Presidents Cup shines spotlight on Royal Melbourne, one of many gems in the Sandbelt

The 4th hole at Royal Melbourne (Gary Lisbon)

The 2019 Presidents Cup featured a splendid performance by Tiger Woods, both as player and captain, thrilling competition between the United States and International sides and the emergence of young pros Sungjae Im and Abraham Ancer.

But the real star of the weekend was Royal Melbourne, the exquisite Alister MacKenzie design in the Sandbelt, which rewarded angles over power, demanded accuracy approaching the greens and tested each player’s touch, nerve and mental acumen.

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The 16th hole, a 433-yard par-4, was one of our favorites. The players favored the right side of the fairway, unafraid to miss wide in the wispy rough, to assure the proper angle into a undulating green, allowing them to feed their approach shots in from right-to-left and set up makeable putts. Woods closed out his singles match with Ancer on the 16th, draining a 15-foot birdie to give the United States the first point of the final day and jump start the comeback that produced a 16-14 victory.

Cavernous bunkers surround the 13th green at Royal Melbourne. (Gary Lisbon)

Of course, the glowing reviews Royal Melbourne received from players and spectators alike were no surprise to PerryGolf guests, who have enjoyed the temperate climate and finely manicured courses offered throughout the region and across Australia on many occasions. The friendly people and pleasant conditions make the land Down Under one of the five top international golf destinations each year.

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Not only is Melbourne, second-largest city in Australia, a delightful destination but there are seven world-class courses within 20 miles of downtown. Each is renowned for firm, fast turf and sharp greenside bunkers which can pose a problem to even the most advanced short game.

Royal Adelaide has undergone renovations since Dr. MacKenzie designed the course in the 1920s, however, it retains a true links feel, making it unique in a region that features mostly parkland courses. Commonwealth Golf Club, which has played host to the Australian Open, Women’s Australian Open and Victoria Open, finishes with one of the most demanding stretches anywhere. There’s only one water hazard on the layout, but ample trouble lurks. Victoria Golf Club, which recently underwent a renovation by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (OCCM), is where Peter Thomson, five-time champion of The Open, and U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy learned the game. A three-time host of the Australian Open (and future home of the 2022 Australian Open), the layout also welcomed the Australian Masters in 2010 and 2011 with countryman Stuart Appleby and England’s Ian Poulter hoisting the trophy. Kingston Heath, home to the 2016 World Cup of Golf and 2020 Australian Open, may have the most extreme green complexes of any Sandbelt course and the native grasses bordering the fairways provide sharp definition on rugged land. While all the courses take pride in their excellent condition, using Sutton’s Mix to craft fine putting surfaces, Metropolitan Golf Club (home to the 2018 World Cup of Golf) deserves the accolades it receives for being the best of the best from a conditioning standpoint year round. The marquee courses don’t stop there – also deserving of mention include: Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Woodlands Golf Club, Huntingdale Golf Club and Spring Valley Golf Club. An hour away is the Mornington Peninsula, home to three brilliant courses at The National, plus Sorrento Golf Club and the Tom Doak designed St Andrews Beach Golf Course.

The ideal weather and gently rolling terrain make all of the Sandbelt courses a pleasant walking experience.

Away from the course, take a tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, an 89-acre park founded din 1846 that features more than 8,500 plant species, peaceful lakes and lush lawns. Tour the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, with a capacity of 100,000 spectators has served as host for World Cup Finals, Pope John Paul II and the Rolling Stones. The National Sports Museum, which reopens in February 2020 to unveil a massive renovation, is located adjacent to the stadium.

Guests wanting to view Melbourne from an eagle’s perspective will not want to miss the Eureka Skydeck, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest public vantage point. Feeling brave? Step out to The Edge and peer across the vast cityscape with nothing but air beneath you.

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Part 7: Kruger National Park – Golf, Safari & The Big Five in South Africa

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!

About the Author: Gordon Dalgleish is the Co-Founding Director of PerryGolf, the leading provider of international golf vacations. View on LinkedIn.

Part 5: Sabers & Vineyards in the Cape Winelands, South Africa

Boschendal Wine Farm

Three consecutive golf days can often be enough for many travelers, despite how interesting, unique and challenging the courses may be. Our journey to the Winelands, about 60 minutes from Cape Town, was a wonderful break and opportunity for the group to enjoy another element of the South African experience.

Cape Winelands

Dinner on our first evening at Lanzerac House was in the Governor’s Hall and the images do not do it justice. One long, magnificent table with the most comfortable dining table seats I can recall sitting in…coupled with excellent service and food…made for a lovely evening and set the tone for our next 36 hours in this wine region.

Lanzerac House – Dinner in the Governor’s Hall

The following day we visited Boschendal Wine Farm for a wine tasting – it was a gorgeous morning, pleasantly warm while enjoying the shade of a massive oak tree. Three of our group even learned how to open a wine bottle with nothing more than a saber! We also enjoyed an entirely impromptu song from two of the local servers.

From there we had a short ride to Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards for another wine tasting and an excellent lunch.

