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 »  Home  »  Magazine Departments  »  Featured Courses  »  A South African Visit
A South African Visit
By Barry Lotz | Published  05/10/2007 | Featured Courses | Unrated
A South African Visit
The land of Nelson Mandela, the heartache and the joy, the diversity, the unparalleled beauty, this all makes South Africa a truly fascinating and enchanting destination. The fairest of them all, the Cape Province, is one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.  This is where Mandela spent 23 years of his life – on Robben Island just a short ferry ride from Cape Town.

As for golfers; Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini are the golfing icons of this beautiful part of the world.

South Africa is a favorite destination for U.S. and European golfers and travelers because of its remarkable fusion of cultures, cosmopolitan cities, scenery, unforgettable wildlife-viewing opportunities at game parks and private game reserves, its popular wine regions, fabulous and inexpensive golfing and the high-quality of accommodations and outstanding cuisine.

There is so much to see and do in the Cape, that two months would hardly make a dent into the wine country alone. The golf courses are superb and, if you like caddies at $11 a round, outstanding accommodations and memorable golf, this is the right place.

There are so many options and destinations to choose from that the following golf courses, game reserves, wineries and restaurants represent the very best that can be experienced in the Cape, if you plan a 10- day visit.

Shamwari Game Reserve is the southernmost, big game private reserve in Africa. This is where Tiger Woods proposed to Elin Nordegren.

Its 20,000 hectares of malaria free reserve, just outside Port Elizabeth, on the east coast, has received numerous international awards, including the World's Leading Conservation Company and Game Reserve for five consecutive years. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, rhino and wild dog are some of the treasures to be found in Shamwari Game Reserve.

Shamwari stretches along the Bushman’s River and is 70 kilometers from Port Elizabeth with private airstrip access available.

Shamwari is steeped in Settler history and dating back to the time when a multitude of game roamed wild and free before moving north. The 20,000 hectare reserve boasts five eco-systems, thus enabling the support of many forms of plant, animal and bird life. This is the ultimate African adventure and conservation effort coupled with responsible tourism.

There are six completely separate lodges within the Shamwari Game Reserve. Each is lavishly furnished and abounds in creature comforts. The main camps of the Shamwari lodges are the social hub of the lodge and house spacious lounges and sitting rooms; decks with wonderful views where tea, drinks and alfresco lunches are served; a pool deck and swimming pool; and a boma for authentic dinners under the African stars.

 The accommodations are fabulously luxurious, the food truly wonderful and the wine list outstanding. Most importantly, the high standard of service makes the visit a delight in every way - right down to the steaming hot chocolate awaiting each guest as they return from an exciting game ride.

Shamwari's highly trained game rangers are experts in locating both the bird life and the wildlife, as well as fauna and flora and in their efforts to give you a memorable experience, will take you on a game walk! Guests wrap up under blankets on crisp early morning drives, and sundowners are a real treat on evening drives.

My favorite lodge, Lobengula, is the place to stay. It is the most prestigious of the lodges in Shamwari. Its five luxurious and stylishly ethnic suites are all en suite. All suites feature high-pitched thatched roofs that create a wonderful feeling of space in the lodge. The bar at the swimming pool is a wonderful place to unwind, and a spa and gym add to the appeal of Lobengula. Lavish meals are served on the main deck or the private dining room and are paired with fine wines from the cellar. Cigars are also available, together with the best brandies and ports.

A few kilometers down a dusty road lies the Bushman Sands Golf Course. Designed by Gary Player, this is probably one of South Africa’s hidden gems. What a great layout. So challenging, yet so playable with such beautiful scenery and so Colonial in its ambiance, this course elicits nothing but smiles from every golfer.

Visitors to Shamwari should also include trips to Nature's Valley, the National Parks of Tsitsikamma (where you can take the Storms River canopy tour over the rainforest),  Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bungy jump in the world, the Kariega Game Reserve and Addo Elephant Park.

