South African Tour - March 2019
Less than an hour from Johannesburg Airport we arrived at Irene Country Lodge overlooking a tranquil lake teeming with birdlife. After a good night’s rest, we played Centurion Golf Club on our first day, playing on a rather soggy golf course which had only opened the day before our arrival after heavy rains the week before! Sadly the river had flooded two holes which were covered with rubbish from the floods – how lucky that we arrived when we did – blue skies greeted us each day from then on.
Day two found us at Dainfern Golf Club, on the outskirts of J’burg, only to be told the course was closed – fortunately, this was an administrative error, as all courses are closed on Monday’s for maintenance, but we had the course to ourselves and the Proshop had an excellent Sale that kept the Ladies and some Gents happy. A toughie with six crossings of the flooded river to contend with.
The next day was a rest day, but our driver Norman took thirteen of us on a tour of Johannesburg visiting the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Presidents House and the Apartheid Museum. Lunch followed in a nice suburb followed by retail therapy at a nearby African Crafts Centre.
Glendower Golf Club, home of the SA African Open in 2018 greeted us the next day for the 1st Round of the Individual Stableford. Some good scores were returned, but the highlight was Alan Golbourn getting a Hole in One on the 3rd Hole – both the Golf Course and the Hotel were suitably impressed.
Our final day in Pretoria was spent on the delightful Pecanwood Golf Course after a pleasant hour + drive to get there. Despite threatening skies and a sharp downfall, we all enjoyed playing an easier course against each other in the Couples Swapsie…even those who were not couples! We elected to have a Bar-B-Q that evening at the nearby lakeside which did not quite work, but it was a lovely venue and we returned late to pack up ready for an early start the following morning to Kruger.
Leaving before 8.00 am we drove through a fairly flat landscape for two hours before coming into some beautiful countryside with steep gorges and rolling hills. We finally stopped for lunch at HazyView where a much-needed break was enjoyed. Another few hours we arrived at the Hans Merensky Resort stepping out into a different climate entirely – very hot and humid. After such a long day the first impressions of the hotel were not great, with air conditioning issues, changes of rooms etc. However, waking to see impala grazing and monkeys playing outside our rooms soon lightened the mood.
Having played on four immaculate golf courses the first week, this one was a complete contrast but we soon elected to place the ball anywhere on the course, including the bunkers which were full of giraffe footprints. ‘Golf in the Wild’ is how they advertise it, and they were quite right, but it was a good layout with some very challenging water holes….with crocodiles.
We stayed at Hans Merensky for the remaining week interspersing four golf days with a 5.00 am Game Drive followed with an afternoon river cruise. On another day we drove into the Drakensburg Mountains on the Panorama Route visiting Blythe River Canyon and Bourkes Luck Potholes with pancakes for lunch at Harries in Graskop. Our final rest day, most played golf again followed by an evening Game Drive where some of us were lucky enough to get really close to a pride of lionesses with one cub – quite magical.
Our final golf day was interesting as we were mixed up with a large Am-Am, but managed to play the final round of the Stableford. The Tour Winners were Gillian Curley with rounds of 29 and 34, and Terry Jones with 38 and 34 with the respective Runners Up being Paul and Yogi Jackson – the Rookies! Our final evening was very jolly with the Prize Giving and an impromptu African display by the chef on drum, and the waitresses and kitchen staff all singing, and Michael Pring doing an impressive African dance!
We set off early on the last day driving back to J’Burg this time taking in more lovely scenery through the Highland Way stopping at Dullstrom for a lovely lunch at Critchley Lodges, and arriving at the airport in good time. This Tour was certainly a full itinerary, but in true GSGB style everyone took it in their stride and despite the heat and malaria pills, we all coped!