3 of our Favourite Escapes to South Africa

This week’s blog is a guide to some of our brilliant South African escapes. These trips will offer you the trip of a lifetime where you will get to enjoy the culture, cuisine and golf that this wonderful country has to offer you.

Fancourt Hotel is a truly charming five-star hotel nestled between mountains and forests at the heart of the Garden Route. All of the rooms within the hotel boast elegant furnishings and private balconies from which you can see stunning views of the Outeniqua Mountains. Of course, they are all fitted with the amenities and facilities that you would expect from a hotel of this standard including toiletries, a minibar and a satellite TV. It is no surprise that Fancourt is considered to be South Africa’s premier leisure resort due to the three excellent golf courses situated onsite which were all carefully designed by Gary Player: Links, Montagu and Outeniqua.

The hotel offers a range of dining options from casual through to classic and all of the food is made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. There is also a bar which boasts delicious regional wines as well as a spacious garden terrace on which to enjoy these wines. Besides the three fantastic Gary Player designed golf courses situated onsite of this luxurious hotel, there is also a spa, a fitness centre and an outdoor swimming pool. With wonderful facilities, a stunning location and outstanding golf, it is no surprise that we highly recommend this resort for your next golf escape to South Africa.

Next up we have the five-star Fairmont Zimbali Resort which is situated within the exclusive and tranquil Zimbali Coastal Resort eco-estate. The hotel boasts 154 rooms and suites which are all fitted with contemporary amenities including Wi-Fi and a TV as well as complimentary Le Labo products and dressing gowns within the spacious ensuite bathrooms. Within the resort, you can find a luxurious spa, three outdoor swimming pools and eight different restaurants and bars which are all open to guests to enjoy. You can enjoy casual poolside dining at Ayoba, Indian Fusion cuisine from OSA and international dishes at the Coral Tree Restaurant. Not only does the resort have so much to offer its guests, but its location means that you can explore Durban and Umhlanga as well as Ballito which is just five minutes’ drive from the resort.

This hotel offers a luxurious and relaxing stay for all guests as well as the opportunity to enjoy some fantastic golf. Most of our packages to Fairmont Zimbali include brilliant courses like Durban Country Club, Zimbali Coastal Resort and Mount Edgecombe Golf Estate. For your next golf break to South Africa, look no further than this stunning resort.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Rovos Rail. The Rovos Rail can be considered as more than a holiday as it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The Rovos Rail was first established in 1989 and since then it has earned an international reputation for its world-class travel experiences with brilliant service, delicious cuisine and some of South Africa’s finest wines. You can choose from journeys that last from 48 hours to 15 days and whilst you are aboard the train, you wind through South African countryside soaking up the best culture, golf and safari experiences that this beautiful country has to offer you. The trains are beautifully decorated, and you can enjoy being fully all-inclusive which includes champagne! There are a variety of different trips to choose from, but the golf safari is perfect for those looking to sample some of the country’s finest golf and non-golfers are equally well catered for with exciting excursions and safaris.

The Rovos Rail Golf Safari lasts for nine days and is perfect for even the most discerning golfers, but it also offers brilliant excursions for those who aren’t going to play golf at all. The train departs from Pretoria and journeys north towards Sun City before turning eastwards to KwaZulu Natal and the Drakensberg escarpment. You will then find yourself travelling towards the Indian Ocean coast near Durban before heading north and running up the Indian Ocean coast into Swaziland. The final visit for the train is to the magnificent Kruger National Park. This is a fantastic experience and for anyone looking for a once in a lifetime experience, look no further than choosing a journey aboard the fantastic Rovos Rail…

Bucket List Golf

This week’s blog is a guide to some of the best golf courses from around the world that we recommend having on your bucket list. There are some spectacular golf courses out there and if you are a discerning golfer you will have identified the ones that you want to have the opportunity to play but we recommend these brilliant courses as a round on one of these courses is truly unforgettable.

Both of the courses at Fairmont St Andrew’s are incredible and each deserve a place on this list and it isn’t hard to see why. The Kittocks course is situated on elevated ground next to the cliff-tops and boasts a fantastic and dramatic design that is a brilliant test of golf. The course features two man-made lakes but the layout of the course honours the tradition of golf at St Andrew’s with two double greens and many deep pot bunkers. As you play your round, you will meander along the Fife coastline where you can enjoy beautiful views over St Andrews which just adds to the brilliant feel of this course. Beware of this course, you may be eased in for the first few holes but when you get to the par-5 5th hole, you never really look back. The Torrance course is a testing one at 7,230 yards from the back tees. The course played host to The Open in 2010 and is a top-quality course right from the welcome that you receive in the clubhouse to each and every one of the well-manicured greens. The course is built on the cliff tops and whilst you are enjoying your round you can enjoy stunning views over the North Sea. Like its sister course, you have a gentle start, but the course soon becomes trickier. With a professional welcome at the clubhouse and great service as well as two beautifully manicured courses which both will provide you with an excellent test of golf, it is no surprise that we recommend that Fairmont St Andrews Golf Club has a place on your golfing bucket list.

