Cape Town is a treat with stunning scenery, glorious golf and you might even spot a penguin or two
Plucking up the courage without sounding stupid, I meekly ask: “What does the black flag with the angry shark and bones mean?”
Brian, our tour guide (and arguably the nicest man on earth) for my week-long stay in Cape Town, replies quite dryly: “Just means with the choppy waves the shark spotters can’t tell if there are great whites in the water, so probably not safe for swimming.”
“Oh right, I’ll leave it so.” Gulp.
From that moment on, I was hooked on everything the magnificent and historical southernmost tip of Africa has to offer.
The beach town of Muizenberg was the location of said shark-spotting conversation, famous for its colourful beach huts that you’ll see in countless postcards and promotional ad campaigns.
I was about to embark on a trip of a lifetime, playing golf and wine tasting in one of the most sublime parts of the world. A paradise full of stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, two oceans — the icy-cold Atlantic and the warmer Indian Ocean — and a wide variety of attractions to make this golfer and wine-drinking enthusiast very happy.
You, as the reader, can decide which one I do better.
Brian decided we should see the incredible Cape Point Nature Reserve, which is the most southwestern point of the continent, as well as the longest peninsula in South Africa. Not just pretty to see, at Cape Point, you can also visit the old lighthouse. We hiked (although the ‘Flying Dutchman’ funicular is available) the 30-minute climb, where we found more dramatic scenery and endless ocean views.
Continuing on our day, driving through the nature reserve you’re greeted with wild baboons carrying their young, cartoonish ostriches running free and antelope just lazing amongst excited onlookers. We enjoyed endless photo ops at the most southwestern point of Africa.
Weirdly, it felt like we had hit the edge of the world, like a scene from the movie The Truman Show where the backdrop looked 3D.
Stopping for a quick bite to eat in the coastal restaurant Sea Forth in Simon’s Town (I recommend the seafood platter), we made our way down to Boulders Beach. Perhaps Cape Town’s most unique beach, it’s home to my favourite waddling friends — the endangered African penguins.
The beach is home to hundreds of penguins bathing in 25-degree heat, bizarre but brilliant in equal measure. Rude not to get a selfie with an African penguin, right?
After a busy day, we settled into our home for the next two days, the luxurious five-star Table Bay Hotel on the V&A Waterfront.
On the waterfront, which is shadowed by the impressive Table Mountain, you’re in the heart of the action, day and night. You can ride the Cape Wheel, an observation wheel with 30 enclosed air-conditioned cabins offering sweeping city, mountain and sea views. And it’s where we had dinner in the City Grill Restaurant on the marina, with stunning views of Table Mountain once again, accessible from escalators adorning the hotel’s reception.
An early night was followed by an even earlier morning — we had our first day of golfing at Clovelly Golf Course, which boasts spectacular mountain views, with False Bay and the ocean as a focal point throughout the round.
A nice touch was when myself and my playing partners, Monty (not eight-time European number one, Colin Montgomerie, golf fans!) and Tom, were announced by mic on the first tee. Both unnerving and satisfying at the same time.
One aspect I feel I must highlight when playing golf on the Cape is the ‘Halfway’, which is self-explanatory. After nine holes, the locals insist on you having a quick bite to eat. Today’s helping was braised beef with a red wine sauce pie. Absolutely delicious.
More food after the round — the South Africans, as you can tell, take great pride in their amazing cuisine — lunch was at The Farm Village in Noordhoek, a quaint little restaurant used more frequently by locals than tourists. Our tour guides opted for ostrich and springbok. I wasn’t as brave.
One thing which I insist is a must when in Cape Town, is the defining beacon and highlight of my trip: the ascent of Table Mountain — one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the world.
This natural wonder was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011. Peaking at over 1,000 metres above sea level, the 360-degree views of the city at Table Mountain National Park are definitely a sight to behold.
Do not leave Cape Town without taking the easy cable car ride to the top to watch the Cape Town sunset dance over the ocean. That sight will most definitely linger long in the memory.
A few souvenir purchases and a beer later, we made our way down for dinner to Burger & Lobster in the heart of Bree Street, Cape Town’s foodie central.
Lobster croquettes and the Wagyu beef burger were insanely good.
Again, an early night for an early start to play golf — and change hotels for Erinvale Country & Golf Estate. Having hosted the 1996 World Cup of Golf, Erinvale is a stunning venue with a really prestigious feel and vibe.
For the record, I played better and would have loved to have stayed longer...friendly staff and brilliant food too. There is a trend starting here, isn’t there?
