The day dawned with an impenetrable sea-fog engulfing the course and I was resigned to our run of sunny days coming to an end, and to not playing Oubaai. Warren though was unperturbed and over breakfast – great omelette, the fog magically cleared. In 10 minutes – never seen that before. And there were the blue skies once more.
The Oubaai course (Par 72, 6,516 yards) was more to my liking and I began to get my confidence back and was notching up the odd par. Then we came to the 190 yard Par 3 over the tree lined gorge – you were either on the green or you were in trouble – and memories of ‘those’ holes at Pinnacle Point came flooding back. No problem though, I cleared the gorge and was the only one to score on the hole. Perhaps my fortune had changed? Fancourt next.
It’s a very short drive to George and Fancourt and takes us less than 15 minutes. We’re greeted with a glass of ‘fizz’ on arrival and had a few minutes to look at the communal areas of the bar and sitting areas and pro-shop. Impressive.
For the first time on the trip, we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves
Dinner was hosted by Fancourt in La Cantina, an intimate restaurant offering some amazing Italian inspired dishes such as Octopus carpaccio.
Today Marcos, Fancourt’s golf director, hosted us with a round on the Outeniqua course (Par 72, 5,986 yards off the middle tees). Outeniqua is one of the three courses offered at Fancourt; the other two being the Montagu and Fancourt Links, the latter being South Africa’s No. 1 rated course and one you can only play if you stay at Fancourt. It is a private course with just 46 members……….I wonder what their annual membership costs?
We booked a caddy, a black man called Whitey who lived in George, who was quite a character but early on I learned two valuable lessons early on with a caddy I had only just met; “here is your ball” really means “this may be your ball” and he had no idea of how far I could hit the ball – to be fair neither do I sometimes.
“Can I reach that bunker?”
“Sand wedge please”
Outeniqua was a lovely course, with some challenging holes but not too much so – as long as you can hit your ball where you know it needs to go. If only!
I came off the course with a couple of pars and with a birdie on the Par 3 15th. My glass of Windhoek Light tasted particularly sweet.
Following a sight inspection of the whole property including the exclusive Fancourt Manor, which is ideal for couples who desire some privacy and some pampering, we ate at Henry Whites in Fancourt Manor. What an exquisite experience, attentive but subtle service, a varied menu without too many choices and a great wine list.
We bade farewell to Fancourt and continued our drive eastwards down the Garden Route on the N2 through the beautiful Tsirsikamma National Forest to the St Francis Golf Lodge. The lodge is situated on St Francis Bay. The lodge offer a small number of rooms looking across the course and St Francis Bay, with Port Elizabeth in the far distance, where my journey would shortly finish.
The rooms were clean and comfortable and being on-site makes the whole golfing experience very easy.
My last full day started a little grey with some light rain, a first for the trip, but soon cleared up to be another beautiful South African day.
We had buggies to drive the short distance to the clubhouse for our land round of golf. The course itself (Par 73, 6126 yards or Par 76, 6,656 off the Championship Tees) is a classic links course, set amongst the dunes of the bay, with many carries and blind tee shots to reach the fairway. Once (if) you reach the fairways the holes open out but I wouldn’t call many of the fairways other than a little tight. Any inaccuracy on this course will be punished; cries of “new balls please” were heard frequently and not just from me. The sub-10 handicap players in the party were having their own ‘moments’
I think it’s fair to say that I survived this course and although my swing deserted me half way round, I at least finished the course having recorded pars on each of the four Par 3 holes.
Time today to say farewell to South Africa and get myself to the airport for a flight to Johannesburg and back via Dubai to Gatwick. Why does it always seem to take longer getting home than on the way out?
I would draw a number of conclusions from my trip:-
- South Africa is a truly magical destination whether or not you’re a golfer with a superb range of accommodation, great food and well-priced local wines;
- Definitely stretch your budget to a helicopter flight over Cape Town; it puts the whole place into context.
- Spend more time in / around Cape Town; there is so much to see and do – three nights as a minimum; but then I wasn’t there on holiday;
- Tailor the golf courses you play to your handicap – high handicaps will learn but probably not enjoy Pearl Valley and Pinnacle Point; there are others nearby that would suit better;
I’m going to return and I’d be happy to share my experience with you.