Tees and seas apply on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal

Posted by Mishqah Schippers on 10 February 2021

The South Coast of KZN offers a choice of magnificent golf courses, some no more than a Seven Iron from the sea. For combining a family seaside holiday with golf, there’s nowhere better in our country than this subtropical strip.

The short 4th is Southbroom’s signature hole – for obvious scenic reasons. Hook your tee shot here and you’ll be in trouble with the foliage or possibly even dog walkers on the beach. (Photo Justin Klusener)

I’m a regular golfer. I play every year on the last Monday before Christmas in a friendly hack-around competition at Stellenbosch with fellow Old Maties. I borrow clubs for this outing, and buy a lot of second-hand balls at the pro shop.

The last time I could remotely call myself a golfer (off an erratic 24 handicap) was in the late 1990s. But when the idea of combining a golfing and beaching holiday on the KZN South Coast came up, I was the only Getaway journo who knew my pitching wedge from a putter. I packed lots of beachwear and remembered that, if all else failed, there was a heavenly waffle house in Ramsgate.

Speed slides, Aqualoop, Lazy River, and a Superbowl await at the Wild Waves Water Park.

Wild Coast Sun Country Club

Given my golfing pedigree, the Wild Coast Sun Country Club was a bad place to start – in a lost-balls sort of way. ‘Course architect Robert Trent Jones II spent several months just walking around to see the topography before he started building it,’ said sports and recreation manager Benjamin Leonard, who had the misfortune of playing a round with me. Being the Wild Coast, it’s all rugged, undulating terrain – all of which is incorporated into this scenically spectacular course with coastal views.

‘All the holes have names. This is the Green Mamba,’ said Ben as we teed up on the 12th. There weren’t any snakes but the fairway-fringing banana trees ate two balls. Then on to the par three 13th. It’s called Waterfall, and there is one, right between the tee box and the green. Now who would ever put a damn waterfall where a fairway should be? Robert Trent Jones the damn II, I guess. Needless to say there’s a brand new Titleist of mine bobbing at the base of the waterfall.

The Wild Coast’s 6th hole is named for the Bent Wallet Bridge over the Umtamvuna River. (Photo Sun International)

Fortunately there wasn’t much time to dwell on my scorecard as the Wild Coast Sun resort has plenty of fun activities that encourage very un-golf etiquette of whooping and shrieking if you so wish (see box). I went for an exhilarating quad bike tour up to the Mzamba Gorge (go for sundowners, if you can), then I popped down to The Riverside Aqua Sports centre for a speedboat trip up the Mtamvuna River.

Two must-dos in the Port Edward area are the Red Desert, a tiny slice of Arizona in the subtropics. At just 11 hectares of naked red soil surrounded by tropical vegetation, it’s the world’s smallest desert. Nearby is the family-owned Beaver Creek Coffee Estate where I took a coffee journey from bean to cup with barista Jeff Stopforth. He’s the SA Latte Art Champion. I didn’t know you even got such a thing but he hand-poured an artful seahorse design on my foamy latte after the tour to demonstrate his skill.

8 holes R385 pp; cart R310 (compulsory), low season specials of R365 pp cart included. You’ll love (or hate) the 6th Bent Wallet Bridge; the Waterfall 13th.Pro shop 039 305 2799/2870 [email protected]

Off-course at the Wild Coast Sun

This is a resort dedicated to family fun so there’s a beach, swimming pools (indoor and out) Wild Waves Water Park with rides and slides for all ages; or explore the area on a horse, quad bike or Segway scooter tour. The day spa offers a bit of R&R and the sports centre has tennis, bowls, squash and a gym. And, of course, dump some cash at the casino – you’re on holiday.

The Riverside Aqua Sports and Beach Bar on the Umtamvuna River is open to day visitors, too. Go on a river cruise, kayaking, SUPing, waterskiing, tubing and wake-boarding. Or just chill at the river with a cocktail. 083 662 9096, the-riverside.co.za

San Lameer

Next day at San Lameer there seemed to be water, water everywhere on the back nine of this championship course that evolved out of a private nature reserve. One of the first golf estates to be developed back in the 1990s, the 200-hectare conservancy still has plenty of wildlife; a breeding pair of crowned eagles are just one of the 195 bird species on the estate. Birdies, however, are very rare.

After a good tee shot on the 10th at San Lameer, a short iron gets you to the green.

There were impala grazing nonchalantly on the 9th tee and a few bachelors wandered across the 10th. Luckily my drive cleared them, and I stayed out of the water entirely on that hole for a respectable one over. On the 12th, mercifully devoid of water, my ball picked out a porcupine hole – and I wasn’t putting my arm down there to feel around for it.