Next, is the brilliant Albatros at Le Golf National which is considered to be one of the best championship courses in Europe and so it is no surprise that the course will host the 2018 Ryder Cup. The course boasts brilliantly fast greens, undulating fairways and links-style bunkers which makes this course a strategic challenge of golf. During your round here, you will need to use every single club in your bag in order to score as well as you can. The finale of this course is very impressive, and the greens are surrounded by water hazards which makes it a fantastic and challenging end to the course and is sure to mean some last-minute drama at the Ryder Cup later this year. It is not surprising that this is a recommendation of ours for your golfing bucket list and so make sure that you book your golf break soon as possible as we are sure that this course will be getting a lot of attention this year…

Fancourt Golf Club’s Links course is another one that we highly recommend to you and is arguably South Africa’s premier leisure resort which is situated in the heart of the Garden Route. The course is situated on over 1,500 acres of lush African countryside and boasts the majestic Outeniqua Mountains as the perfect backdrop. This Gary Player course has a unique feel to it and is a magnificent round of golf with some amazing wildlife and scenery to enjoy during your round if you can pull your eyes away from the course! There are no easy holes on the course and the rough is severe and penal, if you’re a high handicapper this may not be the best course for you but is one that you can aspire to play.

The K Club is widely considered to be one of the most opulent golf resorts in Ireland so it isn’t hard to see why we have added this to our list of golf courses that should be on your bucket list. The Palmer Ryder course at K Club is a stern test of golf at 7,337 yards from the back tees. As you play your round here, you will have to take on many different challenges successfully in order to finish the round with a good scorecard. These challenges range from the vast number of water hazards to strategically placed bunkers and fast greens. This course should not be underestimated and even if you don’t score well, a trip to The K Club is a brilliant one with first-class service and facilities as well as a course with a fantastic layout and stunning views. There are some very intimidating holes which you must tackle carefully including the 16th which is a very long par-5 at just under 600 yards from the blue tees and boasts a double dogleg where you must navigate your ball around the water and bunkers as well as many trees before you get to approach the green which is protected on two sides by the River Laffey and is difficult to reach successfully. This is a brilliant course with some unique and interesting holes as well as a lovely clubhouse to enjoy a drink and meal in after.

Last, but certainly not least, is Real Club Valderrama which has hosted many championship golfing events since its opening and has justifiably been ranked as the number one course in Europe. It is always in immaculate condition and boasts a great design but is one that challenges even the best of golfers with many tight holes and hazards to navigate your way around. The closing holes are always described as being very tough but if you choose your tee option wisely then you should be able to get a fairly good scorecard. Although the green fee is a little expensive here, it is more than worth the money to get the chance to play on this world-renowned course.

We hope that you have taken a note of the courses you would be most interested in adding to your golfing bucket list and that you consider booking a golf break to one of them and the fantastic hotels that are nearby to these brilliant courses…

Inspiration for 2018 – Long Haul

This week’s blog is a guide to some of our best long-haul golf holidays which would be perfect for you to book now to enjoy this year. With a lack of vitamin D available right now in the UK, it is time to start thinking about where your next golf escape will be to and one of these brilliant hotels is the perfect retreat from the bad weather and into the sun…

First up we have the Arabella Hotel and Spa which boasts a fantastic location in the Cape Provinces overlooking a beautiful lagoon and surrounded by stunning lush landscape. The hotel boasts an excellent design where the classic elegance of old world style is mixed with the modern design trends and everything is very luxurious form the service to the spa to the dining options. Whilst you are here, spend time rejuvenating in the Arabella Spa which boasts everything you could need to feel completely relaxed including a sauna, a pool and an extensive list of beauty and massage treatments to choose from. If you are looking to be active, there is a fully-equipped gym and some tennis courts to play on and of course, there is the award-winning golf course onsite. After a day exploring the local area or relaxing within the hotel and playing a round of excellent golf, you can enjoy delicious cuisine and relaxing bars within the hotel that each boast stunning views. This is the perfect destination for your next golf break and it isn’t hard to see why…

Situated just six minutes’ walk from the longest stretch of white sandy beach in the stunning Belle Mare region of Mauritius is the five-star Long Beach Golf and Spa Resort. This hotel boasts excellent views and a stunning surrounding landscape comprising of a tropical lagoon with a beautiful coral landscape perfect for snorkelling and exploring! Whilst you are here, you can enjoy having three outdoor pools, an extensive spa as well as a modern fitness centre and other activities onsite including tennis, windsurfing and snorkelling in the lagoon. You are just 15 minutes’ drive from the centre of Flacq and 30 minutes’ from the brilliant Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Club and many of our packages include free golf transfers to both this course and Anahita Golf Course. Enjoy dining in one of the five restaurants which all serve delicious cuisine which has been created using fresh and seasonal ingredients before enjoying a post-dinner drink out on the terrace. This is a fantastically luxurious hotel with all of the amenities that you would want or need to have the perfect long haul golf escape.