Twenty minutes away from the bustling center of Cape Town is the amazing 5-Star Steenberg Hotel, award winning winery and golf course. The 30-bedroom hotel nestles in the tranquil Constantia Valley, against the slopes of the Steenberg Mountain.  It is, without doubt, the ultimate Cape experience. This luxurious estate is designated as a National Monument and is the oldest wine farm in the Cape Peninsula. The scenery is breathtaking and its championship golf course is outstanding.

Steenberg offers the elegant and exclusive Catharina’s restaurant, a producing wine cellar, and all the facilities of a top-class country hotel, your’s to enjoy at whatever pace you choose.

This stunning boutique hotel is a haven of serenity with a choice of 30 elegant, air-conditioned rooms, the best being the contemporary design rooms, rather than those more chintz-clad—housed in the original manor house, barn and jonkershuis (house of the eldest son). Each en-suite room is tastefully furnished with exquisite antiques and all rooms overlook the vineyards, golf course or manicured gardens.

These beautifully renovated white-walled Cape Dutch buildings are grouped around a large manicured grass courtyard.

Amenities include an on-site hairstylist and beauty consultant and a gymnasium. Guests can shed their cares and surrender themselves to the upper level quality of personal service, unique to a small luxury hotel.
The Steenberg golf course is a wonderful golfing experience and is well known for its hybrid design by renowned South African golf course architect, Pete Matkovitch.
Opened in 1995, the course attracts golfers wanting a total golfing experience. Tradition is represented by aprons of bent grass around the greens that allow for the bump and run—a shot rarely seen in South Africa, where robust kikuyu grass usually takes this option off the table. The radical hybrid  change instituted comes in the shape of sand- and water-protected island greens and waste areas (a la Pete Dye?) hugging entire fairways.
The club house has recently undergone an extensive renovation. Remember, irrespective of your score, you'll want to try a glass of Steenberg's stunning merlot at the nineteenth hole.
Yardage: 7,025. Par: 72.

Steenberg Estate, Tokai Road, Tokai, Cape Town;


Greens Fees: $77 (hotel guest), $49 (with member). The golf course is open only to hotel guests and members.    Rooms: $280–$380. Suites: $600–$700.

Also highly recommended is spending a night in Knysna and playing both Oubaai designed by Ernie Els and Simola designed by Jack Nicklaus. Both courses offer spectacular views and layout.

I would however, avoid spending the night or any time at Fancourt. However highly touted by the media, the past 3 trips have been nothing short of exasperating, overpriced and overrated. If bad service, bad food and below average golf are acceptable, then you have been forewarned.

Knysna is a beautiful harbor town. Spend the night at the Knysna Quays Holiday Apartments. The Quays are a 45 minute drive from the George Airport (70km) and less than 30 minutes from the Plettenberg Bay airfield.
Each of the holiday apartments is beautifully decorated, fully furnished and equipped with quality appliances. The apartments' lounges and decks boast spectacular views onto the quiet waterways. Kenny, the manager, is very competent, courteous and extremely helpful.
A side trip to the Knysna Heads and the Featherbed Nature Reserve is a must. The Oyster Festival is fun (seasonal) and a visit to the Knysna Oyster Company restaurant cannot be missed. The facility sits amongst a waterfront shopping center where you will find, of course, excellent fish restaurants.
Depending on the season, rates range from R450 ($50) to R2250 ($300) per night depending on the apartment size.
011- 27- 82-558-1661            

Ernie Els’ Oubaai  Golf Course – Herold’s Bay
Oubaai, an 18-hole Championship Golf Course, is just 8 kilometers from George and approximately 60 kilometers from Knysna.  It is also near Herold’s Bay (and his beloved Bosvelt Saloon bar) which is one of his favorite holiday homes. His father Neels, lives two doors down. Ernie and his team have taken full advantage of the spectacular site they were given. Playing the course, your views and outlooks take in forest, sea, river and mountain – Spectacular!

