South Africa - Golf & So Much More #2
By Peter Hellman
South Africa is a long way from my home in Denver. To get to Johannesburg or JO-BURG as the locals call it, I took a red eye to JFK and connected to South African Airlines for my 16+ hour flight. There are more civilized ways to make your trip. It can be less taxing by making a stopover in Europe. London is a popular stop. From Jo-burg, I flew to Port Elizabeth, which lies on the eastern end of a lovely coastal road called the CAPE GARDEN ROUTE. It connects Port Elizabeth to Cape Town about 800 miles west. At the airport, we met up with Warren our splendid host for the next nine days. I forgot to mention that I traveled with two of my fiercest golf tour competitors (John and Graham) who also happen to be nice guys and fun to travel with. Before heading west on the Garden Route, we detoured a bit to a marvelous luxury Private Game Reserve called PUMBA. At this point I thought the "hell with golf"; I'm staying here for the next 9 days. The accommodations, the food, our game guide Harry and the animal encounters on the 37,000 acre game reserve exceeded my expectations. But, this was also a trip to discover what South Africa can offer the golfer while not facing down lions, rhinos and elephants. So, on we went with our host/driver to see what we could find.
About three hours along the Route, is the small town of Knysna and the splendid CONRAD PEZULA Resort. This 78 suites resort has awesome views over its golf course, garden and the Indian Ocean. The deluxe junior suites are located in separate villas each with fireplaces, large balconies and impressive bathrooms. Dinner at Zachary's, the resort gourmet restaurant, lived up to its impressive reputation. Though Pezula has a fine golf course, a better one is the SIMOLA GOLF ESTATE nearby. This Jack Nicklaus Signature courses is set in surroundings that will draw your eye from your ball to your view. It cost me a few strokes. The layout with five Par 5's and five Par 3's seems a bit odd, but adds to the fun. A charming alternative accommodation in the area is the KANONKOP HOUSE a Five Star guest house owned and operated by its welcoming host Mark.
The finest golf resort in the country is FANCOURT HOTEL & COUNTRY CLUB located only five miles from the historic town of George. With luxury rooms, one and two bedroom suites, a terrific spa, fine restaurants and three golf courses to choose from, Fancourt has it all. We played THE LINKS course and the easier OUTENIQUA course. The Links is rated as the number two course in South Africa and is a true joy. It's a walking course and caddies are required and appreciated by anyone whose ball occasionally goes astray. The MONTAGU is second to The Links and like the Outeniqua offers carts.
Our next stop along the Garden Route was at the ARABELLA HOTEL & SPA, but before arriving we stopped to play Ernie Els Signature Course OUBAAI. Though a bit out of the way, Oubaai is a treat with fantastic views of the ocean and mountains. The HYATT OUBAAI HOTEL offers quality rooms and amenities on the property. The Arabella Hotel is modern and comfortable and the course is a treat. Several holes meander through a pine forest while others run along the expansive Bot River Lagoon.
On the way to Cape Town we stopped at ERNIE ELS WINERY for a tour, a tasting and lunch on the properties expansive patio overlooking Ernie's vineyard. Just outside of Cape Town is a wonderful and historic hotel – THE VINEYARD. The original part of the hotel was built in 1799. Six acres of gardens, modern rooms with inviting patios give guest privacy to enjoy the surroundings. With the Vineyard as our base, we explored CAPE TOWN. It is a sophisticated city with a delightful temperate climate and the bustle one expects in a major port. Though there are several excellent hotels in Cape Town, the CAPE GRACE HOTEL offers a great location, beautiful public spaces and sumptuous rooms. Located in the Marina area overlooking the commercial harbor on one side and the yacht marina on the other, Cape Grace is ideal for exploring the city or relaxing. The hotel's BASCULE BAR is a must for pre-dinner drinks.
Our final round of golf before flying off to KRUGER NATIONAL PARK and LEOPARD CREEK GOLF CLUB, which I wrote about in my first article, was at STEENBERG GOLF CLUB. The course is located on the grounds of a lovely hotel re-purposed from original Cape Dutch designed stables and out buildings. Interesting architecture and antiques create a comfortable deluxe atmosphere for guests. The golf course is considered one of the best in the country and offers challenge and reward on virtually every hole.
By now you must have come to the conclusion that I think South Africa should be on every ones Bucket List. Please note that even though I was able to cross South Africa off my bucket list, it is back on. I'M GOING AGAIN....WHY DON'T YOU JOIN ME.