The front nine of this Peter Matkovich and Dale Hayes-designed course gives sweeping sea vistas, while the back nine is reminiscent of a tropical island: water, palm trees and gentle shades of green. Talking of islands, the 18th green is one – an island that is. Surrounded by a sea of submerged golf balls.

18 holes from R325; cart R330
You’ll love (or hate) the 9th, down the hill to a Durban bunny chow at the halfway house. Pro shop 039 313 5141 sanlameer.co.za

Jumping off the Southbroom tidal pool wall is all about timing.

Beyond the 19th hole at San Lameer

Non-golfers needn’t ever leave this estate to have an active holiday, with tennis, bowls, squash and a floodlit mashie golf course for some after-dark fun, all on the property. The estate has direct access to both Trafalgar and Marina blue-flag beaches which are also popular surf spots. A 9.7km mountain-bike track winding through the foliage (suitable for walkers and joggers, too) has recently been redone. The leisure desk will rent you a boat, sports toys and beach brollies. 039 313 0111

Stop!
Ye shall not pass without stopping off at a Ramsgate institution – The Waffle House – en route from Southbroom to St Mikes (on the R620). The sweet or savoury Belgian-style treats won’t disappoint. 039 314 9424.

Southbroom Golf Club

A few kays away, I was welcomed to Southbroom Golf Club with a glass of bubbly for sundowners on the iconic 4th hole by club manager Gavin Sole and make-things-happen local, Deanne Purtell. It was immediately apparent that the golf club – recently named as the most popular club in KwaZulu-Natal by Compleat Golfer – is an integral part of this holiday-village. Mostly unfenced, the 18 holes interlace with elegant mansions, residents walk dogs and public roads run alongside or even cross fairways.

Deanne, who has been instrumental in designing fun golf packages for the area, had booked me into Coral Tree Colony B&B overlooking the 12th green. Dinner that night was a ‘cook your own seafood potjie’ (one of the golf-package treats ) at Coral Tree, and we guests were soon conjuring up a feast of kingklip, prawns and crab under the supervision of Chef Daniel.

(Photo Ian Thurtell)

Pre-sunrise next morning, several surfers were already paddling out on a magenta sea. Southbroom is a renowned surf break and it was here, a few days earlier, that I’d met up with Heather Clark who surfed professionally for many years on the world circuit and now runs a surf school. To date, she’s the only SA surfer (male or female) to have won the prestigious Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii.

Post brekkie and a dip, I teed off on the course ranked #1 of South Africa’s Most Fun Courses by Golf Digest in 2012. So why wasn’t I having any fun, I wondered? My partner for nine holes was lady captain Allyson Thomas, who was finding the fairways just fine. But I was two balls down and several rings up after the first three holes. Then, a crowned eagle welcomed us to the ‘signature’ 4th. The sea was blue, the breeze cooling and I dropped my first par of the trip on the 8th. For overall fun with the most friendly folk, my Southbroom experience certainly delivered.

The leap off Lehr’s Waterfall in Oribi Gorge is reputedly the highest gorge swing in the world.

I wasn’t quite done with the area yet, though. Ugu South Coast tourism had alerted me to KwaXolo Caves, an exciting new caving activity in the hills nearby. So that afternoon, I joined Shaun Makhanya, Khosi Mashala and guides, descending on a safety cable into a San hideout. This new community tourism initiative is a fun few hours for the whole family.

And talking of high-wire adrenaline in the area, the Wild Swing in Oribi Gorge (inland of Port Shepstone) entails hurling yourself off the edge of a waterfall for a 120km/h plummet roughly the height of 55 storeys. I gave that a miss, but Wild 5 Adventures also offers tamer action such as abseiling, a high bridge traverse and a foefie slide in the gorge and there’s a zipline in adjacent Lake Eland Game Reserve.

Khosi Mashala points out San art in the KwaXolo Cave.

18 Holes from R390, cart hire R300
You’ll love (or hate) the short (114 metres) but breath-taking oceanside 4th. Off course Shop in the jam-packed (with stock) proshop where Derek and Sheena James will see to your every need. The clubhouse deck has great views, cold beer and friendly folk. Pro shop 039 316 6051 southbroomgolfclub.co.za

Set aside a day of family action at the big yellow Mac Banana Estate (on the R61 near Glenmore), where you can:Mac conquer an obstacle course; Mac chimp on a rope adventure; eat fudge, pancakes and more. Play with animals; see beautiful butterflies in the Dome; quad bike; try archery; shop for homemade goodies…039 319 1454, macbanana.com

Selborne Golf Estate

From the deep south, I headed northwards to Pennington, a wooded enclave of coastal conservancy with two magnificent, but different, golf offerings and a lovely swimming beach with a tidal pool.