The dramatic golf clubhouse overlooks the 16th, 17th and 18th greens and offers open air terraces and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, Outeniqua Mountains, natural forests and the Gwaing River Valley.
Not only is the course memorable and scenic, the course also fairly displays challenges and hazards whilst affording players the opportunity to use a full range of shots and plan strategically for individual holes. More importantly, it flows so well. Ernie did a magnificent job in his approach to golf course design which is primarily centered on flexibility and enhancement of the surrounding environment. Concepts are molded according to the landscape and not vice versa.

Simply stated, Oubaai is spectacular and of championship quality.

Oubaai Golf Club    011-27- 44-851-0131 

Simola Golf and Country Estate – Knysna

If you have time to spare and do decide to play another round, try the newly completed Jack Nicklaus - Golden Bear 18 hole parkland style championship course at Simola . The course was designed to challenge the professional and inspire the amateur.

The luxurious 5 star Simola Lodge and Country Club’s facilities include a gourmet restaurant, pro shop and heated outdoor swimming pool with breathtaking views over the Knysna Lagoon to the warm Indian Ocean.

011-27- 44 -382- 4116   

An endless nineteenth hole – the fabled wine routes
Outside of Cape Town, in Stellenbosch and Franschoek, make it a point to visit two of the Capes most beautiful wineries, Ernie Els’s Winery and Cabriere Estate (I am a part owner).

The Cape wine lands hold the history, politics, failures and successes of South Africa in their bottles.  Together with the "Mandela magic" that has positively touched every aspect of tourism, they have also brought a creative verve to South African wine, and one that you can see— and taste— on the Stellenbosch and Franschoek wine routes.

Daily wine tasting, cellar tours and sales are offered at most cellars and many of these have restaurant and picnic facilities. Some cellars offer tasting by appointment only, some charge a nominal tasting fee. Accommodations are plentiful, but Franschoek and Stellenbosch are just about an hour’s drive from Cape Town.

Should you decide to stay overnight in Stellenbosch, make it a point to visit the 96 Winery Road Restaurant. Book in advance and you will be treated to the most delicious meal in the most pleasant surroundings and ambiance in the Cape.

Stellenbosch is the Afrikaner culture capital of the Cape. Winemaking around this university town, home of Stellenbosch University, is ubiquitous— there's average stuff, and there's the sublime. Warwick, Simonsig, Mulderbosch, Thelema, Rust En Vrede and Vergelegen are beautiful estates producing beautiful wines. Nothing is as spectacular visually though as Ernie Els’s wine estate.

Owned since 1999 and opened officially in December 2004 with his life-long friend, the former Springbok, Jean Engelbrecht, the Engelbrecht Els partnership not only has one of the most beautiful vineyards this writer has ever seen, but it is probably the most technically advanced in South Africa. Ernie’s private wine cellar is worth its weight in gold alone.

The flagship wine, “ Ernie  Els” (2004) is a signature Bordeaux style blend of all five varieties and is one of South Africa’s most expensive at R545 ($77), the “Vergelegen V” being the most expensive at R999 ($143).

The “Engelbrecht Els Vineyards is a Proprietor’s Blend combining Ernie’s Bordeaux style pallet and Jean’s love for Shiraz. The Cirrus is a joint venture Jean pioneered with the Duncan family of Napa, California. The Guardian Peak is a range of red wines made in a fruit-driven style for early enjoyment.

East of Stellenbosch lies Franschoek which was settled by French Huguenots in the late seventeenth century. Here you will find, in my opinion, the most magnificent vineyard and restaurant in all South Africa – Haute Cabriere. Of course, as a part owner, I am somewhat biased but being an independent/ freelance golf writer, a plug here and there is both my privilege and opportunity to introduce this stable of varietals to the world.

The Cabriere Estate – since 1694

Haute Cabrière is the first South African wine estate to specialize in the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the two classic varieties used for the production of Méthode Champenoise or “Champagne” – ‘a cultured and civilized style to specialize in,’ according to proprietor-winemaker, Achim von Arnim.

Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2006

This is the wine that initiated my personal involvement with the winery. It is simply stunning!

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir distinguish the style of the famous Champagne Houses. Chardonnay contributes elegance, Pinot Noir intensity and richness.

