Monkey business and glitzy golf on the Garden Route
“Our MD Richard explores some golf on the Garden Route.”
“Our MD Richard explores some golf on the Garden Route.”
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I can’t say I’ve ever really been a fan of baboons, they always seem a bit sneaky and untrustworthy and those teeth are a bit too long, but the one that charged onto the 18th fairway at Pezula golf course on the cliff tops outside Knysna, picked up my friend Steve’s ball and ran off into the undergrowth, has become a firm favourite with me. Hysterical it certainly was, but more importantly I was losing at the time and after 5 minutes of trying to coax the ball back from the tree bound monkey, Steve was so rattled that he sent his next shot soaring into the undergrowth as well. Game over and I had managed to draw the match. Buy that monkey a drink!
Steve had arrived from the UK a few days earlier on his now annual South African golf trip and having previously played nearly all the courses around Cape Town, I decided to treat him this time to five days of “Millionaires’ golf along the Garden Route”.
Famous for its scenic beauty the Garden Route drive along South Africa’s southern coastline is a popular tourist route, but over the last few years it has also become a golfers paradise, with new luxury resorts and championship courses to rival the best in the world.
It had also been three years since I last visited the area, so I was keen to see some of the new developments for myself and what better way to start than at the recently voted No. 1 Golf Course in South Africa “The Links” at the famous Fancourt Hotel Country Club.
A four hour drive from Cape Town outside the town of George, I had wanted to play “the Links” for ages and I have to say it was a mind blowing experience, but not for the faint hearted! A stunning layout with the most difficult greens I have ever played on, it was both scenically beautiful and challenging, too challenging for my game I have to admit. Although my 50ft putt for par on the hole appropriately named “Kilimanjaro” was a poignant moment. Two months earlier the real Mount Kilimanjaro had beaten my climb into submission, so this was a form of sweet revenge.
“The Links” really is golf at its exclusive best, but as a course I think it is best left to those who can play at a good standard, for holiday golfers try it by all means for the experience, but I would personally recommend sticking to Fancourts other two excellent courses the Montagu or the Outeniqua.
After extensive renovation and upgrade, the hotel and leisure facilities at Fancourt are now up there with the best. Three quality restaurants, spa, new gym and indoor and outdoor pools make this a short stay destination for golfers and their non golfing families.
So it was goodbye to Fancourt and our next stop for two days was the coastal town of Knysna, 60 kilometres away along one of the most beautiful sections of the Garden Route drive, with the road hugging the ocean and winding its way through forest and around inland lagoons.
Our first destination was the Simola Golf and Country Estate, perched on top of the hills overlooking the lagoon, sea and the famous Knysna heads in distance. The views were awesome and even more so lazing by the pool with a cold beer in hand. We stayed in one of the spacious and elegant golf lodges and the golf course the following morning was another luxury experience. A real rollercoaster ride of a course, it winds its way up and down the steep hillside with some stunning views and golf holes.
The 2nd hole sticks in the mind, teeing off on top of the hill you literally aim at a fairway a couple of hundred feet below you. The course was beautiful and a great layout, but the less said about my golf the better, there was no baboon to rescue me this time!
From Simola it was just a short drive across to the other side of the valley to the über-exclusive Pezula Resort Hotel, but first a quick stop for lunch at my favourite local spot Ile De Pain Bakery on Thyssen Island in the middle of the Knysna lagoon.
Apart from the baboon incident the Pezula experience was opulence and exclusivity all the way. The location is awesome on the cliff tops above the ocean and our vast hotel suites were the ultimate in luxury. The service was excellent and the facilities like the spa and the acclaimed restaurant make it a top location for honeymooners or a romantic getaway. The golf was pretty good too, another championship layout that winds its way around the hillside, along the cliff tops and close to the ocean. The 13th and 14th holes in particular that swept down toward the sea were particularly breathtaking.
Quietly toasting Mr. Baboon, whilst Steve sulked in the passenger seat next to me, our golfing journey continued with the final stop at the town of Mossel Bay and Pinnacle Point one of the newest golf resorts in the area. Already being called South Africa’s Pebble Beach it came with a lofty reputation and anticipation was high as we drove our golf cart down from the reception to the club house situated right on the cliff tops. It was soon clear what all the fuss was about, this was quite simply a staggering golfing layout and for the next few hours it was hard to keep your mind on golf as you took in the scenery around you. Hole after hole hugged the cliff tops and ball after ball disappeared into the swirling ocean below as we tried to hit a green surrounded by water.
It was totally exhilarating and highly recommended, but when the wind blows it must be near on impossible to play and so it was almost a relief to sink that final put and walk off the course mentally exhausted.
As we drove back to Cape Town that night Steve and I both agreed we had just played four of the best courses in one of the most beautiful locations in the world and it would stay in the memory forever.
For golfing aficionados and holiday golfers alike watch out for our soon to be released golfing collection, specializing in unique golfing experiences!