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Gracing the Courses — Gracing the Courses The best of friends have reached a pinnacle in their respective careers. Branden Grace won the RCB Heritage on the Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in the United States. This was first win on the PGA Tour in the USA. No surprise to many who follow the game as the 27-year old has won 10 times overseas and finished in the top five the previous year in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. His reputation was already on the radar when he exploded on the professional golf scene becoming the second youngest South African to win his first five European Tour events aged 26 years and 208 days. His remarkable talent also displayed at the Presidents Cup where he became only the second international player to go 5-0 for the week. His partner Louis Oosthuizen commented, “He just showed that he’s a world-class player, and there’s no moment too big for him. He’s going to be a really great player.” I have no doubt. Branden Grace and Meyer du Toit celebrate. My second introduction is Meyer du Toit, the Director of Golf at San Lameer’s Golf Estate in Kwazulu Natal. He received one of the top accolades in South African golf when he was voted the PGA of South Africa’s 2015 PGA Professional of the Year. This is the first time du Toit has won what is considered the top award for a PGA professional working in the South African golf industry. This was no surprise to me, as I recall meeting the very pleasant and enthusiastic young man when he was doing his apprenticeship under Jeff Clause, himself a regular winner of this award, at what was then Sparrebosch, subsequently Pezula. “I feel very honoured to receive this award. It’s something I always aspired to achieve,” said du Toit. And it’s been du Toit’s incredible energy and enthusiasm that has been the main driver behind this process. I have to add that Vickey, his wife, I also met during his early days, his girl friend at the time, and she herself must get a mention, as it was already obvious then that her personality and professionalism were destined to succeed in the business of golf. A great couple and they deserve all the accolades; I believe will accrue to mirror their mentor Jeff Clause.

The Pearl Continues to be polished.

Standard maintain Standards
I don’t like going to the dentist! This seemingly obvious statement to many of you will come as a surprise form someone who is supposedly writing about golf.
Well it is because this month seems to have been all about Pearl Valley Golf Estates. I HAD TO go to the dentist. Now as a ‘new Franschhoeker’ I hadn’t sought out a dentist practice, but fortunately I read the Tatler Magazine and saw an advert for a brand new dental practice in town. Dr Schalk Du Plessis, at 1 Kruger Street, who handled my necessary attention with professionalism and care, I knew immediately, he was a great find for me. He lives at Pearl Valley and he is a golfer! Now that’s my kind of dentist and he sorted me out in time for my attendance at The Pearl Valley sponsored Celebrity Golf Day in aid of the Sunflower Fund.
Celebrities, there were in abundance, and I was pleased to catch up with Rob Louw, who I knew well from his playing days and it was also a pleasure to also catch up with my previous boss, Ingrid Diesel who was at one time the CEO of Fancourt during my time there and who was the organiser of this event.

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Chris Moir (Sunflower Fund), Rob Louw, Ingrid Diesel (Event organiser), Sarah Norman (survivor and now works for Sunflower Fund).

My powerful memories, however, are of the three partners I got lucky to play with. The singing Doctor, Darren Green, whose card introduces himself as the Multimedia Doctor and Professional performer, who I was to learn had been a finalist of Idols’ first season and who is now a panel expert on SABC3’s Doctors Orders, is also a Cape Argus Columnist and 567 Cape Talk’s Health and Wellness Doctor. Flippantly, he passed on, is that he also studied Neurology and he is a sought after motivational speaker and he can play golf better than me!

And my two other partners also played better than me. Business coach Johan Duraan, would no doubt have improved every aspect of my life if I had bid for the R120 000 coaching course he offered and David Murray, who I have known at both Erinvale and Pearl Valley as the golf professional, was to my very pleasant surprise the excellent auctioneer for the evening. He told me he had taken an auctioneering course and I am pleased to tell him he studied well.

