Pezula Golf Club
Course Opened – 2000
Designers – Ronald Fream, David Dale
Picture by David Scaletti
Located in the heart of South Africa’s Garden Route, the Pezula Golf Club is situated atop a massive bluff overlooking both the stunning African coastline and the entrance to the Kynsna lagoon. Despite enjoying one of the most spectacular sites in the country and being covered in an indigenous coastal fynbos, the golf course is distinctly American in style with heavily contoured greens, eye catching bunker shapes and an integrated housing component, which regrettably occupies several key scenic and golfing locales.
After an unusual opening par five that forces you to lay-up off the tee, the front nine loops away from the sea and features several holes that hug the edge of a cliff-top that looks down upon the quaint town of Kynsna. Better holes include the almost-Cape style 2nd and the par three 3rd although most of the highlights are reserved for the back nine which plays along the coastal side of the property, heading out toward and then briefly along the spectacular Indian Ocean. The steeply sinking 12th and 13th both enjoy stunning views, although those on the 13th are spoilt by housing built along the fairway and between the green and sea. The next hole is a short four that drops toward the rocky coastline and features the most glamorous backdrop of all, unfortunately its green is ringed by sand which eliminates aggressive options from the tee.
Hamstrung by housing Ronald Fream’s design is mostly sound, the odd extreme green and the occasional misplaced risk-reward fairway bunker aside. His work at Pezula, however, was always going to be upstaged by the views, especially the extraordinary outlook beyond the 14th green.
Oubaai Golf Club
Course Opened – 2005
Designer – Ernie Els with Nicklaus Design
Picture by David Scaletti
Less than ten kilometers from the city of George, Oubaai is an up-market golf estate built on an elevated headland high above the South African coastline. Although its final three holes jut out toward the sea, most of the golf is inland of the wonderful clubhouse and bordered by a deep river valley and surrounded by the Outeniqua Mountain Range.
Oubaai’s design team included champion golfer Ernie Els who thankfully had a strong input, particularly on the green shaping which is the strength of the layout. A fan of Melbourne’s Sandbelt, Els conceived of greens with a similarly simple approach. Small to medium in size they are firm and slick yet not overly contoured and generally tilted in context with the preceding fairway. Several nice short par fours with strategic bunkering and a terrific par three across a deep ravine are part of a very solid outward half, and although the course loses its way a little from the 11th, the views on the finishing few holes do help rescue the back nine. One of the biggest question marks over Oubaai is how future housing will affect the course. While most homes will be on the low side of the property and built into valleys, an awful lot are planned for inside the layout and could damage the visual enjoyment of a round here.
Oubaai is the first course that Els designed in his homeland, and one suspects also the first that he was actively involved in during the design process. With clever green sites, attractive chipping areas and several fine holes, this is a pretty handy modern course and a very good design start for the popular South African.