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1. Clovelly Country Club

Clovelly Golf Course, Western Cape, South Africa ©Mark Sampson

Nearly 90 years old, this course is a parklands regarded as a must-play during a visit to Cape Town. Next to the bustling Kalk Bay in the Silvermine Valley, the course highlights mountain views and the Silvermine river which works it way into the layout.

Not long by modern standards, golfers are put to the test with narrow tree-lined fairways and greens that vary from small to rather large. The breeze will add an extra element as it toughens up many of the holes that play to elevated tee boxes. The first is a sharp dogleg right forcing most to take on the corner, get it wrong and your day won’t be off to a dream start. The next two par 4s are short and must be taken advantage of before the difficult fourth. At just 340m, you’d be wrong if you thought this hole was easy as the river guards the left before opening up to protect the green. Missing the fairway right blocks out the line of sight as trouble lurks.

The sixth and eighth are par 3s played to raised putting surfaces and often require long irons with the ninth at testing par 5 to close. Trouble left means the drive must be well-placed with a long-lay up required before pitching to arguably the toughest green on the course as it slopes from back to front and left to right.

The back nine starts like the first expect this time the dogleft is left. Bailing out right often has players on the 12th fairway as this easy par 5 turns into a difficult one. By now, swirling winds and narrow fairways will be playing tricks on you as any errant tee shot is likely to be met with trouble.

The 13th and 14th are again short par 4s with birdies on offer before the long par 5 15th puts your allround skills to the test. Water down the right and then again short and to the left of the green will have you concentrating on executing the best swing possible.

The penultimate hole is the longest on the course and is one that is well-protected with clever bunker positioning.

The closing hole is often spoken about after the round. The green, small but wide, is highly elevated and perched on the hill which makes your approach position key. The hole must be thought about back to front as the scorecard will tell you it plays just 280 metres. Bunkers guard the left and trees protect the right in what many club members call the shortest par 5 on the course.

A trip down the coast is a must with conditions always near their best at Clovelly. The friendly staff and well-stocked Pro Shop make it a worthwhile stop for foreign guests and locals alike.

Make time for a drink on the balcony on a summer’s day, it’s one of the most beautiful places to spend time with family and friends. The friendly peacocks add a touch of colour to the golden sunsets on display.

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2. Arabella Golf Club

Arabella Golf Club

Often home to a stop by the Sunshine Tour, Arabella blends natural beauty with one of Peter Matkovich’s best design efforts. The championship course finds itself in the centre of the Kogelberg Biosphere and a stone’s throw away from Hermanus’ famous whales.

A gentle start is quickly forgetten when arriving at the third for the Arabella Turn – a stretch of holes that Matkovich advises that wisdom kicks in or players might stumble. A long par four followed up by a tee shot to the narrowest of landings areas on the next before a long iron into a long, narrow green. The par 3 fifth completes the turn with bunkers left and short placing a premium on ball striking.

The eighth is one of the best par 5s in the country as you play downhill towards the lagoon. It is reachable in two but only for those who hit it miles and possess laser-like accuracy with bunkers to the left and right and marshland over the back. The ninth offers a great photo opportunity before you boldly attempt to drive the green around the dogleg that is carved with the lagoon in mind.

The 13th will have many reaching for another off the tee with water down the right to a wide fairway that runs diagnolly down the left. The fairway then straightens uphill with bunkers at the ready to gobble up your second as well as your approach to the green.

The closing stretch is arguably the best in the province and starts at the 16th  with two downhill par 4s, one reachable off the tee. The views may be breathtaking but concentration is required as the landing areas are not as forgiving as the rest of the course. The greens are again well-guarded by expertly-placed bunkers.

The 17th is an equisite par 3 which has the lagoon for company down the right. The hole slopes from left to right in dramatic fashion with your tee shot being pushed towards the bunkers that sit well below the bunker which is your last protection from the hazard.

No matter the wind direction, the final hole is a stern test with accuracy required off the tee with fynbos left and a long bunker down the right. Further right is a watery grave and that theme continues towards the hole which is housed on one of the smallest greens on the course.

This course is Matkovich in a nutshell with his almost hand-placed bunkering, long and undulating greens added to the well-thought out tee shots. It’s a course that must be played twice or more to get the full experience both with club and camera in hand.

No matter your skill level, pull out your longest club on the ninth and go for the green. A miss down the left means you get a second chance at pulling off one of golf’s best shots, driving a par four. Misses down the right are often not as bad as it may seem from the tee.

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3. Milnerton Golf Club

Milnerton Golf Club

A course that has few rivals with it’s unparalleled views of Table Mountain and its status a links golf test that has a rich history in the Cape.

Closed during the First World War, the original six-hole design has come a long, long way. With the Atlantic Ocean to the left, as you look out from the clubhouse, and the Rietvlei lagoon to the right, there was no option but to construct a “9 out, 9 in” golf course.

Those who have ventured out in the “breeze” will know what a difference this make with very few holes played across the wind. Instead, the outward nine has the wind to support you and the inward run plays directly into the prevailing South Easter, It all adds up to one of the most interesting golf experiences.