The healthy fruit is depicted clearly in the vital intensity of this wine with a slightly leading acidity, which performs in balance with the remaining impact of the vintage’s components. This unique blend, which remains Cabrière’s success, is the art of blending these two noble cultivars, vintage to vintage. And do they do a wonderful job!

This wine simply places a huge smile on your face.

With only 300 cases being allocated to the USA, this wine is obviously in high demand.

Also, both the Pinot Noir and Pierre Jourdan Brut should be sampled and are amongst Cabriere’s top sellers.

The US distributor is Abaccus Wine       $24.95

Haute Cabrière – Cellar Restaurant

The unique position of the new cellar has been fully utilized by combining the cellar with a mountain restaurant serving superb cuisine to complement each individual wine, offering a new and exciting wine experience in the Cape.

This is a GASTRONOMIC EXPERIENCE with wines available by the glass and the opportunity to order half portions of food allowing the tasting of many combinations while cherishing the feeling of sitting inside a vaulted cellar. A huge window allows the barrel cellar underneath the restaurant to form a stunning back-drop to the restaurant.

Unusual art created by the owner, Achim von Arnim, enlivens the atmosphere, as does the attention of competent and friendly staff, most of whom are sons and daughters of previously disadvantaged families in the valley. And a view over this breathtakingly beautiful valley will leave an indelible impression in the hearts of every visitor, enticing them to return.

Haute Cabriere’s wine growing philosophy – ‘Sun, Soil, Vine, Man’, is evident in every aspect of this magnificent winery. The owner’s son, Takuan, is so knowledgeable and passionate about the winery’s future and wines, so try and arrange a tour of the estate with him as your guide.

During season and weekends, the restaurant is fully booked, so reservations should be made ahead of time.

There is a set menu for R145 ($20) or with a recommended glass of wine per course R210.00 ($30) (This menu is only available for tour operators and tour groups)

011-27-21 876-2630                          

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Complex

Not to be missed is Cape Town’s premier shopping complex, its most visited destination and social scene – The Waterfront.

The complex, situated between Table Mountain and Robben Island, in the heart of Cape Town's working harbor with the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain, offers theatres, restaurants, upscale boutiques, curio shops, art galleries and grocery stores. Intermingled are imaginative office locations, world-class hotels and luxury apartments in the residential marina of the center.

With easy access, excellent security and parking availability, The Waterfront is Cape Town’s center of activity seven days a week.

011-27 -21- 408-7600                        

Not to be left out is Johannesburg, the business center of South Africa,  a pulsating metropolis that is fast paced and exciting and somewhat dangerous. Be forewarned to stay alert wherever you roam. Preferably, going in a group with a guide/driver, is the best way to see this cosmopolitan city.

When visiting Johannesburg, these three hotels should definitely be considered.

The Protea Hotel Wanderers - Johannesburg

 Situated in the northern suburb of Illovo, the hotel is in a very accessible and safe area with close proximity to Sandton City Shopping Center.

It is ideal for patrons who want security, 4-star service and access to all the major attractions in the city. More importantly, the staff really knows how to take care of their guests. Nothing is too much trouble and they are always friendly and knowledgeable.

 This hotel features 230 guestrooms, all of which include cable television, pay movies, multi-line phones and wireless Internet connections.

Guests can lounge on the hotels sun terraces, cool off with a dip in the swimming pool and take advantage of an array of sports facilities at the Wanderers Club, on which the hotel sits, including tennis, squash, snooker, golf and bowls.

If you really want to play a magnificent golf course, The Wanderers Golf Club, directly across the road, fits the majority of golfer’s idea of a fantastic golf course. Caddies are available and a round of golf is about $20! This is an old-style, typical South African golf course.

In the evening, guests can unwind with a drink at the 24-hour bar or eat in the Big Apple Restaurant - A New York themed eatery offering an á-la-carte menu with an emphasis on local specialties. Guests can dine in the deco-style restaurant or alfresco on the pool deck. The restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The business centre is complete with conference facilities, for large or small groups, and is equipped with a range of audio-visual equipment. Staff at the 24-hour front desk can provide tour information, car rentals, transfers, and a currency exchange service.

