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On the South African bucket list of golf experiences

On the South African bucket list of golf experiences

Shall I tell you what I did today?  I played one of the most scenic and challenging golf courses South Africa has to offer: The Links at Fancourt on the Garden Route.  A course which should be on anybody’s bucket list of golf courses to play!

It had been a few years since I last played the course.  But I had been there on several occasions, including the final day of the President’s Cup in 2003 when Ernie Els and Tiger Woods battled it out while the sun was setting and the crowds did not want to leave, realizing they were watching a historic game.  With a historic ending, as it was decided to crown both Ernie and Tiger as tied winners, when play had to be suspended when it got really dark and their balls would disappear into the dark African night.

So there we were: on historic grounds, on the No. 2(!) golfcourse in South Africa (and recently rated No. 34 in the world by USA Golf Digest!), on a stunning ‘autumn’ day without a breath of wind, no cloud in the sky and temperatures reaching 35 degrees (95 Fahrenheit) during midday.

Security is quite strict, and I don’t think we would have been allowed on the grounds had we not been able to give them our names matching their list of tee-off times.  We were welcomed by two very friendly gentlemen, taking our clubs from us as we got them out of the car, and taking them through to the starters hut.  We checked in at the well-stocked (including a great ladies’ selection!) pro-shop and shook hands with the golf pro Tyrone Farrell, whose office is open and inviting across the corridor.

At the starters’ hut we had water, fruit, scorecards, tees and pencils waiting for us.  A quick practice putt on the practice green, and off we went.  ‘Like on the tour’, as one of the other ladies in my 4-ball commented, as we walked down the 1st fairway with our 4 caddies in tow.  Caddies who knew the course like the inside of their back pockets, who knew how to read the lines on the fast greens and who had caddied for the likes of Gary Player, Ernie Els and of course ‘homegrown’ Branden Grace.

And who then got us for the day….  And even though our golf was by no means comparable to those South African golfing heroes, the caddies still made us feel special!  For me, there is no better way to enjoy a golf course than with a caddy.  Caddies will show you the way from green to tee, will keep an eye on your ball while you concentrate on your follow through, and who will rake the occasional bunker you will end up in.  They tell you their stories, they share their golfing insights with you and at the end of the day you have provided a family with food on the table.  You have provided somebody with a day’s work…

I don’t want to talk about the golf itself.  It is not worth mentioning – except may be my birdie on the 2nd :) – and actually a great score is not what this course is about.  We’ll leave that to the pro’s.  The Links is about being out in nature: there are raptor ‘sticks’, wetlands with a great variety of birds, several damns with the most amazing bass fish ‘popping up’ every now and then and beautiful water lilies.

Built on an former airfield, the great Gary Player himself was the designer of The Links, which, although not immediately on the coastline, is indeed a true links and considerably tough course by any standard.  The natural Fynbos, the long grasses in the rough, the undulating fairways and fast greens are what make The Links a course you will remember forever.   Today we counted 14 people playing this mostly private course.  Playing The Links is about enjoying your game, the company, the surroundings.  It may be a once in a lifetime experience, but what an experience it is!  Bucket list golfing experiences South Africa: tick!

We highly recommend to use her company

We highly recommend to use her company

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— Diane, John and Katie
We highly recommend to use her company!

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What is the definition of a great golf course?

What is the definition of a great golf course?

So here’s a question we often get: ‘We’re planning a golfing holiday to South Africa, and would like to play some great courses. What do you recommend?’ I never know what to say…

For me personally a great golf course is challenging, yet not too difficult. Not too many bunkers, not too much water, not too many slopes, and preferably a course I can walk. With a caddy to show me the way, who will share his course knowledge with me, and who will give me subtle hints about my game. Great scenery, fast greens and a modern clubhouse on the other hand are a nice bonus, but are generally not too high on my priority list.

Now on a few occasions I’ve had the privilege of touring with an overseas golf-pro and his local members. His criteria where somewhat different: good warming up area, including a driving area where you can also hit your woods, is a pre-requisite to get onto his ‘favorites’ list. And then the whole entourage in the pro-shop, on the 1st tee, at the halfway house (a whole new concept for most visitors altogether!) and at the clubhouse after the game of golf are as important as the lay-out and level of difficulty of the course.

But my experience with individual golfers is yet another one: what others say about a particular course is actually what makes a course a ‘great course.’ That is, if ‘they’ say good things about the course. Spectacular scenery, great service but also their score influences how a course is perceived. And how high the course ranks in the Golf Digest’ or Compleat Golfers’ ranking is equally important.

I must admit those yearly rankings are a great starting point to discuss which courses should be included in our guests’ next golfing adventure. Independent ratings, diverse criteria and consistent measurements throughout the whole of South Africa.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: I guess the only right answer would be: ‘what is YOUR definition of a great course…?’ And then we’ll advise you accordingly…

 

Author: Ypie Kingma (aka Eagle Eyes), March 2014
Top Golf Garden Route

Top Golf Garden Route

From R5,885.00 p.p.s.

3 nights B&B / 1 x dinner / 3 x golf at Montagu @ Fancourt, Outeniqua @ Fancourt and Pinnacle Point / self-drive (own vehicle)

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Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Tribute to Nelson Mandela

I don’t normally write anything on this blog page that doesn’t have to do with either golf in South Africa, golfers of South Africa or travel to and in South Africa.  But at this special time I want to share with you what is happening in South Africa.  With the people of South Africa.  Many of whom have played or never will play golf.  Who may have traveled, sometimes long and far.  Sometimes not of their own free will.  But because the government told them to.  The apartheid government, before Nelson Mandela became president.

As the Father of our nation has moved on, this is a time to reflect.  To honor, to commemorate and to celebrate.

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Golf tourism and its future in SA (part 3 / 3)

Golf tourism and its future in SA (part 3 / 3)

This is the 3rd and final part (Click here for part 1 and part 2) of Golf tourism and its future in SA…

That brings me back to the original seminar, which after a few more presentations was turned into a brainstorm session on how to grow the golf industry in South Africa.  I would assume you are not really interested in why and how ‘we’ as an industry plan to sustain and grow our own industry, but I did find it fascinating to realize that we actually have no idea where the industry stands, how many people specifically come to South Africa to play golf (as opposed to the ones who come to South Africa and may play the occasional round…), how much they spend and how often the return. Read More »