It was only in 1995 that a major renovation was done with some of the original design left in tact. What was left is a wonderful links test that mixes dolphin spotting and gazing at Table Mountain into the bouquet on offer.

The course opens with four par fours which will please the long hitters with little protection beyond the beach to the left. In fact, two of the opening five tee boxes would be in jeoapardy of being washed away in high tide but are saved thanks to their elevated perch. The rolling nature of the links design mean that most low handicappers will find themselves trying to pitch and putt for birdie with the sixth very much reachable if you can fade the ball in from the sand dunes on the left of the green.

The eighth hole is a serious par 5 that has a wetland to avoid left off the tee and the Rietvlei River to miss off the tee and again short left off the green. The ninth is far and away the toughest hole at this point, a 400 metre par four, as you play up to a green that has water short left and trouble down the right.

The back nine offers plenty of scoring chances provided you have brought your A game to the course as water and wind threaten a good day out. Your return to the clubhouse is played almost entirely with views of Table Mountain and into the prevailing wind. The 10th is a par 5 that often looks far easier than it plays while the 12th is a great test of strokeplay. A long par 4 at 380m, there is no room to bail out with bush down the right and out of bounds into the houses on the left.

The closing stretch can be near impossible when the wind picks up. In theory, there is a short par four, a two-shot par 5 and a long par 4 but in reality, the Rietvlei River down the left and  three to four club wind makes par down this stretch of holes a mighty achievement.

While most Cape courses can offer beauty in spades, Milnerton’s 19th hole deck has the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain on display as you quickly forget golf and admire its unparalleled majesty.

Check the weather in advance, the prevailing South-Easter makes the fairly easy course into one of the hardest challenges out there.

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4. De Zalze Golf Club

De Zalze Golf Club

The wine lands of Stellenbosch play home to De Zalze, which takes its name from the three adjoining wine farms. A work of art by designer Peter Matkovich, who gently massaged his vision for the course over the undulating course without compromising the Oak tree-lined Blaauwklippen river which winds its way not only through the golf course but also the estate.

Wine is very much part of the experience with Kleine Zalze, a working wine farm, nestled on the beginning on the front nine around the first, second and third holes. Fairways are often protected by vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields. It may be golf but a sensory experience second to none is offered at the same time.

The Cape Dutch clubhouse is home to a verandah that is engulfed by sun and makes a table hard to come by in the heat of summer. It is a place that welcomes activity and families as a place to meet, eat and enjoy time with friends.

Two accomodation options are an inviting prospect for those ready to make a stay of it while Terroir is a fine dining restaurant that makes its home on the estate.

The course itself is almost always in fine condition and remains extremely popular with local and foreign visitors. The staff add a touch of class and are intent on delivering a five star golf experience to compliment the experience whether it be a holiday stay or a one day visit.

The golf begins with a trick dogleg right par four which has made many regret not warming up adequately. The test begins on the sixth, a long and winding par 5, often played into the wind, that has water down the right and well-positioned bunkers protecting any bail out. The eighth is par five that measures over 460 metres but a good drive will see most going for it in two with the aid of some wind and a big green that sits well below the landing area off the tee. A birdie may sound easy but a wayward drive will have you struggling to score. The ninth is one of the most spoken about holes on the course as it looks presentable from the elevated tee. Wind, the change in altitude and the pond short of the green with no bail out area makes this a very trick par 3 to close the nine.

The halfway house is one of the province’s best before you set out for the rest of the challenge. The 10th offers a gentle start which serves as a perfect foil to the long par four 11th hole; length must be navigated but the large green which slopes down to the right is one that has seen its fair share of missed putts.

The 12th is a tough par three played into a cross wind before the most photographed par four on the course. Take out your longest club and drive the green – just don’t let the water all the way down the left worry you – or lay up and then safely navigate the bunkers that protect the miss to the right. It’s a hole that will see most fourballs scoring a 3,4, 5 and a 6.

The closing two holes are some of the best with the par 5 17th as hard as they come. A tee shot must avoid bunkers in the middle of the fairway and trees to the right and the lay up must enable the perfect approach with a river crossing short of the green perched on the side of the hill.

The closing hole presents two options as you look down and to the right of the green; lay up with a mid-iron to avoid the large tree and river that winds between the fairways or, for the bolder play, aim right with a driver or 3-wood to draw the ball back onto the green. Only only hopes your camera has enough battery power, not only for the tee shot but for the sunset that follows.

One of the best 19th holes in the country, make sure you take advantage of the weather and stay for a meal on the deck overlooking the closing hole to the left and the mountain range to the right.

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Check out The Seven Best Reasons To Visit South Africa here

5. Erinvale Country and Golf Estate

Erinvale Country and Golf Estate

It took just a year for Erinvale to host its first major golf event – the prestigious World Cup of Golf  – and it quickly put itself on the map. Designed by one of the greats, Gary Player, and surrounded by the imposing figures of the Helderberg and Hottentots Holland Mountains it a course that begs for a second round.

