South Africa: A Visual Journey of Excellence with Many Lessons for US Golf Courses

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The Trip:

From February 28 to March 17, my wife and I partook in the 2017 Perry Golf Tour of South Africa.  It was exponentially better than any travel we have taken.  Simply fabulous.  I have no idea how we can ever match this trip.

It bestowed a plethora of educational lessons, culinary feasts, spectacular golf and luxurious accommodations resulting in a life-defining experience.

Perry Golf’s on-site liaisons (Gordon Turner – gordon@capescout.com – and guides Chris Tromp and Rob Byram) have few peers in their excellent attention to detail.  Safety, which is often advertised as a deterrent to travel, was never an issue.

Downsides to the trip – none.  Though it is a long way (20 to 38 hours depending on route taken), it should be on everyone’s bucket list – it is that excellent.  For the price paid nearing $20,000 for the South African ground portion, it is a great value.

What to learn more:

  • Click here for golf in South Africa and course rankings (Download 115 pictures of best practices)
  • Click here for information about the Safari (Download 73 pictures) and the parallels to the golf industry. Who are the hyenas, lions, leopards and impalas?
  • Click here to discover South Africa (Download 88 pictures)
  • Click here to understand more about the magic Perry Golf creates

While you can read about it, see pictures or listen to one talk about their journey, you must visit to comprehend how spectacular a trip Perry Golf provides whether in a small private tour of 4 to upwards of 24.  This is the perfect trip for the Director of Golf at a club to arrange for their members.

Contact Gordon Turner at gordon@capescout.com or visit Perry Golf’s website by clicking here.

The Golf

It is spectacular.   Recognizing that we visited either private clubs or high-end resorts, the experience was on par with and often exceeded that of the nearly all golf clubs in America as illustrated by.

  • Bronze Statutes by Tee Markers whose artist receives $1 million for such (Leopard Creek) telling a story of the Leopard chasing and ultimately catching the cheetah.  Leopard Creek also has a unique ball market in which in which the yardage of every hole is featured with a leopard in the middle of the coin.  As an aside, men are not permitted to wear hats in the clubhouse.
  • Clubhouses with historic photos of Ernie Els and Tiger Woods with Nelson Mandela (Links at Fancourt)
  • Wall of Honor featuring the leading South African PGA Tour Player’s successes on the International Stage (Montagu at Fancourt)
  • Vistas from the clubhouse that rival those of Cape Kidnappers or the Old Head of Kinsale (Pinnacle Point).
  • Divot replacement sand-boxes stamped with course logo and bunkers groomed perfectly smooth with no ridge lines (Arabella).
  • Pro shops with extensive merchandise – especially for women (every golf course coordinated by Retail Tribe). It was noteworthy, however than none of the golf courses had logoed golf gloves.
  • Attentive clubhouse staff cleaning your clubs at the turn (every golf course).

I am always humored to see that the false belief that what we offer is America is superior.  Golf in South Africa is awesome.  Bring your game!

The Ranking

It was the Perry Golf Groups consensus of 23 well-traveled and accomplished golfers that the golf courses played ranked in the following order:

  1. Links at Fancourt
  2. Leopard Creek
  3. Arabella
  4. Durban CC
  5. Montagu at Fancourt
  6. Pinnacle Point
  7. (tie) Pearl Valley & (tie) Steenberg Golf Estate

Other courses not played that may be worthy of a visit based on conversations with the Directors of Golf at many of those facilities included:  Sun City, River Club, St. Francis and Humewood.

The Safaris

The safari’s go from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 4:00 to 8:00 each day.   The Rangers are unbelievable in spotting the wildlife game.  The animal they are most afraid of is the bull elephant, although old male leopards can be a problem close to human habitation.  We heard that a ranger is lost annually to a panther attack.  When we hopped out of the Land Cruiser (Land Rover) for a coffee break, the ranger took his rifle.  We quickly had a hyena and elephant as nearby visitors.

The Jock Safari Lodge, situated on 15,000 acres of private concession within the Kruger National Game Park, was adequate but when in the bush – expect bugs and monkeys as they might drop in during your outdoor shower while you watch Elephants and Rhinoceros just outside the security fence less than 100 yards away.

Easily saw the Big 5.  The night safaris, as the animals began to hunt, were captivating.   We were surrounded by a pride of six lions as we peered down from the open Land Cruiser, then a trio of Elephants, a black mambo, a puff adder and watched the outcome of wild dogs take down an impala, and a cheetah capture a warthog that was then feasted on by the vultures.