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Still a Pearl

While I could list the many celebrities attending the Sunflower Fund Charity, which raises awareness for the need to increase the register for bone marrow transplant donors, I must mention the standards maintained at Pearl Valley under the insecurity of the estate’s future due to Dubai World non-repayment of its loans to Standard Bank. Now under the Stewardship of the bank directors, Standard Bank have maintained standards and noticeably improved them in many cases. The doubling in size of the iconic driving range has been complemented by attention to the flowerbeds throughout the estate and a highly noticeable investment to the entrance aesthetics, is a welcome feature.

Gould’s special note: Gawie Marx, the amiable GM of Pearl Valley, told the audience that he himself was a Leukaemia survivor having found a matching donor. He urged us all to register!

Spectacular Bias

This Trip Advisor review is about ‘My Peggy’s” place La Cle des Montagnes in Franschhoek- so obviously you will understand my bias towards it. BUT I have to add if there was a Trip Advisor section on the quality of the guests staying we would have written they themselves were Spectacular!

“Spectacular!”

Reviewed October 20, 2013 NEW
We stayed here with our family for our wedding and hired out all 4 villas (as well as half of the village for our 100+ guests!) for 4 nights in late September. All I can say is, this is the best place I have ever stayed in! We have been around the world, stayed in 7 star hotels etc etc, but this place is simply stunning! I almost don’t want to write a review so I can keep it secret, but they are so totally worthy of all the praise they can get!

Starting from Chantel and Peggy who manage the place, to all the butlers and helpers etc, each and every member of staff is a sheer delight. Nothing is too difficult, every request is met with a smile and is taken care of (we had a lot of random requests and are a very picky bunch, especially as it was a wedding) and the professionalism is really top notch. We can’t say thank you enough to all the lovely people we met at La Cle for making our wedding spectacular and unforgettable. We couldn’t have chosen a better place.

Each of the 4 houses is stunning in it’s own way, and I really can’t choose a favourite, although perhaps the Gallery house has this crazy modern style that I love! And the overall setting is truly, wondrously spectacular. Anyone who has ever been to Franschhoek will testify that the village and surrounds are incredible, and La Cle is the very best within Franschhoek. I know because we literally visited every other place when looking for the right venue.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Thank you Peggy, thank you Chantel, you are both angels and it has been delightful meeting you!! This place is simply divine, there is nothing more to it.
Stayed September 2013, traveled with family

Great Indian Food and Service

Bukhara Restaurant – Waterfront – Cape Town
Shop No. 6264, Upper Level, Victoria Wharf
Waterfront, Cape Town
Western Cape

021 418 5600
Email: information@bukhara.com
Website: http://www.bukhara.com/

As a long time fan of the Bukhara Restaurant in central Cape Town, my partner and I were looking forward to sampling those incredible Indian dishes now available at their additional venue in the Waterfront. Not a moment of disappointment occurred, as the ability to watch the craftsmanship of the food being prepared in the open kitchen remains a feature in this spacious upper level venue with its warm teak furniture and weather dependant outdoor seating allowing a broad overview of the bustling waterfront action below. We declared our need for speed, as we had a date with a film show.

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Oscar and Mireille – service with several smiles!

Two chicken dishes (Lababdar and Butter) were promptly delivered by Oscar and Mireille who deserve a special mention, as they provided indefinable, unquantifiable (yet unobtrusive) moments of service magic, which we still talk about regularly. Great food, great location and great people and Bukhara in the Waterfront will blossom!

Wedding Surprises Steenberg

Steenberg CEO Gary Lees surprised us all, as he got married this month. Added to this seemingly spontaneous decision was his announcement that he was moving to Johannesburg to take up the position as COO of the remarkable new Steyn City development.

A former professional squash player, member of her Majesty’s Service Army Air Corps, co-owner of Germany’s first public golf course, Lees came to South Africa and following success at the Johannesburg Country Club as Club Resource Manager and as General Manager of the Vodacom World of Golf and Golf Villages, he moved to Cape Town in 2009 to take up his position at Steenberg.

Steenberg bunkers
Superb bunkering and mountain surrounds

Lees leaves a legacy, as Steenberg, regarded as South Africa’s most successful Estate, was recently voted by Conde Naste as South Africa’s number 1 Golfing Resort and number 2 in the world.

