THE LONG­EST DRIVE

50 cour­ses in 60 days around South Africa

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Gallery - Ste­fan Roodt, Benoni

This year I took two months off work in or­der to travel around our coun­try and play as many of Golf Di­gest’s Top 100 cour­ses as I could. I man­aged to play 50 cour­ses in 60 days! All of them were new to me, so it was most ex­cit­ing to see the cour­ses I pre­vi­ously only knew about through your rank­ings. It was a mem­o­rable trip which started at Cham­pagne Sports Re­sort in the Drak­ens­berg in Jan­uary and con­cluded in Cape Town in March.

While trav­el­ling, I wrote a blog (The Long­est Drive) each day on the cour­ses I played, and read­ers can look at this on Th­e­longest­drive.co.za/eat-pray-golf/.

I be­gan the trip as an 18-hand­i­cap, and got that down to 12, hav­ing my best round right at the end, break­ing 80 at King David Mow­bray. Be­fore em­bark­ing on the trip, though, I went to Ga­van Levenson at Glen­dower for lessons, and he was a big help.The last thing I wanted to do was hack my way around all those great cour­ses!

The first part of my trip saw me play 15 cour­ses in KwaZu­luNatal, from the Mid­lands to the North Coast to the South Coast. Then I crossed into the East­ern Cape to play the Wild Coast Sun. There were long daily drives in the East­ern Cape to reach places like Kat­berg, East London and Port Al­fred, be­fore ex­it­ing the prov­ince with a round at St Fran­cis Links.

I played 11 of the cour­ses in the Gar­den Route be­fore head­ing on to Hermanus,Ara­bella and 15 other cour­ses around Cape Town and the Winelands.

One thing I ex­pe­ri­enced was the pas­sion that golf di­rec­tors and club pro­fes­sion­als have for their clubs.They were proud of the cour­ses they run. For the most part the cour­ses were in su­perb con­di­tion, and th­ese stood out for me. st fran­cis links Jeff Clause and Thi­nus Keller (CEO and head pro re­spec­tively) have built a world-class ex­pe­ri­ence from start to fin­ish. The pro shop is great, the course is even bet­ter and lit­tle touches like hav­ing a locker set aside for each golfer ev­ery day makes it an out­stand­ing place to play. clovelly I was lucky to play with Clovelly’s new golf di­rec­tor Paul Stoner.This course is an ab­so­lute gem. I love the his­tory of cour­ses and hear­ing about how the Ack­er­man fam­ily have nur­tured Clovelly was a treat. I even got to see Ray­mond Ack­er­man play­ing be­hind us. san lameer Some cour­ses you fall in love with.You can’t put your fin­ger on it but it just res­onates with you. San Lameer is one of those for me. I loved the lay­out (the wa­ter haz­ards are a bug­bear for some, I know). Golf di­rec­tor Meyer du Toit runs a well-oiled ma­chine and it was nice to share a cup of cof­fee with him and pick his brain about the go­ings on in South African golf. cotswold downs Friends had told me about some of the cour­ses be­fore­hand, but I had ab­so­lutely no idea what to ex­pect at Cotswold Downs. Man, it blew me out of the wa­ter! The par-3 fifth was my favourite hole out of the 900 that I played. Gen­eral man­ager Wayne Kram­beck has some­thing spe­cial go­ing here and if you are in KZN put it on your list of cour­ses to play. the links at fan­court I was priv­i­leged to playThe Links the week af­ter the Di­men­sion Data, so the course was in great nick and played tough, but I loved ev­ery sec­ond. I have al­ways won­dered what makes a course No 1, and here it speaks for it­self. Golf di­rec­torTy­rone Far­rell makes sure ev­ery golfer feels like roy­alty, and this was a day that will stay with me for many years to come.

Other cour­ses among the 50 which I put at the top of my list as firm favourites in­cluded East London,Pear­lVal­ley,Wild Coast, Ara­bella and Um­doni Park.

There were also cour­ses I didn’t en­joy quite as much for dif­fer­ing rea­sons. Kingswood was too dif­fi­cult for the av­er­age golfer. Steep drop offs be­fore some of the greens and crazily deep bunkers make it chal­leng­ing. Fish River Sun was dull with what seemed the same holes over and over again. Dur­ban CC could up their game. Every­one knows the course is ex­cep­tional but I felt let down by the ser­vice in the pro shop. How­ever, the ser­vice at Beach­wood, their sec­ond course, was great, so maybe it was a bad day. I’m not sure what had hap­pened with the greens at Lange­baan, but they were spongy and bouncy which made it im­pos­si­ble to putt on a given line.A pleas­ant course, but the greens let it down.

My over­all im­pres­sion was that we have some of the most beau­ti­ful cour­ses on earth, and they are in good hands.

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