The five-star Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort boasts an excellent location sat right on the trendy Leblon Beach in Rio’s South Zone. Whilst you are not spending time on this beautiful beach, you can relax around the pool area that has been newly designed and features a lush tropical landscape as well as a Jacuzzi which faces the brilliant ocean. Whilst you are not out playing golf or relaxing by the beach or pool, you can relax in the Shine Spa or workout in the fully-equipped gym. There are excellent dining options within the hotel as by the pool you can enjoy Casarao Restaurant where you can access a buffet at lunch but brilliant cuts of meat during dinner whilst enjoying a lovely, casual atmosphere. Alternatively, by the pool area, there is the Casa de Cachaca where you can get some great snacks and drink some classic cocktails. Within the hotel, there is the Bene Restaurant which serves delicious Italian cuisine and boasts a Dry Martini Bar and then, on the 26th floor, you can find L’Etoile which boasts panoramic views from the dining area and superb French food. With so much to do, see, eat and drink both at the hotel and within the local area, it is no surprise that we are highly recommending the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort as your next golf break in 2018…

Last, but certainly not least, is Hyatt House Hotel which is located just five minutes’ walk from the beautiful Old Town Scottsdale. The hotel boasts a year-round outdoor swimming pool as well as a fully-equipped fitness centre for you to enjoy during your stay here. Each of the rooms is fully air-conditioned and spacious with both a seating area, dining area as well as a fully-fitted kitchen. There are other welcome amenities as well including a work desk, a and a flat-screen cable TV. There is a brilliant restaurant onsite and where you can be served breakfast, lunch and dinner but of course, as you are so close to the centre of Scottsdale, you can venture out to find many brilliant restaurants and bars to enjoy! There are many different golf courses in the local area which you can reach easily including: Talking Stick Golf Club, Las Sendas Golf Club, McCormick Ranch and McDowell Mountain. This is a great little hotel which boasts excellent facilities and the facilities for you to enjoy self-catering in your suites. Hyatt House Hotel is a brilliant destination for your next golf break to South Africa where you can find plenty of great golf, service and amenities.

We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s blog and no matter where you are planning your next golf break to be, that you give us a call to see what we can offer you!

Long Haul Special

This week’s blog is a long haul special in which we will show you some of the brilliant hotels and experiences that there are to be had a little further afield than Europe. When you are thinking about booking your next golf break, it is worth considering what you can get for your money when travelling somewhere completely new and different and these hotels and experiences are definitely some of the ones to look at…

First up, in Dubai, is the Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City which is a stunning five-star hotel located on the Dubai Creek and just 20 minutes’ away from Dubai airport. Whilst staying here you will experience the ultimate luxury as the hotel offers so many fantastic amenities and facilities as well as beautifully decorated accommodation. Whilst you are not enjoying relaxing by the outdoor pool, in the gym or playing a round of golf at the superb Arabian Ranches Golf Club you can take advantage of the hotel’s great location being close to the Mall of the Emirates, Burj Khalifa and the Kite Beach. The hotel boasts 13 different restaurants so there really is something for everyone with each of the restaurants serving different cuisine from sushi to mezze boards to Brazilian. This is a beautifully designed hotel with so many local attractions including Creekside Park and Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and is the perfect destination for your next luxury long haul golf break.

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa is a stunning five-star resort set in the heart of Abu Dhabi which means that it boasts an excellent location within close distance of some of Abu Dhabi’s top attractions including the world-renowned beach, the Corniche. Whilst you are not out exploring the local attractions, you can spend time relaxing by one of the two outdoor pools or at the Heavenly Spa. The golf at the resort is as brilliant as the rest of the facilities as on-site you have a 27-hole Championship course and within close proximity of the resort you also have two other courses. Everything about this resort is luxurious including the rooms which are all open-plan and have floor-to-ceiling windows as well as private balconies. If you are looking for luxury and to travel to somewhere new with fantastic golf and plenty of things to do, see, eat and drink then this is the perfect place for your next golf holiday.

In the Dominican Republic is the lovely, five-star Casa de Campo Resort and Villas where you can enjoy a special and unrivalled golfing experience. This resort is considered to be one of the world’s leading golf resorts and it isn’t hard to see why with everything that it has to offer including no less than three excellent golf courses on-site as well as many different sporting facilities, a health spa, nightly entertainment and a private beach. Each of the rooms is furnished beautifully and boasts its own private balcony or terrace as well as a walk-in closet and a large flat-screen TV. There are many restaurants on-site and you can enjoy different cuisines and dishes from seafood to International dishes to Spanish cuisine. This is the ideal resort for you if you are looking for a busy and exciting golf break to the Dominican Republic where you can play a few different but equally brilliant golf courses.

