By John Cockayne.
In what has been one of the World’s most comprehensive lock-downs, which has included months long bans on alcohol and tobacco sales, South Africa’s provincial borders opened in early September to allow for inter-provincial travel. Intra-provincial travel, including visits to B&B and hotel accommodation, has been permitted for some weeks, but this change offers a lifeline to the region’s embattled tourism industry.
Therefore we now have some pleasant choices to make, as to date most of these decisions have been largely along lines of – ‘where it is safe to go’, ‘which time will be best to shop to avoid the crowds’, ‘should I wear a face shield and a mask or chose between the two’ and so on!
The change in the lockdown protocols was well timed as the pressure of the length of the lockdown was starting to tell.
During the weekend before the inter-provincial travel restrictions had been lifted, 11 out of 10 cars in the farm stall’s car park opposite our estate in Hartbeespoort in Northwest Province, were Gauteng registered.
The good news is that people in Gauteng no longer have to travel ‘Harties’ under the pretence that buying a paw-paw constitutes essential travel. As a result, I shall expect an immediate and noticeable decrease in GP registrations in the area.
Sadly this will not only be because they can drive elsewhere, but also because after all, where is the fun in not breaking the law!
With the re-opening of the provincial borders, much more pleasant decisions can now be made.
One of these for me and I hope numerous other golfers, will be about where I can go on a much needed golf break.
On rumours of the trip, my golf clubs were heard rattling with excitement in their bag in the garage, (they have really missed their morning throw) and the car was equally enthusiastic. The latter needs to have a good run as I have been getting 2 months to the litre, with all the travel restrictions in place recently, so a good blow down the highway should clear out the old Mercedes’ pipes nicely.
We are blessed with some wonderful golf destinations throughout the region and those golfers in my area, and indeed players in Gauteng, could opt for a staycation by basing themselves at the Sandton Sun hotel. This will enable the golfers’ families to go shopping, while the players take in a range of superb courses such as Royal Johannesburg and Kensington.
At the same time, ‘Gautengers’ can now legally go to Hartbeespoort (almost a staycation considering how close it is to Pretoria and Johannesburg), without the need for any feeble excuses and select from a number of excellent courses to play, with Pecanwood being the prime choice.
Those more adventurous types could choose to venture a little further afield, either by driving East towards Dullstroom and playing at Highland Gate or alternatively, taking a trip down the N3 towards Durban.
This latter option will take them to the Natal Midlands, one of my favourite spots in South Africa, which is home to a number of excellent courses, including my personal favourite – Gowrie Farm.
Golfers in KZN can travel West into the Midlands, or up the North Coast past Umhlanga Rocks.
My own preference would be to drive down South and cross the provincial border into the Eastern Cape and set up base at the Wild Coast Sun. This strategy would allow me to play one of my perennial favourite golf courses, Wild Coast Country Club, and then have only a short drive to several other super layouts, including my old stamping ground at Southbroom.
Any golfers travelling through Durban from outside of KwaZulu-Natal should take the opportunity to play one of the City’s courses. Durban has a number of ‘must plays’, including one of the country’s golfing ‘grand dames’ – Royal Durban Golf Club.
Sunshine Coast Tourism has a super golf tour for its locals, and for those visitors from outside of the Eastern Cape, which includes the Fish River, Olivewood and Royal Port Alfred golf clubs.
Should you decide to base yourself at the Royal Saint Andrews Hotel, which is opposite Royal Port Alfred GC, with its location and all the excellent Blue Flag beaches in the area, the families of golfers on this trip might not even notice that they have gone!
The Garden Route is world-renowned and needs no further introduction from me.
It is also dotted with superb golf courses with Fancourt as the crown jewel.
In a refreshing departure from what is sadly the norm in golf, Fancourt, Saint Francis Links, set north of Fancourt on the southern border of the Eastern Cape and the Pearl Valley Jack Nicklaus signature course at Val De Vie, have all been working together.
The result of their cooperation is a package called ‘Play 3 of the Top 10’, where golfers can stay and play at these wonderful courses, all of which are in the country’s top 10 golf courses.
Finally, the golfers in the Western Cape are spoiled for choice. As a golfing region, this area has almost an excess of riches, and so the only likely problem here will be choosing which courses to include in any itinerary.
Once you have a trip and or region in mind, then the golfer’s 15th club of choice should be GolfVistaSA website.
This service will enable you to see details on the courses in an area as well as the available accommodation options and places to eat and things to do.
This has proved to be very trying time for most of us, wherever in the World we live.
Therefore whatever your location in South Africa or final mode of travel, given that several local airlines are also now coming back into operation – choose your destination, pack in the family, because all of the indicated areas are great for family vacations, squeeze in the golf clubs and get yourselves out on the road.
In global terms, we must be more patient, but fingers crossed the international borders will re-open before too long.
This will allow us to welcome back the travelling golfers to our region and enable us here in South Africa the opportunity to book a holiday and play golf on my favourite tropical island – Mauritius!