First up was Selborne Golf Estate, where I slept on the 13th green – well, not quite. My lodgings were far more comfortable than damp grass and came with an espresso machine and fluffy gowns. But the porch of Fairway Room 23 is a high-risk place for morning tea when the likes of me are pitching for the flag.

The par 72 course at Selborne rambles through an 80-hectare estate in one of only two-privately owned coastal forests in SA.  (Photo Selbourne Golf Estate)

Oozing the elegance of yesteryear, the Selborne Hotel and Spa harks back to the country’s colonial past and is named after original owner Lord Selborne, Secretary for the Colonies in the late 1900s. A later owner, Denis Barker used it as a dairy farm but, after playing golf on a residential estate in America, turned it into South Africa’s first golfing estate.

The course, a regular stop on the Sunshine Tour, meanders through coastal forest. In morning mist, I set off with caddy Paulos Nene, whose help was essential on the pristine but undulating fairways with several greens doglegging out of sight. ‘Pitch it right here,’ said Paulos pointing to a spot near the pin after I’d farmed my way up the 1st. Yeah, right!

Woolly-necked storks colonise the water’s edge of the 5th green. Lying across a wide stream from the fairway, it requires one of those ‘should-I-lay-up-safely?’ decisions.

The stroke nine 4th (par 3) has a two-tiered green and a miss almost certainly leads to a dropped shot. I missed. Two nyala crossing the dipping 5th fairway and a convention of storks were some consolation – game viewing is a side show of its own at Selborne.

18 Holes R230 (hotel residents) or R300 visitors; cart hire R220 You’ll love (or hate) the 6th, with its multi-pulpit tee boxes. Pro shop 039 688 1896 selbornegolf.co.za

Fun history fact
The Selborne homestead, now the main hotel manor house, was built by Vernon Crookes in 1954. A sugar baron of substantial means, he imported all the joinery, oak panelling and flooring from England. Most of it can still be seen in the hotel today.

Umdoni Park

My final golf destination was a gem that celebrated its 100-year anniversary last year. Umdoni Park had so much else to offer – including 10km of mountain-bike track – that I was tempted not to even tee off. But what a golf course it is, running from the restaurant and club house perched above the sea, up, up into the forest. ‘We’re a family club,’ said general estate manager Reynard Crous, welcoming me. ‘Bring the kids, and bring your bicycle,’ he added.

Back in 1920, sugar barons Sir Frank Reynolds and Vernon Crookes founded the Umdoni Park Trust. Today, those 205 hectares of forest and parkland they set aside still exist, with free entry for the public to enjoy Park- and Myruns, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and, of course, golf.

The sublime 18th hole leads you straight to a seafood platter, cold beer and whale-watching on the deck of the Umdoni Park restaurant.

I was overnighting at Botha House on the estate, and that, too, had a story. South Africa’s first prime minister, General Louis Botha, asked his friend Sir Frank if he had a spare patch of seaside land where the Bothas could build a cottage. The result was Botha House. Sadly Louis died before the house was finished in 1920, but his widow Annie spent many happy years there.

I, too, had a very pleasant night there before a pre-sunrise rendezvous with shark scientist Dr Jess Escobar at Scottburgh, to snorkel with sharks. Thankfully the black-tip sharks were all of a friendly disposition.

Still with sea salt in my hair and sleek grey missiles in my thoughts, I teed off late morning at the Umdoni course. After a week of golf, I’d definitely improved. The short 4th over water is possibly the course’s most intimidating but, uncharacteristically, I cleared the water. Elevated 15, 16 and 17 were deep in the forest but with tantalising sea glimpses. Then on to the ‘Gallery’ 18th for my grande finale of the trip. Two good shots saw me wafting a gentle eight iron onto the green for three. But the ball kept rolling a little left, rolling… and into the bunker. And no amount of coaxing or imploring my sand wedge was getting it out of there!

The par that might have been was history as I tucked into a seafood combo on the Umdoni restaurant deck where whales cruise past in season. For tees, sea, fine food and friendly folk, you can’t beat the South Coast, I thought, shelling prawns and 
sipping contentedly on an ice cold lager.

18 Holes from R185; cart hire R300
You’ll love (there’s nothing to hate) the 18th, from forest to sea. Pro shop 039 975 1320 umdonipark.com

Trip Planner

Getting There
The South Coast is accessed off the N2 (and R61) from Durban. Wild Coast Sun, the furthest away is 170km or two hour’s drive. For a more scenic route take the R102 coastal drive.

