Western Cape leads the way
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.