He told me, “I am obviously sorry to leave Steenberg, which I am pleased has gained its deserved reputation as South Africa’s premier estate. During this period my now wife and I have led a long distance relationship, as she has a very successful position in Johannesburg. The opportunity to move to Steyn City just came at right time and allowed us to finally be together as man and wife. So it wasn’t a spontaneous decision, we needed to be in the same town!”

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Mr and Mrs Lees –wedding day at Lanzerac

Steenberg will no doubt miss Lees, but its beautifully manicured Peter Markovich golf course layout, with superb bunkering and its mountainous surrounds, will remain the most sought after venue for visitors who will marvel at the quality of lifestyle on offer for its residents so near to Cape Town. Apart from the golf course, the estate is built on the oldest wine farm in the Cape Peninsula, which remains operational and garners world recognition for its superb wines. Awards abide also for the luxurious hotel on site and the Catherina’s and 1682 restaurants offer a wonderful mix of formal and casual choices, both blessed with delicious fare and exceptional service.

Lees will without doubt miss the scenic splendour of the Constantia Valley and the accompanying seasonal splendour of the estate’s vineyards, but he will not doubt be occupied at Steyn City, where a Jack Nicklaus course will be at the heart of a 2000 acre development, which will comprise residential, commercial, retail and leisure components, all set within 1 000 acres of woodland.

Formidable Ladies Promote Golf to SA

First; I welcome Susanne Kemper to Franschhoek, a free-lance golf journalist who writes both in English and French for several publications – One of which is the American Express Plus Platinum card members’ magazine for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Among others are Golf & Style covering the Czech Republic and Italy, Golf Events (France) Women’s Golf (Australia) Asian Golf Monthly and Exegolf (with breakdowns of various courses and areas)

Add to these she also writes for several life style magazines on wine, travel, and safari features.

Susanne Kemper

Susanne Kemper

This is our second meeting, as we had met previously when I was the GM at Fancourt and her articles on her sojourn in South Africa were exceptionally complimentary and so I was pleased to assist her in her comprehensive itinerary on this visit.

As I completed her itinerary, I was tired writing it and glad I didn’t have to take part – suffice to say she covered most of South Africa inclusive of golf courses, safari lodges and wine estates.

Impressive is that she insists on writing only about what she has personally experienced – so, yes, she plays the golf courses, tastes the food and wines and participates in the game drives and all this with an unending vitality, which reminds me of an ever-ready battery advert.

Second; Equally blessed with vibrant energy is Marianne Kortekaas, who is the Product Manager for Pin High Golftravel, the biggest golf tour operator in Holland. She is responsible for the inclusion of products in their glossy brochure and the South African section is truly impressive. Here again I was able to assist with her itinerary (no less taxing than Susanne Kemper’s) and it was highly pleasing to hear that golf tourism to South Africa from not only Holland, but also Belgium and Austria was buoyant in 2012 and she anticipated a very successful season for 2013/2014.

Marianne Kotekaas

Marianne Kortekaas

Marianne told me, “The Cape is the best visited part of South Africa for our clients. They love the cultural heritage, the wonderful mix of people, the nature reserves, the gastronomy, the wine estates, and last but not least: the golf courses! By the way, playing the Links at Fancourt in George was the most memorable and spectacular round of golf I’ve ever had. Now we are adding packages for golfing & gaming in and near the Kruger (Skukuza, Leopard Creek, Sabi River Sun). What a wonderful country South Africa is!”

Both these formidable women were to agree that the overall impression of their marathon visit is that the quality products, (courses, accommodation, restaurants, safari lodges) are enhanced by friendly and professional standards all wrapped up in a canvas of sensational scenic settings.

Five of my Favourites

Heading Photo

I am often asked to give my favourite courses in South Africa. This is something I usually avoid, as I will without doubt upset all the other courses listed in my guides. I normally reply diplomatically “My favourite course is the next one I am going to play.”

However when pressed to the limit – I certainly can give five of my favourites, as without doubt they certainly merit recognizing as right at the top of my personal list.