Your next recommendation for a brilliant long haul golf holiday is the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale where you can stay in spacious accommodation and enjoy all of the luxury facilities and amenities offered here. Whilst you are not out enjoying a round on one of the five brilliant golf courses which are easily accessible from the hotel, you can relax by one of the outdoor pools which each have hot tubs or exercise in the fitness centre. The guest suites have all been recently refurbished and boast everything that you could need including a kitchenette, free Wi-Fi and a satellite TV. Old Town Scottsdale is on your doorstep whilst staying here and there is so much to do and see there including spas, shopping, dining and an abundance of nightlife. If you are looking for a great base to explore Old Town Scottsdale, play some great golf and stay in luxurious suites then this is the perfect place for you to choose for your next golf break.

Tamarina Boutique Hotel on the West Coast of Mauritius is a lovely four-star hotel which is situated next to its very own private beach and is surrounded by tropical lands. Tamarina Golf Club is a fantastic 18-hole championship course but there is so much to do besides play golf here including taking a visit to the Casela National Park, relaxing by one of the four outdoor pools or in the spa or you can enjoy the many sporting activities that are available at the hotel including quad biking and diving. Each of the rooms in the hotel are fully air-conditioned and all feature either a private balcony or terrace from which you can enjoy stunning views of the surroundings. Tamarina Boutique Hotel is a beautiful hotel from which you can enjoy the tranquil surroundings of Mauritius and play some great golf at the same time making it a perfect destination for your next long haul golf holiday.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Shongololo Express which although is not a resort or hotel, can offer you something truly brilliant on your next golf break to South Africa. The Shongololo Express journeys from Pretoria to Cape Town, or vice versa, over 14 nights and offers you the chance to experience the very best of South Africa and travel in style whilst you do it. The train will stop off at many of the country’s top attractions and top golf courses including: Fancourt, Arabella and Leopard Creek. There is no better way to travel South Africa and get the chance to see everything that this country has to offer than on the Shongololo Express which makes this the perfect experience for your next long haul golf holiday.

We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s blog and that when you are planning your next golf break you think about taking the opportunity to see somewhere new and exciting and experience an entirely different culture on a long haul trip.

South Africa Week – Part 2

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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?”

“No”.

“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.

 Day 8

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.

Day 9

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.

Day 10

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.

South Africa Week – Part 1

Golf Educational to South Africa

April 2017

In January I was invited to join a small party on a golf focused educational trip touring the southern-most coast of Africa from Cape Town via the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth. The invitation was accepted for mid-April.  My first visit to Cape Town in (too) many years and my first as a pretty average 18 handicapper.

Since there is such a wide variety of carriers that service this route I began, as all should do, by looking at my flight options, i.e. routing, timings, and costs. The only carrier that flies direct into Cape Town direct – and they know it, are British Airways from Heathrow; their fair came in at just shy of £1,000.  Convenient – yes, expensive – most certainly. So indirect it was and since I live near Gatwick my next thought was Emirates via Dubai. Bingo! The timings were great, with good connections, and the fare…just £445, and they allow you to take 30kgs of checked luggage in two bags; so my golf clubs could come with me. Why so much BA? And why only 23kg of checked luggage?

The flight out was on one of Emirates new A380’s, a really comfortable plane and great in-flight entertainment. Food – the usual. The flight from Dubai to Cape Town was on an A320, so not as good as the A380, but as I slept most of the way – it did its job and arrived on time.

Cape Town International was rebuilt for the 2010 Football World Cup and is a friendly easy-to-navigate point of arrival.

Day 1

I was met by the Adam, the MD of Gilt Edge – the arrangers of the trip – and taken to my overnight hotel – the Cape Milner; a contemporary boutique hotel in the quiet suburb of Tamboerskloof, just to the south-east of Signal Hill and a 10 minute drive to the V&A Waterfront. The room was large and well equipped with a great en-suite behind glass walls.

After a quick shower and a quick beer (obligatory), we drove to the V&A and met up with my host (Warren) and the other participants on the trip. Certainly an eclectic mix, one Czech, one Dutch, a
Finn and me. They would turn out to be superb company and to each bring something different to the group. A lovely fish supper was had in heart of the Waterfront, which has seen a massive amount of development and is now a vibrant place with a real ‘buzz’ about it.

Day 2

After breakfast, our itinerary showed a surprise activity for half an hour; it had to be Table Mountain – didn’t it? How wrong was I, as we pulled up outside the reception area for NAC Helicopters. What a way to start the trip – a 15 minute flight to view the City from the clear blue skies. It’s a great way to get to understand the layout of Cape Town, the views are spectacular and it’s not that expensive. NAC Helicopters also offer 30 minute and 1 hour excursions in 3, 4 and 6 seater aircraft.