Next course up was the five-star resort of Arabella, consistently ranked in the top 10 courses in South Africa. You will not be disappointed. A slight drizzle, albeit in 21-degree heat, made for receptive greens and the best golf I played over the week.
The eighth hole has been described as one of the most beautiful par 5s in South Africa, and I can truly see why.
After taking full advantage of the luxury spa pool facilities in Arabella, we had the cumbersome task of a late afternoon spent at the Rickety Bridge Estate winery.
Rickety is in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley. A spin to Rickety Bridge is another must-do. Located between the Dassenberg Mountain and the Franschhoek River, the vineyard blends perfectly into an almost picturesque panorama with rolling hills and amazing countryside views.
We pitched up at our table along with a tasting menu of red and white wines and an unbelievably tasty cheese board with the delightful Lisa who announced, upon hearing my accent, she was quarter-Irish.
So of course, playing to the stereotype, I left with a bottle of red and a crisp white — I recommend the Paulina’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2021.
Our final hurrah on the golf course was the magnificent Jack Nicklaus-designed Pearl Valley Golf Club. Monty and Tom’s favourite track — only because they beat me for bragging rights.
After spending the last of my cash in the stocked pro shop, we found ourselves on a short drive in the world-renowned Helderberg region. In Stellenbosch we found an award-winning range of wines from Ernie Els Winery — named, obviously, after multi-major winning South African golfer Ernie Els.
After a small passage through massive granite boulders and large wooden farmhouse-style doors, you’re greeted with an expansive tasting room and restaurant, where you’re rewarded with the most stunning views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, Stellenbosch and the Helderberg Mountains.
We spent a glorious couple of hours tasting Big Easy’s famous Cabernet Sauvignon whilst trying to hole a chip to a flag just 30 yards from the foot of the rolling hills. Get the ball in and you win a signature Ernie Els wine, such as The Big Easy or the Proprietor’s Blend.
Go there if you like golf, and drinking some of the best South African wines with the Big Easy’s stamp of approval. Wine, golf, beautiful scenery and great people — what better way to spend an afternoon?
That last sentence sums up my time on the Cape. I can’t wait to go back someday.
CLOVELLY COUNTRY CLUB
THE beautifully manicured Clovelly Country Club is nestled in the pristine and calming Silvermine Valley, not far from Fish Hoek, Cape Town. This tight par 72 course is lined with tall trees and many elevated greens, with beautiful views of Silvermine River and lakes. You definitely need control of your drives as it’s tight but not particularly long, so accuracy is key. I personally lost one too many golf balls, but also shot many pars as Clovelly had easily the most receptive greens over the four days golfing on the Cape.
ERINVALE COUNTRY CLUB
MULTI-major winning golfer Gary Player is the design brain behind this wonderfully crafted parkland course. Surrounded by the majestic Helderberg Mountain, the course offers two very distinctly different nines. The front nine winds its way through narrow fairways flanked by exquisite properties. The back nine flows beautifully into the foot of the Helderberg and offers the most rewarding and magnificent views over False Bay, surrounding vineyards and olive groves. My highlight was parring the monster hole six (441yd) Index one par 4 raking in a 25-footer putt.
ARABELLA GOLF CLUB
THIS idyllic par 72 Championship course has consistently been ranked in the top 10 courses in South Africa. Arabella Golf Club held the Nelson Mandela Invitational for a number of years between 2000 and 2006. At 6,381 metres, Arabella was not the stiffest of tests for the top pros, which explains why I played my best golf on this trip. The greens were more accessible at times and a slight drizzle accompanying us on the front nine is why I might have played well. Finishing with a long bunker, running along the edge of the 18th, which is there to protect the Bot River Lagoon.
PEARL VALLEY GOLF CLUB
A WORLD-CLASS, 18-hole championship golf course conceived by Jack Nicklaus himself. Enough said. Just a 30-minute drive from Stellenbosch, where we were based, I was very excited to play, as I had read and heard so much about the well-guarded approach shots from bunker-laden greens and well manicured fairways. The par 5 on the front nine has three separate fairways until you reach the slim and guarded green, which was spectacular. The par 3 13th signature hole did not disappoint either — it helps when you flush an 8-iron, but still have two nervy putts to secure par. Another must-see on the Cape.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA southafrica.net
■ 10 NIGHTS in South Africa with five rounds of golf starts from £2,995pp, including flights, accommodation, game drives, wine tours and tastings and Table Mountain cableway tickets. ■ TO book a golf holiday in South Africa, call 0800 043 6644 or visit yourgolftravel.com. ■ ENDA flew British Airways to London and Virgin Atlantic to Cape Town (virginatlantic.com).
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