STEENBERG GOLF CLUB ****
On the Constantia wine route, this course was among the first to signal what lay ahead for golf in South Africa when it opened in the mid-nineties. Steenberg is something of a hybrid design. Tradition is represented by aprons of bent grass around the greens that allow for the bump and run—a shot rarely seen in South Africa, where robust kikuyu grass usually takes this option off the table. The radical comes in the shape of sand- and water-protected island greens, and waste areas (a nod to Pete Dye?) hugging entire fairways. Perhaps the only downside is the claustrophobia caused by real estate lining a few of the fairways. No matter what, you'll want to try a glass of Steenberg's stunning merlot at the nineteenth hole.
Steenberg Estate, Tokai Road, Tokai, Cape Town; 011-27/217-150-227, steenberggolfclub.co.za. Yardage: 7,025. Par: 72. Architect: Peter Matkovich, 1995. Greens Fees: $77 (hotel guest), $49 (with member).
BEST OF THE REST
The 2006 South African Open will be held at Humewood Golf Club (011-27/415-832-137), the country's only natural links course. The club has a first-class pedigree, but with South Africa's golf boom in full swing, surviving on reputation is no longer enough.... The Montagu Course at Fancourt (011-27/448-040-030) is no weak sister to the Links, especially since the recent completion of David McLay Kidd's improvements.... The SA Open has been contested eleven times at the Royal Cape Golf Club (011-27/217-616-551), where a reserved colonial atmosphere still prevails. Dealing with the Cape winds is the key to negotiating this memorable course.... There was nothing regal about Sun City when Sol Kerzner opened his resort and casino in 1979 in what was then Bophuthatswana, a supposedly "independent" black homeland recognized only by the apartheid government. White South African golfers could do legally at Sun City what they couldn't at home—gamble and ogle topless women. Sun City also had the Gary Player Country Club (011-27/145-571-246) and what was then the world's richest tournament, the Million Dollar Challenge. Today Sun City has new owners and the pros play in the Nedbank Challenge on the Country Club course, widely considered to be among the best in South Africa. But why would you visit an African theme park when the real thing is all around you?... Back in 1997, a new Jack Nicklaus course had nearly been completed when unseasonal rains swept the entire project into the Knysna Lagoon. Now under new ownership, Simola Golf & Country Estate (011-27/443-824-144) has finally opened for play. It will soon be a star destination.... Ocean views dominate Ernie Els's Oubaai Golf Club (011-27/448-510-131). Near one of his favorite holiday homes at Herold's Bay (and his beloved Bosvelt Saloon bar), Oubaai is spectacular and championship-tough, though as a new course it might still need some time to mature.... Finally, those planning a winter trip might keep an eye on Pinnacle Point Golf Club (011-27/446-934-002). Opening in November, the Peter Matkovitch–Darren Clarke design has garnered serious buzz for its jaw-dropping clifftop setting.
Where to Stay
BUHALA GAME LODGE Just ten minutes from Leopard Creek Country Club and Kruger Park's Malelane Gate, the Buhala Lodge overlooks the Crocodile River. That means the seasonal company of elephants, buffalo, rhinos and hippos, in view from the lodge's large veranda. There are eight traditionally furnished rooms within the main house, but the two new Elephant Garden suites, which face the river and share a wooden deck area and plunge pool, have cool, contemporary interiors. These suites also feature outdoor showers. Buhala is one of Leopard Creek's designated lodges, allowing guests access to the exclusive golf club.
Malelane, Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga; 011-27/137-924-372, buhala.co.za. Rooms: $108 (per person). Suites: $170 (per person).