Words and photos by Florian Apfelbach
Due to the pandemic, we were thinking about where can we travel this time? And we found a perfect holiday spot – South Africa. The trip was not just about golf, because South Africa has so much more to offer. We started at the end of October 2021 and as it's an overnight flight, we arrived the next morning with only 1 hrs time difference (from Germany). In October/November the temperatures are between 18-28 degrees in the daytime depending on which area you are in. At this time of the year, it's springtime in South Africa and everything is in bloom, which is a lovely sight.
We started our South African road trip from Cape Town and paid a visit to nearby Simons Town Country Club a small 9-hole course which offers nice sea views and we loved watching the penguins at Boulders Beach. The course is quite short with 2080 Meters from the Men’s tee, but don’t expect it to be easy – I think it is windier than in any Open Championship. You can play it quickly in around 1 hour and it's a bargain for only €10. Good start!
As we continued our Road Trip we passed by the Knysna Area and there was club on my list that I definitely wanted to play: Pezula Golf Club. The Club is located directly at the sea but some holes are also inland like a parkland course. It is a par 72 which measures a mere 5963 Meters. The signature hole is definitely hole 14 a par-4 which is 290 meters downhill from the black tees.
In my opinion, every course needs a par-4 hole where it is possible to drive the green. It is such a good feeling standing on the tee and thinking you are Bryson Dechambeau. But it’s like waking up from a dream when you hit your own tee shot landing somewhere in the bushes. Nevertheless, the course is hilly but therefore you will also have these nice views from different tee boxes. Nice course to play and in good conditions. Top-15 in South Africa.
We continued our trip and drove into Golfers Heaven also known as Fancourt. This is a fantastic Golf Resort which offers you anything you can dream of. It has 3 different golf courses, great restaurants, a fabulous spa and lovely rooms. Nelson Mandela and Tiger Woods were also there at the 2003 Presidents Cup – the only time in history that the President's Cup was shared by Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
I started with the “Outeniqua” course which measures 5603 Meters on fairly open terrain. This is the easiest of the three Gary Player Courses. Outeniqua starts directly at the Clubhouse and may some people will watch your tee shot from the terrace. There is some beautiful scenery at the first par-3 (hole 4). With a length of 160 meters, this is not an easy test.
You will have a little bit more space to hit your drive on Outenique, but as always better hit the fairway. If you come to Fancourt I would suggest playing the courses in the order I have them listed here. Then you will have the toughest test at the end.
The second course I played at Fancourt is “Montagu” a parkland course of 6324 Meters, which is a little bit more difficult. At some holes you will see small water hazards and at some holes, they are a little bigger. Like on the par-3 17th which is 160 Meters over the water into the wind. It is totally fair to play but some shots into the greens are difficult. By the way at all three courses the greens are running between stimp 10.5 and 11.5 – so you better get your approach shot close.
Because of the length and the width of the fairways, this course is more demanding. You may not lose many balls on this course but if you find your ball behind a tree it will be tough to get on the green.
The last course I played at Fancourt - The Links - is a real test. It's also the course where Tiger Woods played the Presidents Cup. The course has its own clubhouse and a caddie is mandatory. Trust me, they know what they are doing and they may know your game better than you after some holes.
From the Black Tees the course is 6930 Meters long, it has heavy rough and deep bunkers. But somehow there are also holes like #6 with only 312 meters – yes from the black tees. This hole is called "five penny piece". The green is so tiny that your approach has to be really good. You finish the round on 18, which is a 563 par-5 that requires a 230 meter carry to clear the rough. The Links at Fancourt is the #1 in Africa!
I haven´t told you anything about the service at Fancourt until now – because everywhere it is exceptionally good. When playing The Links, after 9 holes they are waiting for you with a small freshly cooked dish (I got a chicken wrap) and after the last putt drops, you will get a refreshing drink just after leaving the green. Furthermore, they are not handing out plastic bottles anymore, you will get your own metal bottle to refill it. Hopefully, more clubs will follow this great example.
After the round of golf, you can have a nice massage at the spa with a Roman bath and relax a little before having a nice steak. In my opinion, it doesn't get any better than this!
As our road trip continued, we went to the Addo elephant park, Hiked at Tsitsikamma National Park and Robberg Island and watched Ostriches in Oudtshoorn, before we came to Franschoek and Stellenbosch, the (new) Wine Capital of the World. After that, we finally had time to play golf again.
We visited Pearl Valley Golf Estate which is located near Cape Town. The first thing that impressed me at this golf club was the 22 Titleist rental sets with Scotty Cameron putters in tour bags. I had never seen something like that before. The clubhouse is nice and big and has a view of the 9th green. I just love it when you can watch the other flights finish their rounds (and applying some extra spectator pressure 😉).
Time to get ready, the range is directly next to Hole #1 which is also quite nice. It opened in 2003, designed by Jack Nicklaus as Signature Course and measures 6577 Meters from the Tips.
The opening hole is relatively easy with 356 meters and only some big bunkers as hazards. But when you get to the next hole, there's a lot of water guarding fairways and greens. The water is there to stay throughout the whole course, so better to bring enough golf balls. Holes 7 and 8 are situated directly next to each other and you can lose more than one or two balls in the same water hazard. On Hole 14, a 489-meter par-5, there's a big tree in the middle of the fairway at 285 meters which you need to make your way around.
Hole #18 is a real beast from the black tees. It's 427 meters long and there is water on the left side of the green. A nice finishing hole – at a course which was in perfect condition even though there was heavy rain the day before.
After your round, you can have a nice dinner in Franschoek, where some of the best restaurants in South Africa are waiting for you. This was a perfect holiday, with some nice Safaris, really good food, a lot of sunshine and some of the best golf courses I ever played. South Africa is definitely worth a visit!
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