It was time to leave central Cape Town for our first round of golf (one of six on the trip) at Steenberg Golf Club in Tokai at the back end of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. The course is located on the Steenberg Estate, which has a long and esteemed history and now offers stylish accommodation in Cape Dutch style white washed and thatched buildings in the grounds of the old Manor House, all set within one of the oldest vineyard in South Africa. And yes their Merlot is awesome!

 

 

 

 

 
The course is within a parkland setting and despite the South Africans love of bunkers, it’s a playable course for most handicaps and great way to settle yourself into a golf holiday in South Africa, before you take on the challenge of the tougher courses you’ll experience. I managed to avoid a bunker until the 16th and water until the 18th. The odd par here and there and I sat in the clubhouse with a glass in hand feeling happy with my first outing.

Our overnight accommodation was at the Steenberg Hotel & Spa, a classically stylish property located between the course and the winery. We ate in the stylish and elegant the Catharina’s Restaurant in the old barn – the service was exemplary and the food exquisite.

Day 3

Another beautiful day dawned and following a Cape Malay omelette and strong coffee, we headed first up to the winery, where you can a have a tour, a sundowner or a full meal overlooking the vines and the mountains beyond before driving down to the district of Newlands situated at the back of Table Mountain where we visited the Vineyard Hotel. Set in 7 acres of parkland the hotel offers 208 en-suite bedrooms in a variety of grades of rooms, suites and cottages. Its location is ideal for those who want to stay neither in the heart of Cape Town nor in the winelands, yet close to both. Excellent coffee as well.

 

 

 

 

 
Leaving Cape Town behind us we drove towards the winelands town of Paarl and to Pearl Valley, home to Jack Nicklaus’s Championship Signature Course. Unlike my round at Steenberg, I found a bunker off the first tee and many more on my way round. Actually, it may have taken me until the 17th before I didn’t hit sand somewhere on each hole.  It just seemed as if Jack knew where my ball was going to land and put a bunker there for me!

The accommodation at Pearl Valley is not yet officially open but is of a high standard and consists of self-catering suites set in small blocks of 8 rooms just behind the practice green. If you do not want to self-cater, the clubhouse offers a range of meals, but a full service restaurant it is not.

Day 4

The sun was again in full attendance as we hit the road again leaving Cape Town behind us as we drove to the quaint wine-lands village of Franschoek (‘French Corner’). The village (it’s really a little too small to call it a town) is nestled between hills on three sides giving it an Alpine feel, and consists of a few top quality properties (e.g. Le Quartier Francais and Leeu House) and some beautiful vineyards. It’s ideal if you’d like a Cape winelands experience without the masses…for a few days…

From there we crossed over a mountain pass, with a magnificent view back over Franschoek and its vineyards, and dropped down (eventually) onto the N2, which runs along the length of the south coast through George, Knysna and Port Elizabeth before turning north along the Indian Ocean coast of KwaZulu Natal passing Durban. It eventually runs out of tarmac at near Johannesburg; a distance of some 1,400. It’s quite some road.

Our next stop was game reserve on the outskirts of Mossel Bay called Gondwana. Having travelled widely on safari in Southern Africa I was a little concerned that the experience would fall far short of my previous experiences.  How wrong I was to be proved…

We had barely cleared the two wildlife security gates for the short drive to the Kwena Lodge, when we spotted some shapes just below the crest of a hill some 1,000 yards away. The call went up ‘ellies’ but they were too small and not moving like elephants. Rhino? We got closer, yes five white rhino were ambling gently down the track towards us. Warren wisely pulled to the side of the road, turned off the engine and we sat as they walked up to the vehicle and then past us, almost within touching distance. A great introduction to Gondwana!

 

 

 

 

 
Our accommodation was a three bedroom house, a short distance from the main lodge – perfectly walkable but this is Africa so you don’t. Over the two game drives we came across elephants, rhino, a pride of lion and several different antelope species. The experience is a little ‘canned’ but in the context of the Garden Route golf & safari holiday, juts perfect for first-timers to Africa.

Day 5

Following our early morning game drive and yes, with the sun shining yet again, we bade farewell to Gondwana and drove the short distance down to Mossel Bay and Pinnacle Point Golf Club (Par72, 6,460 yarsd). Set on the edge of the cliffs, with the next landmass south being Antartica, I had identified the course as likely to be a challenge with seven holes teeing off alongside the cliffs or over the sea between the ‘pinncle’ of land jutting out to sea. Sadly, I was right. The course got into my head and a simple shot to a Par 3 became a nerve-racking shank into the ocean far below. So unnecessary!

The course is amazing and the 18th one of the best I have ever played. This course kept on giving right to the end. In my view, it’s a MUST play course when you’re in this part of the world.

