Love Golf, Safari and Fine Wines? Visit South Africa
“I’ve always felt the most complete destination for a golfer is South Africa,” says Bill Hogan, international travel consultant for Atlanta-based Premier Golf Travel, who has played golf in 54 countries and traveled to South Africa several times. “The golf is great, the climate is superb, the cultures are fascinating, the food and wine is world class and the hotels and game lodges are among the best in the world.” Simply put, if you enjoy stunningly picturesque and well-designed challenging golf, exceptional fine wines and safaris where you can see the Big 5 (elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and rhino), you’ll absolutely love South Africa.
Managing Director Ann Mabry, who recently visited South Africa, echoes Hogan’s praise.
“The combination of the spectacular scenery, excellent golf courses and luxury safari experiences makes this an ideal couples golf trip destination,” Mabry says. “I felt very safe and comfortable during my visit and the people make you feel very welcome.” There’s never been a better time to visit South Africa, either. The favorable exchange rate for the U.S. dollar against the Rand (South Africa’s currency) makes South Africa a terrific travel bargain right now.
“You’ll find some amazing deals,” Hogan says. “Take for instance Bosman’s Restaurant at Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, which is often highlighted as one of the top 100 restaurants in the world. One of their most delicious selections is the Oven Roasted Springbok Loin with Austrian dumplings. You’ll pay around $12 for it and that’s the most expensive item on the menu.”
The two main golf regions in South Africa are near Cape Town and the The Garden Route in the southern reaches of the country and Sun City near Johannesburg in the north. The Garden Route lies between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Sun City, South Africa’s answer to Las Vegas with glitzy high profile hotels and golf courses, is situated about a two-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Some of the best places to play in South Africa, include:
Leopard Creek Country Club — Recognized by many publications and websites as South Africa’s No. 1 course, Leopard Creek combines adroitly designed golf holes in an unspoiled wildlife setting. Overlooking the Kruger National Park and the Crocodile River, this Gary Player designed layout is a wonderland of lakes and streams, scenic vistas and wildlife watching. Sightings of hippo, crocodile, antelope, buffalo and elephant are common. Leopard Creek is a 4-hour drive from Johannesburg or 40 minutes by plane.
Fancourt Country Club (The Links) — Gary Player has described Fancourt Links as his greatest design achievement. Host course for the 2003 Presidents Cup, The Links is true to its name. Windswept, undulating terrain and dune style landscape give players lots of opportunities for a variety of shots low to the ground. It’s located about a 5 hour drive from Cape Town on the Garden Route.
Gary Player Country Club — Set at the Sun City Resort, this relatively flat layout is a difficult test from the back tees. Fortunately, Player placed multiple settings at each tee to make the course playable for all skill levels.
Pinnacle Point Golf Course — On the Garden Route in Mossel Bay, this gorgeous layout has seven holes that line the Indian Ocean rock cliffs. Four of these holes are played over ocean and cliffs. You’re rewarded with fantastic ocean panoramas from several elevated tees.
Arabella Golf Course — For a pampering resort/golf experience, the Arabella Golf Course at the Arabella Hotel & Spa is quintessentially South African. The course, about a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, is surrounded by the Kogelberg mountain range and Bot River Lagoon.
Pezula Championship Golf Course — Designed by David Dale and Ronald Fream, this impeccably maintained course in the Western Cape on the Garden Route features views of Knysna Lagoon and the Indian Ocean. There are more than 120 species of birds as well as antelope, baboon and other wildlife sightings.
Pearl Valley Golf Estate — Located 45 minutes from Cape Town, this Jack Nicklaus designed course is set against beautiful vineyards with the spectacular Drakenstein Mountains in the background.
From multi-amenity resorts to luxury safari lodges, South Africa has a wide variety of accommodations choices, For on-site golf and luxurious amenities, two selections favored by Americans are Fancourt Resort on the Garden Route, which has three championship golf courses and spa and Arabella Hotel & Spa, a 5-star hotel with golf and spa located about an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
THINGS TO DO
- Winery Tours
- Winery Restaurant Dinners
- River Cruises
- Shark Cage Diving
- Riding an Ostrich
- Sightseeing in Capetown and Johanesburg
- Horse safari
- Shopping for African Artifacts
WINE AND DINE
South Africa has been making wine for more than 350 years and has some of the most beautiful vineyards in the world. About 55% of the wine production is white and 45% is red.
“The wineries and the tours are exceptional,” Mabry says. “Most of the wineries have on-site restaurants which are excellent and add to the overall experience.”
The top wineries are concentrated around Cape Town in celebrated areas such as Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester. South African golfers Ernie Els (Stellenbosch) and David Frost (Paarl) have highly successful wineries.
“I believe the Paarl and Stellenbosch wine valleys are as beautiful as anywhere on the planet,” Hogan says. “The Paarl Valley, for instance, blows away the scenery of the Napa Valley.”
Mabry says Steenberg Golf Club near Cape Town has its own winery, hotel and restaurants on its estate. Pairing South African wines with local cuisine is a sport unto itself. Steaks and seafood (lobster, oysters and mussels are popular) are prepared to perfection at fine dining restaurants. You can get a great grilled steak or seafood delicacies accompanied by fresh local vegetables and fruit at just about any upscale restaurant. For those who want to sample some South African favorites, try the Springbok loin, grilled ostrich or Boerewors, a seasoned beef sausage.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Typical total flight time from the U.S. to South Africa is around 17 to 19 hours.
- The favorite time for overseas visitors to play golf is from October to April.