One of the world’s best destinations for a luxury golf and lifestyle travel experience is South Africa. Any golf, wine, culture and adventure seeking traveler will check off all the right boxes when combining world-class golf with Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, the famous Garden Route, and finally a 3 – 4 day safari in Kruger National Park or Madikwe Game Reserve.
Are you wondering where to take a golf trip in 2022?
As we approach 2022 with unprecedented pent-up demand for golf travel to the British Isles on the most famous of links courses, I thought it would be useful to provide some insight into alternatives that currently have better availability and deliver similarly memorable British golf experiences.
South Africa is a very young country filled with an enthusiastic and optimistic population…at least, that is the case for many of the people we encountered in the hospitality sector. Our trip provided a great overview of the nation; from a golf resort to a wine farm, a city experience, and finally safari. This trip does not feel rushed but moves along at a pleasant tempo.
We always try to learn from our trips and other than some very minor tweaks, this schedule works extremely well. The hotel experiences were all quite different but luxurious and memorable for different reasons. The golf courses were similarly challenging and enjoyable and showed off some of the finest golf experiences in Southern Africa.
Away from the golf experiences, South Africa provides an overall travel experience which is world-class, and at world-class value pricing. United Airlines has joined Delta as the only US-based airlines flying their own planes to South Africa. It is a destination better known to European travelers, but should be on everyone’s bucket list…in my humble opinion.
I cannot begin to quantify the added enjoyment from a compatible group of travelers. Our group was exceptional and an absolute joy to be part of. On a land-based tour like this, group size is also a significant consideration, and I am very confident we have found the sweet spot between 24 – 30 golfers. It is a large enough group so that travelers have flexibility yet small enough that the logistical movements can be handled in a comfortable environment.
Arrival into Skukuza Airport is unlike anything you will have normally experienced: your transfer is in a safari vehicle and between the airport and your accommodation, you will see any number of animals as we did with elephants and giraffes, amongst others.
Our arrival at Jock Safari Lodge and evening game drive on our first evening was hampered by a deluge, but like many things, there is a silver lining. The weather for the next three days was superb and due to the earlier rain, there was more animal activity as they came out to drink.
Our first full day on safari was truly Africa at its best for a safari loving golfer! We departed Jocks Lodge in our safari vehicles for the 50 minutes drive through the park to Leopard Creek, a Gary Player designed course on the edge of Kruger National Park. It also serves as host for the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the end of November. The course was in exceptional condition. The clubhouse is stunning and a great morning was had by all.
Returning to camp after golf entailed another animal viewing opportunity before a quick rest, and our evening safari drive later followed a wonderful dinner. No truer an expression than pictures speak a thousand words…the following selection came from our safari experiences in Kruger.
Our last full day in South Africa was enjoyed on safari…the day started with a 5am wake up call and finished with a delightful closing dinner for our group, with new friendships and future travel plans discussed…amidst much laughter and storytelling. The bar at Jock Safari Lodge overooking the dry riverbed is the ideal venue for gathering. Throughout our visit, their team provided excellent food and outstanding, friendly service, which only added to the convivial atmosphere.
Prior to departing for the airport and our homeward journey, our entire group enjoyed one final morning game drive, which was highlighted by lion sightings.
Remarkably, on the 60 minute journey back to the airport, our six-person vehicle saw the Big Five (cape buffalo, rhinoceros, lion, leopard and elephant)…it was a trip which was well documented with more photography, some of which I have shared…but as interesting as the images are, it truly only tells part of the experience!
After a quiet final evening at Lanzerac, with individual dining arrangements, we set out for the short drive to Cape Town and a four-night stay at the Cape Grace Hotel in the Waterfront. Cape Town is also known as “The Mother City”, which given the history of the area is understandable, as she was originally settled by the Dutch as a refreshment stop to service ships sailing between Europe and Asia many centuries ago. We took the opportunity for some sightseeing en route to our hotel. It is now a city of greater than 4.5 million people. After a stop at Signal Hill which provides great views of the city, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Camps Bay, one of several charming suburbs of Cape Town which enjoy spectacular ocean views.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a wonderful, planned used development with restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. The Cape Grace Hotel is ideally located beside all of this activity while providing a welcome haven from the nearby bustle with exceptional, understated service. It would be our home for the next 4 nights.
For golfers, our first round of golf was at the Jack Nicklaus Signature designed Pearl Valley. The overcast weather was ideal for golf, with a very light breeze. The course had just hosted their Member’s Club Championship over the prior weekend and the course was in excellent condition. As normal, the golfers enjoyed drinks in the clubhouse after golf and shared stories of their round. Our fifth round of golf for the trip was played over Steenberg, situated in the suburbs of Cape Town in the midst of a wine farm…again, a successful and enjoyable day, albeit windy.
Cape Town is infused with a global streak as she feels European with Asian undertones in many ways but also distinctively African. The location, with Table Mountain serving as a backdrop, is as iconic as Sydney Harbor. With four nights at the Cape Grace, and a group dinner on our third night (many thanks to the Cape Grace Hotel for a great dinner, enjoyed by all), individuals were free to sample the myriad of restaurants that the city offers. My wife and I particularly enjoyed the Codfather and another notable restaurant was the Greenhouse.
When not playing golf, guided tours were provided to Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s prison home for 18 years, the Cape of Good Hope and Penguin Colony.
Departing Cape Town on the nonstop flight to Skukuza for three nights in Kruger National Park, there was an air of excitement within the group but also one of appreciation for the time spent in Cape Town and surrounding areas. Based upon comments of my fellow travelers, I think Cape Town met and exceeded expectations on a range of levels.