Shall I tell you what I did today? I played one of the most scenic and challenging golf courses South Africa has to offer: The Links at Fancourt on the Garden Route. A course which should be on anybody’s bucket list of golf courses to play!
It had been a few years since I last played the course. But I had been there on several occasions, including the final day of the President’s Cup in 2003 when Ernie Els and Tiger Woods battled it out while the sun was setting and the crowds did not want to leave, realizing they were watching a historic game. With a historic ending, as it was decided to crown both Ernie and Tiger as tied winners, when play had to be suspended when it got really dark and their balls would disappear into the dark African night.
So there we were: on historic grounds, on the No. 2(!) golfcourse in South Africa (and recently rated No. 34 in the world by USA Golf Digest!), on a stunning ‘autumn’ day without a breath of wind, no cloud in the sky and temperatures reaching 35 degrees (95 Fahrenheit) during midday.
Security is quite strict, and I don’t think we would have been allowed on the grounds had we not been able to give them our names matching their list of tee-off times. We were welcomed by two very friendly gentlemen, taking our clubs from us as we got them out of the car, and taking them through to the starters hut. We checked in at the well-stocked (including a great ladies’ selection!) pro-shop and shook hands with the golf pro Tyrone Farrell, whose office is open and inviting across the corridor.
At the starters’ hut we had water, fruit, scorecards, tees and pencils waiting for us. A quick practice putt on the practice green, and off we went. ‘Like on the tour’, as one of the other ladies in my 4-ball commented, as we walked down the 1st fairway with our 4 caddies in tow. Caddies who knew the course like the inside of their back pockets, who knew how to read the lines on the fast greens and who had caddied for the likes of Gary Player, Ernie Els and of course ‘homegrown’ Branden Grace.
And who then got us for the day…. And even though our golf was by no means comparable to those South African golfing heroes, the caddies still made us feel special! For me, there is no better way to enjoy a golf course than with a caddy. Caddies will show you the way from green to tee, will keep an eye on your ball while you concentrate on your follow through, and who will rake the occasional bunker you will end up in. They tell you their stories, they share their golfing insights with you and at the end of the day you have provided a family with food on the table. You have provided somebody with a day’s work…
I don’t want to talk about the golf itself. It is not worth mentioning – except may be my birdie on the 2nd :) – and actually a great score is not what this course is about. We’ll leave that to the pro’s. The Links is about being out in nature: there are raptor ‘sticks’, wetlands with a great variety of birds, several damns with the most amazing bass fish ‘popping up’ every now and then and beautiful water lilies.
Built on an former airfield, the great Gary Player himself was the designer of The Links, which, although not immediately on the coastline, is indeed a true links and considerably tough course by any standard. The natural Fynbos, the long grasses in the rough, the undulating fairways and fast greens are what make The Links a course you will remember forever. Today we counted 14 people playing this mostly private course. Playing The Links is about enjoying your game, the company, the surroundings. It may be a once in a lifetime experience, but what an experience it is! Bucket list golfing experiences South Africa: tick!