x4 vehicle or guided on horseback. The reserve has a diversity of fynbos, grasslands and indigenous forest with over 35 species of game. Including lion, rhino. giraffe, hippo, crocodile, buffalo and a variety of antelope, as well as over a 100 species of birds.

Up close and personal with the Plettenberg rhinos

Unlike many game reserves, Plettenberg is also free from malaria, meaning you can enjoy this idyllic place to the full without the daily doses of strong, expensive medicines.

Goose Valley Golf Club

A few minutes down the road is the Goose Valley Golf Club. Initially a 9 hole course designed by Gary Player, it was extended to 18 holes in 2003 and is now a beautiful, demanding lay out. Like most golf courses in South Africa, Goose Valley is at one with nature. Once you reach the Par 3 11th, a gem of a hole set in the midst of the fynbos, golfers will experience round-stopping views of the Keurbooms lagoon, the Indian Ocean and in the distance the Robberg Peninsular. Three off the tee is no real hardship here.

Your round complete, head off up the N2 to the Bramon Wine Estate (pictured right) at the Crags. The food in the region is exceptional however Bramon provides a very special experience. Producing an award winning Cap Classique sparkling wine and delicious Sauvignon Blanc, a tapas style lunch of local meats (including kudu), patés, oysters, cheeses and homemade bread can be enjoyed slowly in the shade of the vines.

Dining in the shade of the vines at Bramon Wine Estate

As a final destination on your golf tour of a lifetime, you must venture off the Garden Route into the Eastern Cape. It is worth the journey. St Francis Links near Humansdorp is a jewel in the crown of golf in the Cape. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, its layout in the dunes of St Francis Bay is quite simply magnificent. The first looks inconsequential from the tee, however as you walk up the first fairway the genius of the course slowly opens up to you. The holes follow the contours of the land as they do on the best links and the course feels it could have been there for decades. The best is left to last and holes 13 to 18 are simply stunning. For those that don’t want to leave after one round, stay overnight in the luxurious accommodation and do it all again the following day.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed St Francis Links

You can organise your golfing travel in South Africa with and get the best prices on golf and accomodation without all the hassle!

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