A championship course, it also hosted back to back SA Open’s in 2003 and 2004, that offers playability to beginners, Erinvale is the best of both worlds. The front nine offers up a strict test of accuracy while the back nine is a tourist’s dream with stunning panoramic views of the False Bay coastline, vineyards, olive groves and the Helderberg Nature Reserve on display. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve gone from the wine lands to the coast after making the turn at the halfway house.

The experience starts once you have booked in and only gets better with the range arguably one of the county’s most scenic. If golf is about unwinding and enjoying the fresh air, the tempo to the round begins in perfect fashion.

The stretch of holes from the par 5 third to the “straight n narrow” par 4 sixth hole may determine your frame of mind heading into the break. A “short” par five offers birdie and the next hole the same should you avoid water right off the tee and to the green’s right. The fifth is a drivable par four for the bigger hitters that offers rich reward with the sixth being the hardest hole on the course; a tough as nails par four measuring well over 400 metres.

The back nine starts with a “hike” up to the 10th tee box and once you’ve gathered your breath, prepare to lose it. Make sure you charge your phone for the picturesque holes that follow. Picking a favourite is near impossible but the green at the downhill, dogleg left par 5 is one of the quietest, serene places on the course. The standout hole for many comes two holes later with the low stroke par four that presents the highest point on the course. Look out at the view before looking down at the small landing area. The final trio of holes is a match play competition’s dream with a long par 5, a narrow, lengthy par four before arriving at the 18th which is named “pot luck” with Mr Player’s love for bunkered protection in play off the tee and around the green. The course demands good play, lots of photos and a promise to come back and do it all again.

Make a stay out of it and enjoy the estate’s food and spa offerings and it’s central location with trips to Vergelegen, Morgenster and Lourensford just down the road.

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6. Steenberg Golf Club

Steenberg Golf Course, Western Cape, South Africa ©Mark Sampson

One of the Cape’s most esteemed courses, Steenberg is a Peter Matkovic-designed beauty. It offers playability for the higher handicappers and a challenge off the back tees for those more skilled. The greens are complex and require flawless lines and good technique to score well but before that there is a long way to go into getting onto the putting surface.

As part of the estate that features fine dining and wine tasting experiences, the course is looked down upon by the Stone Mountain range and is played between numerous vineyards and water features.

Like many Cape Town courses, wind may just be the factor between a personal best and a difficult round but the immaculate views put golf into perspective.

The par 3 seventh is easily the standout hole on the opening loop as the short hole slightly downhill to a green protected by bunkers and water left and at the back.

The inward nine starts off with some scoring holes provided you are laser-like with your tee shot. Anything else and birdies will quickly turn into bogeys. The 11th is a drivable par four but only for those not worried about water down the left and bunkers to the right before the dogleg par 5 12th offers a good chance of birdie. Once again, you must successfully navigate the tee shot which demands a long, draw while your iron approach must leave you on the correct level of the three-tiered green.

The 17th hole is another picture perfect par 3 which places its emphasis on club selection such is the gradient change. The closing hole, which is watched by the verandah and crowds already finished, is a three-shot par 5 for most with water again in play; this time cutting off the fairway after your tee shot and sitting in wait to the right of the putting surface.

As with all Matkovic designs, the greens are complex and offer few easy “up and downs” if you are wayward off the tee. Those problems, however, vanish as you enjoy your afternoon in the sun at the 19th.

The course is relatively flat, so abandon the cart and take a walk. Better yet, employ one of the club’s expert caddies to guide you around especially on the greens.

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7. Pearl Valley

Pearl Valley

Situated in the heart of the Cape wine lands, Pearl Valley bears the trademark of 18-time Major winner Jack Nicklaus as one of his signature golf courses. The Golden Bear was quick to lend his thoughts to the construction of a course that is surrounded by mountains in the “Valley of Life”. As a result, a visit to Pearl Valley is nothing short of breathtaking from the excellent service upon arrival to the fully equipped pro shop before filtering out onto some of the country’s best practise facilities.

The course though demands your focus with well-placed bunkers, meandering fairways and water hazards often in play.

Standout holes on the front nine are the fourth, seventh and eighth but that’s not to say this Nicklaus’ design offers any mundane options. Former US Open champion and Ryder Cup star Justin Rose regards the par 5 fourth as one of his top holes around the world with water traversing the fairway before doubling back to guard the green. Only the brave will take this one on in two.

The seventh is magnificent golf hole with water down the right and bunkers and rough to the left. As you tee up your drive, stop to take a look at the mountain range on the horizon before swinging well. Bunkers surround the green and a par here is an almighty achievement. The eighth plays towards the previous hole’s tee box with water again down the right. This time, you must carry the water on your approach to a wide but small landing area.

The par 3 13th is one of the course’s feature holes with water down the right and a bunker protecting the left. Few groups pass this hole without a ball or two finding the hazard.

The closing stretch is one of the best in the country and often produces big scoring swings. The 17th is a long par 3 and the 18th once again has water in play.

Pearl Valley prides itself on excellence from arrival to departure with the golf course’s condition often the setting the standard.

Play conservatively and wisely as the bunkers will quickly add stokes to score and always aim for the middle of the green with danger lurking nearby.

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