Played under sunny South African skies, the Nedbank Golf Challenge is Africa’s ‘Major’ – the sport’s showcase event on the continent. And thanks to a recent restructuring and increase in prize money, this year’s tournament promises to be a cracker.
Golf in Africa goes far beyond the flawless greens of Sun City: the continent now has over 800 courses, making it easy to combine a golfing vacation with a safari or beach holiday - or both! Add exclusive resort accommodation to breathtaking courses and it’s hard to find a reason not to tee off in Africa – especially when links courses tend to overlook palm-lined beaches and exotic birdsong fills the deep rough.
Take the guesswork out of deciding where to play with our Top 5 golf destinations in Africa. Each delivers superlative golfing with added attractions to enrich your experience: fine food and wine, Big 5 safaris and family-friendly beaches. Did I mention the weather?
1. Million-dollar golf - Sun City
It’s all eyes on Africa when the prestigious Nedbank Golf Challenge kicks off at the Gary Player Country Club in December, especially with $6.5 million to compete for in 2013. South Africa’s Sun City is named with good reason: this is malaria-free destination is set under clear skies for virtually the entire year. Its two world-class golf courses are at the heart of an extraordinary holiday resort that combines unlimited family fun with sophisticated hotels, lavish settings and exemplary service.
Sun City's golf accommodation –The Cascades Hotel offers understated luxury and elegance close to the Gary Player Country Club.
This world class resort is only one of the attractions in this premium golf destination. Pilanesberg National Park is right next door, offering game drives and hot air balloon safaris, while less than two hours drive away, Madikwe Private Reserve, is home to the Big 5 and safari accommodation that ranges from made for honeymooners to tailored for kids.
2. Golf with a view - the Garden Route
A beguiling blend of mountain and ocean has made South Africa’s Garden Route a vacation favourite, and it’s no surprise to find several of the country’s top golf courses here. The Fancourt resort is the absolute show-stopper: its three Gary Player-designed courses include The Links, rated by the South African icon himself as his greatest creation. Simola and Pezula are two equally stunning resorts that command views over Knysna, the delightful bay at the heart of the Garden Route.
Combining easily with Cape Town, the region is ideal for a self-drive holiday. The long beaches, diverse activities and benign climate of the Garden Route means families have plenty to do and see. Discerning travellers will relish the exclusivity of the 5-star golf resorts and superb boutique hotels along the way. The attractions continue further along along the coast to the Eastern Cape’s big game country, where you can add a malaria-free safari onto your itinerary.
Garden Route accommodation – if you don’t stay at one of the golfing resorts, try Kanonkop House in Knysna, a stunning boutique hotel with corporate membership of Pezula and Simola plus a full golfing service.
3. Golf on the Dolphin Coast - KwaZulu-Natal
Zimbali is isiZulu for ‘Valley of Flowers’ - a magnificent setting that the Tom Weiskopf-designed course maximises to deliver an enthralling journey through 18 holes. Located less than an hours' drive from Durban on a stretch of South Africa's Indian Ocean-kissed Dolphin Coast, this resort offers plenty to see and do on and off the greens.
Scuba diving and deep-sea fishing make the most of the balmy tropical waters, while the world class spa restores body and mind, and walks in the indigenous forest offer excellent birding. And then there’s the rest of the province to discover: tick off the Big 5; explore Anglo-Zulu and Boer War battlefields; canter along on a horse in the shadow of South Africa’s highest mountains and watch nesting turtles on moonlit beaches.
An excellent option for a self-drive itinerary, KwaZulu-Natal is a great destination for Africa's May to September winter – the climate is perfect, the crowds are thin, and the countryside at its most verdant.
4. Golf with gusto - Cape Town & the Winelands
Alpine mountain ranges, dazzling beaches, sprawling wine estates … you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy South Africa’s favourite city and her fairy-tale countryside.
Gateway to Africa, Cape Town makes a great stand-alone golfing destination. Home to Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront and Cape Point, the city promises plenty of entertainment off the greens. As the start of a broader itinerary, the Mother City really comes into its own. The region’s best golf courses lie out of town in the mountainous mosaic of vineyards and farmland known as the Cape Winelands. Here, golf and the good life come together in the form of exclusive resorts, the country’s best restaurants and world-famous wineries.
Such is the diversity of the region and its many attractions that even avid golfers may battle to focus on the game! Spring brings whale watching to the Cape coast; summer sees Cape Town’s party season kick off. There’s wine tasting to fit in, mountains to hike and flower-decked reserves to visit – and it’s as easy as pie to hire a car and explore at your own pace.
Cape Town accommodation – we recommend the Steenberg Golf Estate, rated by Condé Nast readers as the top foreign golf resort of 2012.
Cape Winelands golf accommodation – choose from magisterial De Zalze in Stellenbosch, Erinvale in Somerset West (with its excellent spa), or the two prime courses in Paarl - Pearl Valley (featuring a Jack Nicklaus-designed course) and the visually stunning Boschenmeer.
5. Golf in Paradise - Mauritius
An idyllic Indian Ocean setting, a balmy climate and a dozen or so superb courses with signatures like Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer attached to them – it’s no wonder that the island of Mauritius has established a reputation as a golfing destination par excellence.
Ideal for families, couples and groups alike, Mauritius is primarily a resort destination: several are built around dazzling golf courses, and many more offer easy access to the island’s best ones. It’s also a classic beach holiday destination: the warm Indian Ocean is perfect for water sports and scuba diving and the sunsets are as romantic as they are spectacular. And thanks to simple travel logistics, this tropical island effortlessly combines with safari destinations in Southern Africa: add on an exclusive Kruger or malaria-free Eastern Cape safari to your golfing itinerary.