Kallam's South Africa Adventure
By Kallam Craigs - April 2017
Where to start! What a trip, what a country, what a dream!
Its an understatement to say the pictures don’t do South Africa’s Western Cape justice, it needs to be seen to be truly appreciated.
Cape Town – Radisson Blu
Our trip started in Cape Town, where we enjoyed the first of many fabulous hosted dinners, at the Radisson Blu at the V & A Waterfront and it was great to meet the guys from Ascot Tours who Chaka have been working with for over 20 years. Werner from Ascot Tours was given the task of organising, as well as hosting our entire tour and he did it with perfect professionalism. He created a bucket list itinerary for us and brought it to life with his own outgoing upbeat personality. He was great fun along the way and I had the pleasure of playing with him on several of the courses, we had a lot of time to get to know each other searching for our golf balls, usually both 30 to 40 yards to the right of the fairway! He's a top guy and a superb host, I’m sure all of our group would agree.
We started with a
Hermanus - Arabella
The next day we were eased into the "swing"
After a delightful
The hotel more then lived up to the reception, a stunning property built into the side of a cliff meaning you arrive on the top floor and work your way down to the golf course and spa on the bottom floor.
Our site inspection showed us all the amazing facilities the place has to offer with the highlight being a champagne reception in the Penthouse Suite equipped with 2 separate bedrooms, a living area, an office and a bathroom with a sauna and jacuzzi that looks out over the lagoon. Our hosted meal followed and it was as spectacular as the property itself, crispy confit pork belly followed by a perfectly cooked rack of lamb and a baked cheesecake to die for.
The next morning we adventured onto the highly anticipated Arabella Golf Course. We had been warned that she was a cruel mistress, and they certainly weren't lying! The course is an amazing challenge for golfers with its tight fairways and
The dream day continued as I walked off the course and straight into the Arabella spa for my full back and shoulder massage which was ideal after a long round of golf. We finished with a site inspection and hosted dinner by the Marine Hotel in Hermanus. Its a beautiful boutique hotel situated right on the coast, the sound of crashing waves and the smell of fresh sea air is almost intoxicating. The seafood dinner we enjoyed was outstanding, a deliciously unique red seafood curry was paired with a wonderfully crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
The following morning we had our longest transfer down to Pinnacle Point and the start of the Garden Route. The views became more and more spectacular as we travelled down the coast, huge high cliffs, and rugged coastlines with crashing waves below. It was amazing to look out across the Indian Ocean knowing there was nothing between us and Antarctica but miles and miles of ocean, it felt as if we were looking at the very end of the earth as the ocean and sky became one on the far horizon.
We stayed in the lovely golf villas at Pinnacle Point which all have outstanding views of the Indian Ocean as well as all the facilities you need to make you feel at home.
The golf facilities at Pinnacle Point are fantastic and we were shown everything on our site inspection, which was carried out on golf buggies due to the sheer scale of the operation. They whet our appetites by taking us out and showing us a couple of the signature holes on the golf course. I can honestly say I have never been so excited to play a golf course in my life. The site inspection was followed by a meal in the exceptional clubhouse, which has 360-degree views of the coastline and golf course. The highlight of the evening was the fact that the guys at Pinnacle Point had set up a raised stage and astro turf mat for our group to have a chipping contest from the club house top floor decking onto the 18th green. It was a surreal, and slightly nerve racking experience! The feeling as I stood up on the raised stage, 360 degrees of jaw dropping views surrounded me, the sound of the waves pounding the rugged coastline hundreds of feet below, now that is something that I will remember very fondly for the rest of my life. I thought I had the closest to the pin wrapped up when I knocked one to a couple of feet until tour host Werner stepped up and pipped me by about half a foot!
I didn't think Pinnacle Point could get any better, and then we went out and played the course on another perfect blue bird day. To put it simply Pinnacle Point is without a doubt the most aesthetically stunning golf course and area in general I have ever seen. Every single hole has the feel of a signature hole and warrants a photograph, the best way to describe the course is dramatic. It's a fantasy land that you didn't think was possible on a golf course, tee boxes raised about a hundred feet above pristine fairways, par 4s that can be driven in one if you wish to hit over a 300 foot drop into the Indian Ocean, and par 3s that give you the option of hitting the green or donating more golf balls to the Ocean. The course is kept in spectacular condition and I was lucky enough to actually put a good round together of +2 on the front 9 and +6 back nine (the wind picks up as the day goes on making things VERY interesting) giving me a +8 total of 80, and most impressively only 1 lost ball!
