THE LONGEST DRIVE
50 courses in 60 days around South Africa
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.