From Pinnacle Point we had an hour’s drive to get to Herold’s Bay and Oubaai Hotel Golf & Spa for an overnight stay before playing the Ernie Els designed Oubaai course the next morning.

South Africa – Guide to the Rainbow Nation

This week’s blog is a South Africa special. South Africa has so much to offer its visitors with beautiful scenery, endless beaches, delicious food and stunning wildlife. With all of this, as well as some of the worlds’ best-kept golf courses offering world-class facilities, coupled with superb weather, it is really no surprise that this a much loved golfing destination. Courses such as Fancourt, Leopard Creek and Gary Player Sun City are known world-side and all host major tournaments. So, if you haven’t already booked your next golf escape to the sun then look no further than one of our superb packages to South Africa…
Rovos-Rail

Rovos Rail is a world-class travel experience and gives you the opportunity to take a journey through South Africa of up to 15 days. Taking a journey on the Rovos Rail is an unforgettable experience and it really isn’t hard to see why. Board the train in Pretoria and enjoy fine wining and dining, superb service and the chance to see some of the most magical spots across South Africa as well as get the opportunity to play some truly testing golf courses. There are three journeys specifically for golfers – the Golf Safari, Golf Collage and the Golf Adventure – but they book very early, so don’t delay. With everyday taking you to a new destination with new sights and courses to play it is not surprising that this is our shining star of golf escape to South Africa.
Fancourrt-Manor-House

If travelling by train is not the way you want to spend your golf trip to South Africa, then we have a fabulous alternative; Fancourt Estate. The five star estate offers stunning scenery and surroundings as well as two very different but equally beautiful hotels and three superb golf courses. The Manor House is just that, a remodelled manor house to create a stunning boutique hotel which is perfect for those of you looking for a quieter holiday in a beautiful place. This boutique hotel offers guests the ultimate luxury and a stay here could never be a disappointment.
Fancourt-Hotel

The Fancourt Hotel features 115 beautifully decorated bedrooms and suites with all the amenities that you would expect from a hotel of this standard. There are a range of facilities for guests to enjoy from the spa and gym to the range of swimming pools and of course, the three brilliant golf courses. The Fancourt Estate is beautiful, with the breath-taking Outeniqua Mountains providing the backdrop for your stay.
Fancourt-Links

Fancourt’s Outeniqua and Montagu courses have become known as two of the finest parkland courses in the country. Getting the opportunity to play a round of golf on each of these courses is a remarkable experience. However, the shining star of the Fancourt courses is The Links course, which is rated as the best in the country. The course is perhaps the most impressively designed course in South Africa and presents players with a unique and tough South African golfing experience. The land across the golf course is so vast and rolling that it feels like there is a change in elevation at every hole and the course blends effortlessly into its natural landscape. Each hole presents you with a new challenge but you will definitely remember every one, which just shows what an experience you will have. However, there is no doubting that this is an exceptionally tough course with fast greens and lots of rough. The course allows little leeway for wayward shots so if you are a golfer with a high handicap you may find this course a little frustrating. In the area there are some other amazing courses to play such as Oubaai, Simola and Pezula.
Pearl-Valley-Hotel

Another fantastic package to South Africa awaits you at the Pearl Valley Hotel. The hotel, opening soon, will be one of the most luxurious hotels in the area and, when combined with Pearl Valley’s championship golf course, will make for an enchanting stay. The hotel is situated on the Pearl Valley Estate which has stunning scenery. The new hotel will offer luxurious and spacious rooms as well as an onsite restaurant and bar and a large outdoor pool area for guests to enjoy.  If you’d prefer there is an option for you to rent a resident’s lodge, which gives you access to the course as well as the other facilities on site, which is great for golf groups or families.
Pearl-Valley-Golf

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about the new Pearl Valley Hotel is that now you have the opportunity to stay and play one of South Africa’s finest courses – Pearl Valley Golf Course. The course is nestled between the dramatic Simonsberg Mountains and the Berg River Valley. It has been recognised as the Best Conditioned Course in South Africa several years running. The course is a parkland course and has many water hazards which can shake up your round a little if you’re not careful.
Pearl-Valley-Golf-Club

The clubhouse here has a sophisticated atmosphere where you can soak up the beautiful surroundings and enjoy some lovely food and drink.

Enquire now as this new on-site accommodation and golf combination is bound to attract a lot of attention.
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We hope that you enjoyed getting to know a little more about the fantastic packages that await you if you choose to venture out to South Africa…Blog - feedspot

South Africa – truly a World in one Country!

At the far southern tip of the continent of Africa, lies one of the most amazing countries that you will find anywhere on Earth. There are many reasons behind this bold statement and certainly the current strength of the pound against the South African rand is massive plus. Being five times larger than the UK, South Africa has such a breadth and depth to offers its visitors. It certainly a country where you can keep all members of the family or group happy whatever their needs and wants are.

