Updated: Jun 12, 2018
For most visitors to SA looking to play golf the default locations are Cape Town and the Western Cape where courses such as Fancourt and Arabella are well established destinations. However as I found on this trip it’s worth looking further afield. We visited the Natal Dolphin Coast, just east of Durban and stayed in Ballito Bay, playing at Zimbali Golf and Country Club.
The resort not only hosts a golf club and spa but also a 5*Fairmount hotel. We entered via the ubiquitous South African security gate into the densely forested resort and headed up to the clubhouse for a good breakfast ahead of our 11am tee time.
The welcome was friendly and I managed to sort my compulsory buggy (it’s definitely not a walking course so I was happy to drive on this occasion!) and hired a set of Callaway clubs, bought a few new balls and tees, all for less than £90 – excellent value.
As my travelling companion was a non golfer the pro shop had paired me up with 3 other golfers, all South African, on a free day visiting the region for a school rugby tournament. We loaded up our buggies (with state of the at GPS), well my playing partners did actually with a cool box full of Castle Lite lager, and headed off to the first tee where a large buck (deer) soon stood aside as we approached.
A couple of gentle par 4s and a par 5 to start and get the pace of the greens (reasonable, not quick, but very true) and then we climbed to the first par 3 and an elevated tee with fantastic 180 degree views of the Indian Ocean.
There are quite a few holes with panoramic ocean views and then you wind down into the forest, rarely aware of the properties on the estate. The par 3s are all stand out, with many having elevated tees, the par 5s are not short but are all manageable, the par 4s are a good variety with a couple of excellent dog-leg drives from high tees.
We played from the white tees at around 6,600 yards which I suited our mixed ability group, a further back tee position at around 7,000 yards is also available, although it will play slightly longer as the fairways tend to hold the drive and reduce run out.
As we made our way past a small group of monkeys and onto the 9th green (and the again ubiquitous) half way house so the local team could refill their cool box we had now established a rapport around rugby, cricket, deep sea fishing in Mozambique (now added to my bucket list) and the state of the South Africa nation. As a footnote, I have now visited this amazing country on 3 occasions, and have relatives there, but still can’t pretend to understand it. Anyhow my friends for the day were full of good chat and happy to listen to my distant perspective.
As we headed off the 18th Green I had a very respectable 75 (+3) on my card and reflected on an excellent course in a fantastic location – very playable, fair and not as difficult as some of the true championship courses !
So, if you are looking for a trip to SA and want something different from the Cape Town area, try Natal, alongside Zimbali there are at least 3 of 4 other good local courses that will welcome you with open arms and Royal Durban also less than an 30 mins drive from the Dolphin Coast.
Pro shop 9/10
Food and Beverage 8/10
Tip – try the steak pie at the halfway house, but go easy on the Castle Lite.
Finally – security is always a concern in this part of the world, but with a degree common sense and research ahead of time to make sure you stay in good locations with the required advise and security you should not experience any issues.
Would I play again, yes happy to, it’s a great day out, and if you can find good company so much the better.