STAY-AND-PLAY AT PEARL VAL­LEY

Lux­ury new bou­tique ho­tel com­ple­ments the Jack Nicklaus golf ex­pe­ri­ence.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life - BY STU­ART McLEAN

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.

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