History

If we start with the history of the country which is characterised by racial and political violence, territorial conflict, wars of conquest, and inter-ethnic rivalry, the latter of which still exists to this day. The bush-men (Khoi and San) were the original inhabitants having had roots in the region for millennia with a nomadic lifestyle, and empathy to their environment similar in many ways to the aborigines of Australia. Most of the rest of the population trace their history to later immigration. Africans in South Africa are descendants of migrants from central Africa, who first entered southern Africa about 2,000 years ago. White South African were descendants of later European settlers, mainly from the Netherlands (the Boers), Germany, France and Britain. All have left their mark on the country making it the special place it is. The much used term “Rainbow Nation” was first coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe South Africa after apartheid rule had ended in 1994, and more than 20 years later the country is so different in many ways. As an example, according to the South African Golf Association, the country now has over 450 affiliated golf courses which service more than 125,000 golfers, the majority of the newest ones tend to have been built in the Western Cape.

african-sunset

So with the history lesson finished and us being fully up-to-date on to South Africa today let us discover the regions in more detail. What better place to start than the world famous city of Cape Town, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the south and east. This is Africa’s most southerly point and the convergence of two major oceans close to Cape Town gives it changeable weather patterns that are generally Mediterranean with hot summers and warm but wet winters.

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For the wine fanatics, the Cape region is famous for the wine producing regions including Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek as well as the Karoo, a semi desert region and the Garden Route, an area of coastal vegetation called ‘fynbos’ which is found only in South Africa. The route from George through to Port Elisabeth is known as the ‘Garden Route’ and offers some spectacular scenery and flora especially in their spring which is from late September to early November. This is a must visit location on any itinerary

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 Western_Cape

The Western Cape

As well as being home to the Mother City of Cape Town as mentioned this is included in most itineraries usually at the start or end. As also mentioned the Western Cape is home to the majority of South Africa’s vineyards with such well-known name as Franschhoek (“French Corner”), Paarl and Stellenbosch. A tour to at least one of these areas, with a driver/guide of course, just has to be one of your days out and perhaps the perfect opportunity for a day away from the golf course. Likewise a trip to Boulders Beach to see the penguins, followed by a drive round Chapman’s Peak and a visit to Kirstenbosch also needs to be on your bucket list. But then there is also Bo Kaap, Robben Island, Hout Bay and, of course, Table Mountain.

When it is time to think about getting your clubs out, the golf courses in the province are some of the best in South Africa and offer a challenge to golfers of all standards. And the green fees are such good value!

Just a few miles to the east is the coastal town of Hermanus, famed for its very particular flora, found only in this region, called ‘fynobos’. But is flora is not your thing Hermanus is famed for being the location where the Southern Right Whales come so close to the shore that all you need to do, is sit on the cliff top with a glass of the local produce. If that is still too tame, then take a short trip to Dyer Island and go Great White Shark cage diving. There really is something here for everyone.

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Eastern_Cape

The Eastern Cape

So, that is Cape Town sorted and now is the time to strike out and discover more of the real South Africa. Three choices of quality reveal themselves to the first time visitor. First up, hire a car and drive towards George (it’s scenic in an M4 through Wiltshire sort of way) and the Garden Route unless you cut inland and route through the Karoo. Best visited in their spring (October & November), the region has some quant Cape Dutch homes and beautiful scenery with the lagoon around which Knysna is built being a particular pull.

The golf courses are simply superb, with the likes of Simola, Oubaai and Fancourt courses that you just have to play. Beware Fancourt Links unless you’re serious golfer or your confidence could take a battering.

Head further east through Tsitsikamma and onwards to Port Elizabeth and the malaria free game reserves awaits with names such as Addo, Amakhala and Shamwari, home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant).

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Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga / Limpopo

A two hour flight from Cape Town will take you to Kruger Mpumalanga Intl Airport and another of the major pulls for visitors to South Africa – the Kruger National Park. Named after Paul Kruger who was instrumental in its formation. The park is the size of Wales and borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Kruger has such varying topography that there is a habitat all the major animals you can think of and several hundred more besides. You can self-drive and camp in the Kruger, its great fun and very social but I would also advise spending a little bit more for a few days and finding a rustic lodge in one of the many private game reserves that abut the park.

For some relaxation after the early morning safari starts, head west for an hour or two and visit the area around Pilgrim’s Rest, set in the Drakensberg Escarpment, was one of the Transvaal’s goldfields that drew prospectors to the area in the 1870’s. The scenery is the area is simply stunning with hill walking, white water rafting, hang gliding and horse-riding just some of the activities on offer. Your bucket list in this region has to include visiting the Three Rondavels, Blyde River Canyon and God’s Window.