One aspect I am always willing to admit to is that I am particularly drawn the designs in this country of Gary Player, Peter Matkovich and Jack Nicklaus. My friends say it is because I play these courses well! Is there any other reason?

Arabella
Arabella Golf Course – Near Kleinmond – Western Cape
(This is my home club – how lucky am I?” – It’s scenic location bordering the Bot River Lagoon and edged by wild fynbos added to the classic design by Peter Matkovich shows what happens when man and nature blend in complete concert.)

The Links
The Links at Fancourt – George
(I once was the GM at Fancourt – but this bias towards the property isn’t why I love this golf course. This Gary Player design is simply a remarkable phenomenon in design, manicuring and challenge.)

St Francis Links
St Francis Links – St Francis Bay – Eastern Cape
(I was taught golf on Links courses and this is a Jack Nicklaus design among natural sand dunes – I was at the opening of the course when Jack Nicklaus was asked if he had said this was the best course he had designed – he replied, “I did not say that; I said it may be the best course I’ve ever seen. That’s different. That’s better than the best I’ve ever done.”)

Gary PlayerLeopard Creek
Leopard Creek – Malelane – Mpumalanga
(Gary Player in conjunction with Johan Rupert created this wonderful golf course. Set on the border of the Kruger National Park and the Crocodile River, this is where golf and Africa come together in abundance. Their promotional material says, ‘It is founded on the values of friendship, a common love of the game of golf and a shared reverence for nature. Drawing from the intricate wealth of nature, Leopard Creek is an unobtrusive part of that environment – blending, complementing and enhancing.” It really is exactly that!)

Down Memory Lane

Dr Geraldine Mitton, who was the Medical Doctor in charge of the Hydro in Stellenbosch when I was the General Manager there, has launched her new book ‘Cleto Saporetti’.

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Dr Mitton’s book on Cleto Saporetti

This is the story of the Italian former prisoner of war who became one of South Africa’s most renowned chicken farmers, and who lost his business when Newcastle Disease wiped out his stock of 750 000 chickens. He was also the founder of the High Rustenburg Hydro, as it was originally called. The book recounts Saporetti’s early years in Ravenna in Northern Italy, where he first showed his entrepreneurial tendencies as a roads engineer, his move to Ethiopia and Eritrea where he was captured during the war and his subsequent incarceration at the Zonderwater prison camp in Pretoria. On his release he was allowed to stay in South Africa and posted to Dundarach poultry farm where he learnt all about chicken farming.

Neither Geraldine nor I met Cleto Saporetti, as he had passed away before we were employed by his foundation, but without doubt we both believed in his philosophy. Geraldine to further the education of South African’s on the importance of healthy nutrition and exercise and to establish contact with the South African Medical and Dental council to encourage the acceptance of the Hydro philosophy and my responsibility was to maximise the revenues for the Hydro while ensuring the implementation from both the caring personnel and myself that good health also comes with a good attitude.

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Lawrence and Dr Geraldine Mitton

Saporetti’s legacy is without doubt his perceptive vision that good health is guaranteed by healthy nutrition and plenty of beneficial exercise and his mission was to educate the South African public of this well before it became fashionable. For me personally it was when reading about how he handled the devastating loss of his chicken farm. His noted reaction was, “I came to this country with nothing, if I leave with nothing, I have lost nothing”.

He didn’t leave us with nothing – he resurrected his chicken business and spent his latter years founding and being the driving force behind the Health Hydro and the creation of a foundation, which took health promotion to many thousands of less privileged members of the community. The Italian Government awarded him a knighthood in recognition of his contribution to the people of South Africa without ever forgetting the land of his birth.

A remarkable man with a zest for life with a vision on how we can all live a healthy life to the full, and he without doubt (inclusive of Dr Mitton’s later invaluable input) changed attitudes to health care and nutrition.

Geraldine’s Mitton’s well-researched and highly interesting book on Cleto Saporreti, she describes as a labour of love, and it shows!

