What a huge contrast to the Western Cape! They say South Africa is several countries in one and the scenery and culture, greatly influenced by the Zulu tribes and influx of Asian slaves from previous centuries was indeed proof of that. Our Hotel, the Protea Edward, is very colonial in its decor and Johnny, the head concierge, was a throw back to the days of the Empire. Of Indian decent, he knew, and would arrange anything and everything, a breath of fresh air throughout our stay. A combination of his recommendations, a couple of restaurants in Umphlanga I remembered from previous visits and our evening dining was more than well catered for, from a trendy steak house in Durban, Ils Maurice, classic French in Umphlanga, to the depths of the “Cargo Hole” where the sharks watched us eat their kind, we indeed ate extremely well!
The golf here is every bit as good as the Cape but quite different too. The broader bladed indigenous kukua grass makes wonderful fairways, tough rough, especially for pitching and chipping around the greens. The much courser grass makes the greens generally slower than we had become accustomed to, add to that the mysterious nap you will hear mentioned on TV broadcasts and it took a day or two to acclimatise! Pick of the bunch would be Durban Country Club, within the city limits but a real beauty and fine mixture of holes in the indigenous fauna and flora. Often rated amongst South Africa’s top 10 and venue of several South African Opens, it is easy to see why. However, that is not to say the others were much less of a joy. Each course was in excellent condition, stood on its own merits and offered a warm welcome.
Geoff and Judy were victors at Durban Country Club and Geoff made it a double the following day at Mount Edgecombe along side Barbara. Pat, Liz and myself won the team event at Zimbali and the final day took us to Durban Country Clubs second course, Beachwood, a delightful course, much of which is every bit as good as the championship course. With an even number of Ladies and Gents the obvious match had to be played to conclude the week. Judy had the best individual score with a fine 36 points, and the match was tied, although the ladies claimed a moral victory as they accumulated more points on the back nine!!
Our tour day took us inland where we climbed some 2500 feet to a Zulu village in the area of a thousand Hills – quite stunning. A snake and crocodile farm and sanctuary was fascinating too, where indeed our guide Tim, lost half his right index finger due to an encounter with a black mamba when working there! I was assured the Burmese Python I held would only squeeze me to death!
Durban doesn’t enjoy the best of reputations but in my opinion quite unfounded. Of course, like most cities around the world, there are areas best stayed away from, but it is real Africa, beautiful, super golf and shouldn’t be missed. I had not been to this area for 4 or 5 years but it will not be that long before returning. Iain take note!
By David Short
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