STAY-AND-PLAY AT PEARL VALLEY
Luxury new boutique hotel complements the Jack Nicklaus golf experience.
What do you do if you don’t have a golf course on your expanding residential estate? Buy the estate next door, which just so happens to come with a celebrated Jack Nicklaus Signature layout. That’s the story behind the successful revival of Pearl Valley in the Cape Winelands, a fixture for many years among the top 10 courses in South Africa.
Since Pearl Valley was acquired by neighbouring ValdeVie at the end of 2015, having been in business rescue for three years, it now boasts a recently opened five-star Mantis Collection boutique hotel overlooking the practice range, and property prices have surged on the estate due to increased demand.The Nicklaus course, even with its high-end green fee, is more popular than ever with golfers, doing a record 37 000 rounds in the last 12-month count.
While Pearl Valley may now be part of a “super-estate,” it still retains its separate identity, with golf the prime attraction, plus an established and mature residential component.The entrance gate remains the same.
Pearl Valley exudes the luxury lifestyle even more today than it has ever sought to achieve in the past.The clubhouse and service has the look and feel of a world-class resort, which it is becoming, and out the front there’s a fleet of new Club Car carts with the latest Visage system waiting for golfers. With a hotel on site, currently offering 42 rooms, it is going to become more of a stay-and-play destination for visitors. A new spa is to be built next to replace the existing one, while the pro shop is to be upgraded. Corporate golf days will no longer interfere with residents and guests using the clubhouse. Large groups of golfers will be accommodated in separate function space on the car park level next to the clubhouse.
When Pearl Valley opened for play in 2003, following an exhibition match between Nicklaus and Gary Player, there was talk of a second golf course to follow. That never eventuated, but the land on which it was due to be built, adjoining the par-5 12th hole, is now a hive of construction work. The Val deVie estate has grown and expanded several kilometres all the way to Pearl Valley’s boundary fence.
There are new faces at Pearl Valley in 2017 running the golf operation and the estate. Damian Wrigley is the director of golf, and Terry Keller the estate manager. Both are excited about the potential of the estate, and the quality of the golf offering. Wrigley is looking to lower the number of annual rounds, as he does not want to compromise the golfing experience. Golf Data, the company which built the course with Nicklaus, have retained the maintenance contract for the last 15 years, and it has regularly been one of the best conditioned courses in the country, as rated by Golf Digest. Under course superintendent Mike Westman it continues to set high standards, as I discovered when playing the course on a recent visit.
Not only is Pearl Valley in superb condition in the middle of winter – its coolseason grasses on the tees and fairway prefer the weather – but Westman and his team are busy with several projects to upgrade the course. One of them involves reshaping and rebuilding many of the greenside bunkers with the design help of Nicklaus Design’s Sean Quinn. A new green was built on the par-5 fourth, creating a more interesting and challenging target for approach shots on a hole which Justin Rose rates among the best he’s played.
There are cosmetic changes, too, such as the introduction of natural wild grasses bordering the large water hazard which guards and divides the fairways of two of Pearl Valley’s feature holes, Nos 7 and 8. Considerable attention is paid to improving the wildlife environment at Pearl Valley with a view to obtaining the Audubon certification.
Wrigley admits he was hoping to display Pearl Valley to a worldwide audience when the opportunity arose earlier this year for the estate to possibly host the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, when Leopard Creek was unable to do so because of a returfing programme on their fairways.
But sponsor Johann Rupert has decided that he would rather not hold the event this year, than break the Leopard Creek connection. Pearl Valley did hold the SA Open for three straight years from 2007 to 2009, and it has the infrastructure to do so again.
Winter is a good time to take a Winelands break.The weather is often sunny and warm, and it’s a 15-minute drive from Pearl Valley to popular Franschhoek which is far less crowded, other than during the Bastille Day festival.We were able to book a table at Reuben’s with relative ease, although the restaurant was still full on a freezing cold midweek night. Pearl Valley has good winter green fee rates for golfers, particularly a seniors special on Mondays.
The guest check-in at the Pearl Valley Hotel takes place in the clubhouse, where breakfast is served.You are driven the short distance to the comfortable hotel rooms in a golf cart, built in a double-story lodge format.The Val de Vie development, also positioned close to the Berg River, began a few years after Pearl Valley, and has exploded in recent years in terms of demand for the secure green-space lifestyle it provides. Martin Venter, Founder and CEO of Val deVie Investments, has created an estate which includes farms, parks, vineyards, horse paddocks, wide boulevards and community hubs.And let’s not forget the polo fields! Overlooked by the spectacular Polo Club, this is a unique feature of the estate, and their main events are among Cape Town’s social occasions of the year.
The “super-estate” will in time have 2 500 homes, plus a multitude of leisure and sport facilities. A bridge is under construction over the Berg River which will make for another entrance gate closer to the N1. ValdeVie will have its own large retirement facility, to cater for this growing sector of the residential market, plus riverfront estates for buyers who want sizeable tracts of land on which to live. Residents of Pearl Valley have access to all the Val de Vie facilities, and vice versa.
If you’re a cyclist, this place is heaven. Once completed there will be some 40 kilometres of mountain bike trails. Cycling is embraced to the extent that Val deVie hosted the finale to the Absa Cape Epic this year, and will continue to do so in 2018.
My tour of the estate revealed unique places for residents to enjoy, the likes of which you find on few golf estates in South Africa. Wine and food pairing evenings for instance, at the L’Huguenot venue and vinoteque at Val deVie. Pearl Valley andVal deVie are both very familycentric. Terry took me to the PearlValley boma on the banks of the Berg River, a rural and tranquil spot down a country road where residents can go to picnic or relax. This is the soul of what super-estate living is about in the Cape.
PREVIOUS PAGES:The par-3 13th at Pearl Valley is one of the feature holes on the Jack Nicklaus Signature course, and one of the most hazardous. OPPOSITE PAGE: The clubhouse entrance, and the polo statue at Val de Vie. BELOW: The Pearl Valley estate in the Franschhoek valley resembles a park with its trees and water features.