The golf courses in the area are not as plentiful as the other provinces but what is lacked in quantity is made up by their quality. Leopards Creek has views into the Kruger and is arguably the No.1 course in South Africa, whilst further into Limpopo is Legends which houses two courses of such quality that is needs to be on every golfers list of courses to play. And then there’s its famous 19th

hole – not the bar but a 400m Par 3 (yes Par 3). Have you ever taken a helicopter to a tee box? The region is malaria free and being at a higher altitude, your ball will travel further in the thinner air. It is an ideal destination for a golf & safari combination and, now, also to some incredible island and resorts of Mozambique, with direct flights from the Kruger to Vilanculos.

Mpumalanga

Kwa-Zulu-Natal

Kwa Zulu Natal

And finally to an area that in my opinion is the pivotal region in South Africa from a historical viewpoint and my particular favourite. The name itself evokes the history of the region – Kwa means ‘place of’, Zulu after the warrior nation who under King Shaka shaped the nation. Then there’s Natal, a shortened version of Natalia, that the Portugese called the region after landing here on Christmas Day. Nowadays it is usual shortened to just KZN.

The region is where most of the battles that forged the nation of South Africa took place between the Boers, the Zulus and the colonial British. You cannot have not seen the film ‘Zulu’ starring Michael Caine, it was a real engagement and you can visit the site of the battle.  This one has to be on your bucket list.

The Drakensberg Escarpment continues in an arc from Mpumlanga and provides a stunning backdrop to the hinterland of KZN, a place to take a picnic and hill walk, or horse-ride, or mountain bike or fly fish. Or just relax and breathe in the clear crisp mountain air. A trip to Cathedral Peak and Giant’s Castle is a day not wasted.

Inland from Durban the country opens out into the rolling hills of the Midlands, rising up to the Drakensberg Mountains and the land-locked nation of Lesotho. There is so much to do in this province that you’ll never have time to be bored, whether playing on some of the hidden gems of courses, relaxing on a beach, listening to the stories of its colourful past or tasting the wonderful fusion cuisine offered.

Moving to the coast KZN has some of the best beaches in Africa, stretching up from Richards Bay to the Mozambique border with names such as St Lucia, Kosi and Rocktail. These are wild and remote beaches with superb diving and space to relax – but do not think loungers, club sandwiches and waiter service.

The game reserves are some of the oldest in South Africa, home to a wide variety of wild life and quite close to the coast; it is perfectly possible to have a game drive in the morning, a dive in the Indian Ocean on the afternoon and drinks at Lake Sibaya as the sun sets. What a superb day!

Golfers are well catered for with several superb courses, including some championship ones, both north and south of Durban and in the Drakensberg. I would definitely recommend Durban Country Club, Zimbali, Prince’s Grant and Cotswold Downs..

KwaZulu Natal

RovosRail

Rovos Rail

If all the above seems a bit too much like hard work and you instead want the height of luxury then we also have the answer. Since its establishment in 1989, Rovos Rail has rightly earned an international reputation for its world class travel experiences, with discreet, friendly service, supeb cuisine and some of South Africa’s finest wines.

In a series of journeys lasting from 48 hours to 15 days, Rovos Rail links some of the sub-continents greatest destinations from Cape Town at its most southerly tip to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and the desert landscapes of Namibia through Kwa Zulu Natal to the wonder that is Victoria Falls. Our personal favourite experience sees the train traverses the spectacular Garden Route to the winelands for a brandy distillery visit and across the Cape Fold Mountains before this magnificent expedition ends in Cape Town. Golfers play Leopard Creek at Kruger, Durban Country Club, Humewood in Port Elizabeth, Fancourt in Knysna & Ernie Els Oubaai in George.

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Whale-Tail-Classic

Whale Tail Classic

Finally, if it some serious competitive golf that takes your fancy then it is with great pleasure that Golf Escapes invite you to the take part in the 2nd Whale Tail Classic, Hosted by Arabella Hotel & Spa, South Africa at the end of September 2016 for 5 wonderful days.

The hotel itself offers the ultimate in five-star luxury and a wealth of leisure and business options. The hotel staff will go out of their way to create a memorable and unique event this September. The fabled 18-hole, Par 72 Championship Arabella Golf Course has once again been ranked number 1 in the Western Cape and Top 5 in South Africa. This rugged stretch of South African coastline snakes along the Atlantic Ocean, with magnificent mountains rising up on the other side. As part of the tournament package, you will have the opportunity to see the region’s namesake – whales – cruising and wallowing in the coastal waters. We envisage guests wanting to add on to this 5-night programme, with pre or post tours to the likes of Cape Town, Fancourt or a safari destination and are happy to provide further details as requested.

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So, that’s our synopsis of South Africa. What more could you ask for, great scenery, stunning diving, challenging golf, endless walking, delicious wines and nation forming history. Want to find out more then get in contact with us today.