by David Short
On arrival in Cape Town we were quickly transferred to the Batavia, our Boutique hotel in Stellenbosch and a great success it proved to be. The Batavia is situated just off a main street in a quiet location and yet within a 50 metre walk of this vibrant and buzzy university town centre in the heart of the Winelands.
I met with Trevor Henning that afternoon to go over the two week programme on which he would be escorting us. Trevor has been accompanying and driving us on our tours for 10 years now. With his help and guidance tweaks are made to assist in the day to day schedule and smooth running of the Tour. Those who know him and of his horrendous accident two years ago, will be pleased to know that he is making good progress and again displaying his cheery self and sense of humour.
The dining, always a focal point at the end of a day, was excellent, varied and within easy walking distance each evening. The Vinhus restaurant has a wine tasting bar from which to sample your choice of wine before dinner, the Volkemhus offers various authentic South African cuisine and we ate at Ernie’s restaurant, “The Big Easy” during our stay.
Our tour day took in a drive through the stunning scenery to Franchoek, a wine tasting at the Beyeskloof winery, producers of my favourite Pinatage and lunch with a further wine tasting at the Graff diamond estate. Having purchased a few bottles through the day, we all settled by the Batavia pool, opened them with a few snacks, relaxed and for once, had an early night!
We have a huge repeat clientel but were joined in Stellenbosch by Simon and David for their first tour with us and I thank them for being a great addition to the group. Whilst we play golf in a holiday atmosphere there is no point in playing if you are not trying to do your best. Alongside a daily team event we played a 72 hole Stableford and these newcomers showed their golfing prowess! Our first round at De Zalze was won by David with a fine 37 points off his 12 handicap and although he faded a little, Simon off a very useful 16 h’cap, took up the “rookie’s” mantle and ran out a comfortable and deserving winner at the end of the week with four steady rounds in the mid thirties.
Our second days golf was played at the splendid Nicklaus signature course, Pearl Valley. Several South African Opens have been played there over the past few years and it was perfectly complemented by our 3rd round at one of the oldest courses, Stellennbosch it’s self, where previous Opens and more recently the World Amateur Team Championships have been held. While I love the modern designs, especially Jack’s courses, it is wonderful true South African golf we play on their older courses. Here the thick, broad leaved native grasses present a different challenge, especially chipping around the greens and the nap while putting.
We always like to report the best sides of our Tours but occasionally things don’t go quite to plan. The highlight of the first week was to be the final round at Arabella voted 4th best in South Africa.
They had informed us of some drainage work being carried out but the 2nd nine was unplayable and they had no right to take our booking. We played the 1st nine twice, but a warning to anyone travelling there soon. The work is due to be completed by mid December but it will not be the experience it purports to be for at least 12 months.
Having left Arabella a little subdued we drove into Hermanus and enjoyed a splendid last night presentation dinner at the Marine Hotel, recommended by Simon’s family and a most suitable venue for him to receive his winners Stellenbosch golf shirt!
……and onward to Knysna and the Garden Route.
The tranquil lagoon, more excellent restaurants and golf courses puts Knysna near the top of everyone’s must revisit location.
Having spent the first week inland we now had the contrast of a coastal location. Constant views of the lagoon and stunning sea views from accommodation and golf courses not to mention seafood of the highest quality (the steaks take some beating too). The best Tempura prawns in the world at the Cruise Cafe, superb selection of dishes at JJ’s where the staff regale us with traditional African songs and the old favourite, fish and chips, watching the sun go down over Plettenburg Bay at the Look Out Deck, to name a few favourites.
As everyone was continuing onto Limpopo the following week we played a series of 4BBB this week, scoring 6 points for a win, 5 for second and so on to find our weekly winner. Eirik and Kenneth won the first day at Jack’ master piece, Simola, on the last nine from Diane and Arnold with an excellent 41 points. At my favourite, Plettenburg Bay, Vanessa and Robert triumphed with 38. following our tour day of Storms River and Natures Valley, Robert won again partnered by Diane scoring 41 pts. at Knysna GC. The final day played at the spectacular Pezula saw 6 people in with a chance of leading the pack. Keeping the contenders apart, a free draw for partners saw Ken and Liz score yet another 41, with Vanessa and yours truly second on 39.
This second place proved good enough for Vanessa to top the points table with 20 points following a 1st, two 2nd’s and a 3rd. by just one point from Robert. with Vanessa kindly supplying the wine, we celebrated her victory with a final night dinner at vibrant JJ’S overlooking Knysna harbour.
A flight from George to Johannesburg and a drive northwards brought us to the very different region of Limpopo. Here you feel is “real Africa”.
Our first 4 days were spent at Zebula Golf and Game Resort where our mock mud huts (the exterior belied the 5 star interior!) were scattered around the friendly clubhouse and restaurant, just far enough away for the antelope and Impala to graze by the front door and make you wonder just what you may encounter under the magnificent starlit night on the way back from dinner!
At Zebula we had the opportunity to interact with Elephants and Cheetahs, do a game drive and of course play golf. In another life, I think life in the bush with these wonderful animals would be very enticing to me and having spent my share of time in the rough and trees, very fitting!
We played three different courses here, Zebula and Euphoria both very good layouts and The Elements which we all agreed, exceptional. Unfortunately following a two year drought all fairways and semi rough are badly effected but preferred lies made them quite playable and the scenery is simply stunning. Tees, greens and all areas surrounding them are in excellent condition however and the greens of a design and speed to hold the attention! 2 team events and a 4 bbb on this leg of the Tour saw Robert, Alan, Ken, Liz 79 pts win at Zebula and Eirik with Robert and Liz again with 78 pts were victorious at Elements. On our way to the legends resort we stopped at Annika’s Euphoria course where Alan and John scored 39 points and were runaway 4bbb winners by 5 shots!
Our final three days at the Legends resort kept us very busy indeed. Two game drives including a wonderful Lion sighting and two rounds on the Legends course where each hole has been designed by a different and well known Tour Professional. Considering it has 18 different designers the course blended very well indeed. On our final morning we played the 10 hole Tribute par 3 course where famous holes have been replicated, especially the greens and bunkering, to exact specification. The Postage Stamp at Troon, 12th and 16th from Augusta were the stand out holes for me and thank goodness the greens were a point or two slower than Masters time!
Legends Resort is also famous for the Extreme 19th. Set 1000ft above the green, the tee is only accessible by helicopter, unfortunately on the morning we were due to play it the cloud came down on the mountain and we missed the opportunity.
We concluded our competitions with a 36 hole individual stableford. In a tight finish Arnold (13 h’cap) triumphed with rounds of 35 and 34 pts from Robert (10 h’cap) who, playing in the same group had a put to tie on the 36th. and finished runner up again. Jean led the ladies scoring on a course that certainly favoured the men.
We eat very very well in South Africa at a variety of restaurants and our final night presentation dinner did not disappoint, beautifully presented, outstanding steaks and service was a fitting end to our 3 week tour. Next November we plan to revisit Hainan Island and Hong Kong, however, South Africa will be on the agenda again in February 2015.
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