Western Cape leads the way

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Behind the Scenes - By Stu­art McLean, Ed­i­tor

t comes as no surprise that the Western Cape has been judged one of the world’s best golf des­ti­na­tions. The re­gion was lauded at the 17th an­nual IAGTO Awards, at­tended by more than a thou­sand golf tourism in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als.

South Africa as a whole ticks the right boxes in terms of golf­ing tourists: qual­ity of cour­ses and ac­com­mo­da­tion, ac­ces­si­bil­ity to tee times, cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, and value for money. Our green fees are in­ex­pen­sive in com­par­i­son to other global des­ti­na­tions, and this com­pen­sates for the ex­pense of long haul flights.

Our top venues are ei­ther a third, or at least half, the price of the av­er­age course at pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions such as Spain,Turkey or Thai­land, but we still can­not af­ford to raise green fees. No other coun­try in the South­ern Hemi­sphere has as much in­ter­na­tional pull with golf­ing swal­lows as we do, so we have a good thing go­ing. Only the wealthy can af­ford to play the top cour­ses of Aus­tralia and New Zealand, which charge out­ra­geous fees.

South Africa’s ri­val golf des­ti­na­tions are those which spe­cialise in golf tourism, and can there­fore mo­nop­o­lise stan­dard rack rates. Our re­sorts and clubs have to com­pro­mise, as we are a sea­sonal des­ti­na­tion, and our big­gest mar­ket re­mains lo­cals, who would pack their clubs away if green fees went to four fig­ures.

The IAGTO (In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Golf Tour Op­er­a­tors) Awards are the most re­spected glob­ally, be­ing voted for by 650 spe­cial­ist golf tour op­er­a­tor mem­bers from 61 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.The Western Cape won for best des­ti­na­tion in Africa & Gulf States, so was up against the likes of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Mau­ri­tius.

Carl Rein­ders, of ProGolf African Sa­faris, speak­ing on be­half of lo­cal golf tour op­er­a­tors, pointed out that South Africa has now been awarded an IAGTO Des­ti­na­tion or Golf Re­sort Award for the sev­enth time since 2003.

For any tourist es­cap­ing colder climes dur­ing our sum­mer, the Western Cape must

Iseem like heaven.You have Cape Town, the Winelands, the Over­berg (Her­manus) and the Gar­den Route. If you’re a golfer, open roads lead to 27 cour­ses in Golf Digest’s Top 100, and 10 among the best 25.

Tourism has ben­e­fit­ted golf in the Western Cape, al­low­ing the ma­jor­ity of clubs to thrive, un­like many in other parts of the coun­try.Around Cape Town and the Winelands, cour­ses are post­ing im­pres­sive num­ber of rounds played. If a club is not do­ing at least 40 000 a year, some­thing is wrong.

Con­trast that to clubs in the north, where in­duce­ments are of­ten nec­es­sary to get feet through cour­ses which ri­val those in the Cape for qual­ity. Rand­fontein, a for­mer Top 100 course west of Jo­han­nes­burg, has in­tro­duced free golf on Sun­days. Pen­sion­ers, a large pro­por­tion of the golf­ing com­mu­nity, can usu­ally find a course where R50 will se­cure a mid­week tee time. COURSE RAT­INGS The SAGA took on a mam­moth task in 2014 in re­do­ing course rat­ings ap­ply­ing the USGA sys­tem. It has gone slowly, due to the bur­den be­ing placed on one man, Eric Lef­son, for­mer di­rec­tor of the WP Golf Union, and now Golf RSA’s course rat­ing man­ager. The lat­est up­date is that Lef­son, and the teams he has em­pow­ered to un­der­stand a com­plex sys­tem, has rated 122 cour­ses.These will only take ef­fect once ev­ery course is done.

Lef­son started in his home prov­ince, so 77 cour­ses in the WP, Boland and South­ern Cape are done, as are 16 in EP, 15 in Free State and 10 in Gaut­eng North. It is a costly busi­ness for pro­vin­cial unions, but the USGA sys­tem is more ac­cu­rate than the one we cur­rently use, brings us in line with the rest of the world, and will ul­ti­mately lead to Slope rat­ings.

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