I was struck by the parallels of hierarchy in the bush with animals and those in the golf industry.  The PGA Tour are the lions, the USGA are the elephants, the PGA of America the Rhinoceros, the National Golf Foundation the Zebras, Golf Course Management Companies the Leopards, PGA and USGA Sections are the cheetahs, third-party tee time providers are the hyenas, wild dogs, and vultures while the golf course owner is the Impala.

The bigger, stronger and faster kill the weaker.  Anything wounded is in play regardless of size.   Hyenas and wild dogs eat anything; lions kill leopards that kill cheetahs.  Impala is fair game for all.

Golf course owners are at the bottom of the food chain in the golf industry.

South Africa

South Africa is just more than double the size of Texas and has a population of 56 million, consisting of 4 million Caucasians, 5 million Indian or mixed-race and the rest Black African.   Seven million have HIV, one of the highest infection rates in the world. 17 million of the country’s 55 million receive a government subsidy, one of the largest social safety nets for the poorest of poor in the world.  The unemployment rate is 27%.

Three of the largest provinces encompassing Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town house 50% of the population.  One can not comprehend how much of South Africa remains to be developed.

There is no middle class as a result of Apartheid that ended 21 years ago.  Every service worker we encountered:  flight attendants, hotel desk clerks, waitresses, were all black.   Entrance to colleges on scholarship is based on an allocation system.  Blacks need to score 50, colored 80 and Caucasians 90 on the entrance exams to be admitted to college.  The system of allocation set up the blacks for failure as they lack the fundamental to compete at a college level.  Caucasians are amazingly accepting that it will take a generation or two to mitigate their forefather’s racial discrimination.

It was a tremendous education seeing shanty towns, next to Mandela communities near high-end residences.

When we were in Cape Town, a Shanty of 3,500 homes at Hout Bay were destroyed by fire. Three died, and fire displaced 16,000.  They will receive 25 pieces of corrugated metal and ten poles from the government to rebuild their homes over the next couple of months.

We understand shanty towns catch on fire with alarming frequency.  Houses are built so close together that fire trucks can’t navigate the narrow pathways as families put their few possessions into the alleyway to save them from the fire.  We saw the smoldering flames and embers as we traveled to Cape of Good Hope.

As we were packing to leave, I threw a swim suit in the waste paper basket.  Our turn-down maid asked if she could have it and would I write a note to authorizing the gift.   My wife had taken a tour that day of a shanty town.   My wife and I left behind, besides money, shoes, sneakers, medicine, pants and candy.   Her appreciation was heartful and stunning.   The gap is wide.   The lowest wage of a maintenance worker course crew earns $2,750 PER YEAR (3,000 rands per month).  The average worker may earn double.

A trip to South Africa should be all encompassing understanding the history, challenges, and opportunities of this fabulous country.

The Tour

The two-week tour is spectacular.  From eight safaris to wine tasting to the opportunity to play eight golf courses amongst 23 other golfers provided many new insights.

The accommodations at Fancourt, Lanzarac (in a vineyard) and Cape Grace are without peer in the Country.  Ernie Els Vineyard and wine tasting tour are on par with anything you might find in Napa Valley.    The food was superior, and the opportunity to taste Springbok, Kudo and other wild game certainly provides a unique culinary experience while sipping the Pinotage –  a varietal unique to South Africa.

The tour is perfectly balanced between sight-seeing (safaris, multiple vineyard tours with tasting, town visits, Cape of Good Hope, Rugby Museum, Nelson Mandela Museum at Victoria Waterfront, Table Mountain) and golf.  Note the cable car up Table Mountain is not for the faint of heart as you climb in a cable car over 2,000 feet in 2 minutes and 30 seconds up to a sheer cliff.   Also perfectly balanced are the number of hosted dinners at Les Chaines des Rotisseurs restaurants like Serendipity and nights of leisure where you can seek out your own fare.

The golf, at private clubs or high-end resorts, includes Leopard Creek, Durban CC, Pinnacle Point, Links at Fancourt, Montagu at Fancourt, Outeniqua at Fancourt, Pearl Valley and Steenberg Golf Estate.  As is the tradition, lunch breaks at the end of nine holes are included.

You are chauffeured in Mercedes vans from the airport to your hotels to golf courses with ample water and refreshments available.   Safety, security, and convenience are assured.

This trip should be on everyone’s “bingo card of life” that gets covered sooner before later.   It is that good.

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