As we travelled through the countryside, Chris, our Tour Manager provided a concise history of wine and the development of Cape Town & South Africa.

The small town of Franschhoek was our final stop. The second oldest town in South Africa, the central street is a wonderful mix of restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and coffee shops. 

…time to return to our accommodations and for many a relaxing nap!

Lanzerac Wine Estate

About the Author: Gordon Dalgleish is the Co-Founding Director of PerryGolf, the leading provider of international golf vacations. View on LinkedIn.

Northern Spain: A Hidden Gem for Golf, Wine & Gastronomy

Travel is often about expectations. The challenge is to establish realistic ones and not build up a destination in advance to such a level it has little hope of reaching these dizzy heights. A recent trip to Northern Spain was accompanied by few expectations beyond a natural curiosity as the trip was the suggestion of a well-traveled friend.

Read more “Northern Spain: A Hidden Gem for Golf, Wine & Gastronomy”

Rio, Buenos Aires and Machu Picchu: PerryGolf explores South America

After a relaxing ride on the Hiram Bingham Train, enjoy a private three-hour tour of Machu Picchu, a well preserved 15th century capital built for the emperor, Pachacuti.

The climate is temperate. The vistas are spectacular. There are beautiful beaches and dense jungles. Ruins of ancient civilizations pique the curious not far from the bustle of the world’s largest cities.

Scattered across South America are an array of activities, from entertainment late in the evening, to diverse, eclectic, world-renowned cuisine. Historical artifacts, abundant wildlife, mountain peaks and crystal coasts enchant, awaiting around every corner or turn in the road.

You may tango, of course and why would you not, if presented the opportunity?

Hacienda de Chicureo is located in Santiago, Chile.

PerryGolf, industry leader in global golf travel, continues to expand its South American portfolio, offering a trio of Cruises and Escorted Tours in 2020 to satisfy every desire in this popular, growing destination. January or November, ship or land, couples or singles, explore the Southern Hemisphere, savoring soothing temperatures and gentle breezes, enjoying a fixed itinerary that includes golf, culture, sightseeing, history and ample time to relax.

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Golfers indulge on courses new and old, testing their swings and enjoying the camaraderie. These courses come in many forms, designed by an eclectic mixture of architects. On one hand is Gil Hanse’s Olympic Golf Course near Rio, designed specifically for the game’s return to the 2016 Olympics. Then, there’s Granadilla Golf Club, a tidy layout designed by English businessmen in the 19th century in the idyllic getaway of Valparaiso on the Chilean shore. Robert Von Hagge’s Buenos Aires Golf Club, on the other hand, took the professional golf spotlight in 2000 when the dynamic duo of Tiger Woods and David Duval secured the World Cup for the United States. Regardless, the venue, the golf courses in South America pose a certain challenge along immaculate landscapes against backdrops rugged and stunning.

PerryGolf guests interested in touring South America by sea, can enjoy Argentina for nine nights and four rounds of golf in late November, early December 2020.

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Azamara Quest is the ideal home for PerryGolf’s 2020 South American Golf Cruise.

Book by Oct. 31, 2019 and double upgrade your stateroom on the 690-guest Azamara Quest, a nimble, mid-sized luxury vessel offering all the amenities one could want at sea or in port – fine dining, live entertainment and a country club style atmosphere. The Azamara experience is built on four key pillars: destination immersion, extraordinary service, fine cuisine and wine, and wellness and vitality.

Rio de Janeiro is a sizzling destination spanning from Copacabana (Beach) to Corcovado (Mountain), whose permanent resident is the iconic Christ The Redeemer, a 125-foot statue built as a symbol of Brazilian Christianity nestled inside the Tijuca National Forest.

First suggested in 1850, the concept for the massive statue was finalized in 1920. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1931, paid for entirely by Brazil’s Catholic Church. Crafted from reinforced concrete and sandstone, the statue is 98-feet high and the arms are 92-feet wide, perched atop a 26-foot platform.

Buenos Aires, described by travel aficionados as the ‘Paris of South America’, is the largest city and capital of Argentina, sporting nearly 3 million residents. Known for its beefy steaks, luscious malbec wines and vibrant nightlife, Buenos Aires combines old school European style with modern Latin energy. San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego is the regular Sunday night site for a “milonga” for those wanting to watch the tango in the street.

Machu Picchu is a unforgettable destination made even more appealing by the enjoyable ride to get there on the Hiram Bingham Train, where you’ll travel forward on the rails but feel as if you’ve walked into a snapshot from a previous era. The train is elegant and rich in charm, with its wood-paneled interiors and brass fixtures, delivering a experience from the days of luxury travel aboard parlour cars, providing a smooth ride to the enchanting ruins.

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Fly fishing in Patagonia, Late nights in Sao Paulo, snowcapped views in Santiago – South America has much, much more to offer.

Want to learn more about PerryGolf’s 2020 / 2021 Golf Cruises? Join co-founder Gordon Dalgleish for a half-hour webinar at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 17th by registering here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/70245999894497548