Guests of the Protea Hotel Wanderers enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast each morning.
Corner of Rudd Road & Corlett Dr, Illovo 2116, South Africa.
 The daily room rates are $60 - $95 depending on time of year.                   

The Melrose Arch Hotel - Six Stars Plus!

Stunning! Awesome! Fantastic! are the superlatives associated with this architectural beauty.

Having traveled to many places around the world, The Melrose Arch ranks in this writer’s opinion, in the top 5 hotels.

Situated in the northern suburbs in the hip Melrose Arch Complex, one of Johannesburg’s newest gated neighborhoods and close to Sandton City and freeways, this hotel is an event in itself.

This is designer luxury personified. Those wanting to experience an upscale facility will have their needs met at this hotel.

Melrose Arch is an opulent blend of modern décor with warm natural tones and luxurious personal touches. The sleek lines of the designer furniture are beautifully complemented by relaxing ambience and mood-enhancing lighting.

The guest rooms are superb and most importantly welcoming. Standard in each room are a cleverly and amusingly interesting wall safe, flat-screen TV with DVD player and surround sound together with six complimentary DVD's, or select from a pay-per-view range at reception. Wireless Internet access, mini-bar and extra long King-size beds are standard.

A visit to the sumptuous library opening onto a courtyard overlooking some of Johannesburg’s finest restaurants is a great place to relax and have a Cuban cigar.

The pool area is something to behold: tables are in the pool where one can dine alongside oversized metal buckets planted with trees and to the sounds of music filtering magically from beneath the pool's surface.

The entire Melrose Arch precinct is patrolled by 24 hour Security and monitored by CCTV surveillance for peace-of-mind comfort.

Doubles from R2,146 (about $300); penthouse suite about R14,000 ($2200).

1 Melrose Square, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg

011-27-11-214- 6666       

Room with a View – Melville, Johannesburg

For those who want a different side of Johannesburg away from the commercial and busy Sandton area, a haven west of downtown and very accessible, is the residential area of Melville.

The whole area is undergoing a rapid transformation and its eclectic array of restaurants, live music venues, shops and art galleries, within walking distance, are fun to visit and experience.

This B& B/Guesthouse is well named for its splendid views – they are awesome. A forested Johannesburg and a view of the Magaliesberg mountains, 70 kilometers away, await you. The property sits high above the heart of Melville, with a timeless quality and an unaffected country charm for the discerning traveler.

Each of the twelve en-suite rooms has a unique sense of style and design, some with own conservatory, balcony and fireplace. The facility is equipped with all the modern amenities including Internet access.

What really is most impressive about this family run operation is the customer care and service by each member of the staff. They are there for your every need.

A superb cook-to-order breakfast and buffet is available for all guests. Unwind with afternoon wine tasting in the Conservatory with the owners, the Wallis Family) while watching the sun set – heavenly!

Laundry service is available, as is secured parking and a night guard.

Rates: R350 ($50) to R650 ($90) pp sharing with breakfast. Single R500 ($70) to R900 ($130).

1 Tolip Street, Corner 4th Avenue, Melville, Johannesburg, South Africa.

011-27-11- 482-5435                          

Should you prefer an escorted and preplanned trip, look no further than Perry Golf. This outstanding tour operator has the best itinerary. Their South African tour director, Gordon Turner ( is well versed in all of South Africa’s idiosyncrasies, vicissitudes, and golfing venues and knows where to stay and dine.
Perry Golf’s Guided Golf Package’s itinerary includes courses such the Links at Fancourt, Royal Cape, Oubaai and the Gary Player Country Club covering Cape Town, Fancourt and Sun City, from $7,000.

Barry Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America He is a contributing writer to numerous national magazines. He is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers Association and is a contributing writer to numerous national magazines. He is also a Mediator and consultant to the golf industry. He can be reached at