Stay & play
Fittrip Travel, in conjunction with Reality 1 Southbroom have formulated four golf packages that incorporate stay-and-plays on several South Coast courses with special gender-specific treats and activities in between (think whisky tasting or massages). Or create your own bespoke or family package that caters for non-golfing spouses and children. Tours from four days for R8 800 pp all inclusive. 083 593 0594, fittrip-travel.com

The 9th at San Lameer.

Stay Here

Port Edward

Wild Coast Sun hotel, from R1 637 pp sharing, room only. Two-night golf packages from R2 650 pp. 011 780 7855, suninternational.com

South Broom Area

San Lameer Resort Hotel & Spa has rooms from R1 700 for two sharing. Weekend golf packages from R3 180 for two, B&B. 039 313 0011, sanlameerhotel.com. Self-catering villas (up to five bedrooms) from R950 for a bachelor studio (sleeps two). Two-night golf packages from R1 500 for two. 039 313 0450, sanlameer.co.za

Coral Tree Colony B&B has a pool and six luxury en suite bedrooms with separate entrances and private verandas overlooking the golf course. From R995 pp sharing, B&B. 039 316 6676, thecoraltree.com

Botha House, Umdoni Park.

Pennington

Selborne Hotel& Spa has luxury rooms and fine dining at the Lord Selborne restaurant. There are walking trails, tennis courts and a floodlit pool at the hotel. From R1 070 pp. Three-day golf experiences from R2 650 pp. 039 688 1800, selbornehotel.com

At Umdoni Park Estate, Botha House is a steal, from R1 096 for two sharing B&B. The self-catering Trust Cottage and Annex in the forest is perfect for a family or group, sleeping 16 in total. R350 pp for four to nine guests; or R3 500 total for 10-16 guests. 039 975 1227, umdonipark.com

Do This

Port Edward

Red Desert Explore on foot or mountain bike. R30 entry. reddesertnaturereserve.co.za

KwaXalo Cave Adventure.

Beaver Creek
Take a crop-to-cup tour at 12 daily, R75 pp. There’s a coffee shop and several mountain-bike trails on the property. 039 311 2347, beavercreek.co.za

Southbroom Area

The KwaXolo Cave Adventure, R80 pp. 074 887 3742

Beach horse rides from Selsdon Park Estate. 083 301 2941

Kids will love the Riverbend Crocodile Farm. crocodilecrazy.co.za

Crocworld

Southbroom Point regularly hosts surf contests. There’s a lovely swimming beach and tidal Pool, too; take a surf lesson with Southbroom Surf School. 083 737 0823.
Heather Clark Surf Adventures operates out of the neighbouring hamlet of St Michael’s. 082 437 7839

Oribi Gorge Wild Swing, R695 pp wild5adventures.co.za and Lake Eland Game Reserve activities, lakeeland.co.za

Pennington

Umdoni Park estate you can birdwatch, hike, mountain bike, horse ride or fish at Umdoni Point.Dive or snorkel with sharks at Aliwal Shoal

Pennington Beach and tidal pool are great; grab a light bite at the beachside Impithi Kiosk or a seafood meal at The Submarine restaurant in the village.

Heather Clark

See the coast from above on a micro-light flip with Noel McDonagh from Wow Flight School. From R700 for 15 minutes. 072 117 5130

Crocworld Conservation Centre has croc tours, snake demonstrations, birds, an animal farm for the littlies and the Fish Eagle Café. Entrance R90 adults/R60 kids. 039 976 1103 crocworld.co.za

Go cageless at Aliwal Shoal
Aliwal Shoal, the remains of an ancient sand dune, is a reef about 5km offshore from Umkomaas. For reasons that include seasonal mating, sharks like to hang out here. For reaons, which may include insanity, divers from around the world like to hang out here, too. Sharks, including black tips, tigers, ragged-tooth, dusky and whale sharks are the reason Columbian marine biologist Dr Jess Escobar chose the area for her PhD studies on sharks. I joined Jess and Blue Wilderness, for a snorkelling trip to see black tip sharks – sans cage. Bobbing on the choppy ocean, we abandoned the rubber duck and lowered ourselves gingerly into a sea cut by cruising fins. After initial breathless moments when toothy grins came straight at me, only to veer away at the last minute, I relaxed – while snorkelling within arm’s length of sharks – who’d have thought it possible! For the next hour, Jess’ ‘girls’ were delightful and unthreatening company. The shark snorkel requires no prior diving experience. R1 100 pp, gear included. Blue Wilderness also offers scuba and cage-diving trips. 071 705 8518, bluewilderness.co.za






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