Our next stop on the trip was one that I was extremely excited about, our night on Safari at Gondwana Game Reserve. The excitement began to really build when we peeled off the tarmac roads and onto the sand trails that lead to this amazing 10,000 hectare reserve. I began beaming with excitement when we pulled in through the entrance and were then informed that we were in Big 5 territory with no gates and barriers between us and the animals! The accommodation and hospitality at Gondwana was superb, the warm friendly service of all the staff was matched by the luxurious and spacious 3 bedroom lodges we stayed in.
We adventured out on our evening game drive hosted by our extremely knowledgeable and friendly ranger. Along the way we were amazingly luckily to witness 4 of the big 5, Herds of Buffalo cantering across the Savannah, an enormous lone elephant roaming through the trees, heavily armoured and intimidating Black Rhinoceros and last but certainly not least a huge male African Lion tucking into his fresh morning catch of Wildebeest. It was unbelievable how close we could get to these iconic animals and it’s just pure bucket list material to see them in action, yet another experience that I will remember vividly for the rest of my life.
We then made the transfer to the beautiful lagoon town of Knysna where we would spend a night in the luxurious Conrad Pezula. The drive in was stunning and it was hard to believe that about an hour ago we were in dry almost arid plains, and now the country had transformed into an almost tropical green oasis. Knysna is such a fantastic town, the way the two dramatic sea cliffs guard the entrance to the lagoon is staggeringly beautiful. The Conrad Pezula fitted right in with its scenic location, luxurious suites, on site golf and a whole host of other activities from horse back riding and canoeing to their own private beach. We played a round on the beautiful parkland Pezula course which was in great condition and through up a significant challenge once the wind got blowing!
Our hosted dinner that evening was superb, a unique twist on Parma ham and melon to start paired with another crisp Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a tender and perfectly cooked Venison Loin backed by an equally powerful Bordeaux Blend. The day was topped off by our group sitting down to watch the opening day of the Masters in the Conrad Pezula bar and lounge with a couple of night caps.
George – Fancourt
The following day we made the short 40-minute commute back towards George to spend two nights in the legendary Fancourt Golf Estate. Fancourt is a golfing Mecca, a bubble that caters , provides and promotes golf at an exceptional level. The practice facilities are outstanding in quantity and quality, so no excuses for not getting out there and practicing your putting before and after dinner! We were taken on a site inspection and it was amazing to see the facilities they have, 148 different activities available through Fancourt, 3 championship golf courses, an abundance of golf practice facilities, a top class spa and superb dining options. It really is the kind of place that you could spend 2 weeks and still wake up every morning excited with the prospect of new experiences and activities. In the afternoon we went out to play the Montagu Course, a par 72 parkland classic Gary Player design, as always it was in spectacular condition and the greens felt like they were running at about 12 on the stimpmeter! The condition of the course as well as the classic layout with tree lined fairways and water hazards galore has earned it the number 6 rank for golf courses in the country. I took on the tour host Werner on the back 9 and finished him 3 & 2 even with giving him a few shots, sweet revenge for the closest to the pin competition back at Pinnacle!
The next day at Fancourt we had the luxury of a lie in after several days of early morning rises! The thought of going out to play the number 1 ranked course in South Africa eliminated any chance of a lie in as I was wide awake by 7.30am and unable to get back to sleep with excitement! The buffet breakfasts at all the resorts had been magnificent and Fancourt was no different with a selection so broad you could spend a week there and not cover half of it!
Straight after breakfast it was onto the putting and chipping greens for a short game clinic, we then made our way up to the separate golf academy practice area which is situated on the Links at Fancourt. Its another Gary Player design and in his own opinion his greatest achievement as a course designer, I never thought a course could lay a glove on my favourite links of all time, Royal County Down back home, but this certainly gave it a run for its money! Its staggering to think that it was the old George airport and therefore completely flat! Everything you see is man made and sculpted to perfection, so much so that the course has hosted the likes of the Volvo Open, the SA Open and the Presidents Cup.
The whole experience of the Links from start to finish was very special. It started with a tour of the club house which is rich with memorabilia and history, not to mention being wonderfully luxurious at the same time. We were then introduced to our caddy’s for the day, having a caddy is mandatory on the Links and trust me when I say it’s necessary! Our caddies escorted us down to the range where we hit balls for 40 minutes whilst our caddies watched so as to get to grips with our yardages as well as general ball flight.
It was then onto the first tee and I must admit I was rather nervous as a decent crowd of about 20 had gathered on the 1st tee, somehow I striped one down the middle and off we went. The undulating, windswept terrain and dune style landscape made me feel right at home, expect for the fact that it was nearly 30 degrees and blue skies all round!
Even the half way house stop after 9 holes was just that little bit more special, we had ordered on the 1st tee box and when we arrived at the halfway house we walked up to the decking to find our food on the table keeping warm under a silver cloche, we had a steak sandwich each that was outstanding!!
For me, the back 9 was even better then the front, as the sun began to set we walked up the 18th with a magical colour in the sky that you only really see in Africa, the surrounding mountains cast long shadows across the undulating fairways and the clubhouse looked spectacular behind the green. As we finished up waiters came out to meet us with refreshing iced juices and we could immediately smell that our braai was under way. For those that don't know a braai is a traditional African barbecue, and we were lucky enough to have one at the Links Clubhouse after our round. Sirloin steak, lamb chops and boerewors sausage were grilled and charred to perfection and served with a huge spread of accompaniments. It was a relaxed atmosphere and we were encouraged to get stuck into our lamb chops and corn on the cob with our hands. We had some great fun and some of Ernie Els beautiful ‘Big Easy’ red blends to accompany all the food.
George - Oubaai
The following morning we made the even shorter commute of about 10 minutes to Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa. Yet again we weren’t disappointed as we arrived at the beautiful hotel which has excellent views in all directions. We were staying in their fantastic Regency Suites, which are luxurious, spacious and very well equipped. We were given a quick tour of the hotels excellent facilities including a driving range, a full spa and gym, squash courts, conference rooms and two beautiful restaurants.
We then headed out for what I can only describe as one of the most ‘interesting’ rounds of golf I’ve ever played in my life! Oubaai’s course is a classic Ernie Els design, fairly wide and open off the tee, and then everything narrows in towards the hole, there are beautiful views and place is kept in great condition. However, as we were teeing off the wind was blowing so hard that the flag sticks were not just side ways but nearly touching the greens! Huge dark clouds filled with malice were heading straight towards us, huge bolts of lightning sparking the sky to life every couple of minutes followed the deep roar of thunder. I have to say I honestly found the sight of this impending doom quite beautiful and appropriate with the conditions we were playing in, mother nature at full force. The rain drops began to fall on the 2nd tee box and they felt the size of water balloons, freezing cold as well. Then out of nowhere the dark clouds vanished and the sun came out accompanied by a very warm breeze, quickly the temperature had reached about 30 degrees and the half way house cold beer was well needed!
I played a much better back 9 and managed to come out with the victory against my two playing partners who are both low single figure golfers! Some how the weather had then turned into quite a cool fresh wind on the back 9 which was followed by a thick mist reducing visibility to about 15 feet as we finished! Never in my life have I experienced such a range of weather conditions in one round of golf, not even in Northern Ireland!
Our final evening was spent in the wonderful Waterside Grill restaurant at Oubaai, the kitchen and grill is situated right in the middle of the restaurant and it’s all open plan so you can see, hear and smell your steaks sizzling on the grill. We enjoyed another bottle or two or Ernie’s Red with our steaks before getting comfortable in the Regency Suite Lounge to watch the thrilling final day of the Masters. It was an extremely exciting finish and a great result, I cant think of anyone that deserves a major more then Sergio, and I’m certain that Seve was smiling down.
Unfortunately the final day of the trip had arrived and it was time to head home. But not without one last unique experience. My internal flight from the tiny, yet amazingly efficient George Airport to Cape Town was aboard an even tinier plane. There were only about 10 of us on the 30-seater aircraft with a seating arrangement of 1 on the left and 2 on the right. The flight was extremely smooth for such a small plane but the conditions were perfect, blue skies and hardly a breath of wind, something pilots refer to as visibility unlimited. And that's how I summed up South Africa as I flew over the Southern Cape with the most
What you can be guaranteed wherever you go in South Africa is great golf, delicious food, quality wine and warm welcoming African hospitality!
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