An Addendum – Geraldine invited me to join many of the Hydro Staff at the Wijnhuis in Stellenbosch on the Saturday morning after her book launch the previous Thursday at Kelvin Grove. It was very emotional, as we renewed our connection with many of the exceptional people who have made the Hydro such a special place.
Both Geraldine and I (known as Lawrence during my Hydro days) were enthusiastically hugged and kissed and of course now that I have been gone for some from considerable years from there I was now looked upon as the best General Manager they ever had! My father once told me it is always the same when you’ve left a place – people’s memories get clouded!

My memory isn’t clouded! The personnel of the Hydro in my time there were truly exceptional, both caring and committed and I can safely put in print that the unbelievable amount of regular guests the Hydro has enjoyed over so many years will testify to that fact.
Wonderful people doing a wonderful job – just for the health of others.

Specialists Visit

Two special specialists visit.

Lew Rood, correctly often described as a tourism icon in South Africa, never ceases to amaze me. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the tourism industry and its personalities is quite exceptional. The former International Sales Manager of the Conservation Corporation (now days & Beyond) and responsible for the opening of Singita’s marketing and reservation office, now has on his business card Tourism & Hospitality Specialist.
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Lew, Peggy and Barry

“Excuse me!” I told him “ This should read THE Tourism & Hospitality Specialist.” No one I know in this country has more knowledge of whose who in the tourism industry, who owns what and who brings who to our shores. Remarkable also is his ability to describe each and every property he has visited with a photographic memory, which I assure you can even recall which flowers were in the lobby!

During his brief visit to Franschhoek, accompanied by Barry Strick, himself a specialist in the film industry, producing and postproduction specialist his card tells us, they were here to do research.

They were on a brief visit to catch up to familiarise themselves with some of the new products that have sprung up since their last visit over a year ago. Obviously La Clé des Montagnes being one and with Barry’s conversations showing his undoubted knowledge of food, they enjoyed their visits to Maison, Ryan’s Kitchen and the Rotisserie at Leopards Leap wine estate.

I also suggested they walked up to the main street to enjoy the pavement atmosphere of Sacred Ground’s, the bakery, deli and coffee bar/restaurant in the Square.

Peggy and I, who have lived in this village for 15 months now, were amazed on Lew’s knowledge of the properties in this wonderful part of the winelands. We were informed on the ownership of many of the hotels and wine estates inclusive of family backgrounds, and I personally was amazed on how many properties I have yet to discover.

A conversation with Lew requires concentration, as I believe his brain works at twice the speed of others and often he can produce two subjects (and often three) in tandem, an art which his peculiarly his and which I envy.

Rhino Article By Michelle Katz

One of the youthful guests at Grande Roche I mentioned in my previous Blog was Michelle Katz –who works for Rhino Safaris — she posted this recently and I can add — I looked up her previous writings — she can write!

Larry Gould’s Top 5 Golf Courses in South Africa

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Larry Gould – Frenchman by birth, an Englishman by education and a South African by choice…the man who knows golf. His career in hospitality has allowed him access to some of the most spectacular courses in the world and as a previous GM of the Alphen Hotel, The Stellenbosch Hydro and Fancourt in George, he is a man we can trust to combine the love of golf with magnificent accommodation.

Larry’s latest book, ‘The Larry Gould Guide to Golf in the Cape’, promotes South Africa  as one of the World’s great golfing destinations, incorporating his love for food, wine and the people of South Africa. Whilst standing in one of the stunning villas at La Clé des Montagneswhere Larry assists his wife, Peggy, in the management of the boutique hotel – such a place deserves an article to its own as I was left speechless after my visit – Larry gave me a copy of his book addressed to my father and signed, “To the love of golf.”

I had to ask Larry to tell Rhino Africa his Top 5 Courses in South Africa, though his first answer is, “my favourite course is the next one I am going to play.” He says he is particularly fond of the designs in South Africa by Gary Player, Peter Matkovich and Jack Nicklaus. However, Larry’s friends point out that this may be due to his ability to play these particular courses especially well – a good reason I think!

The Arabella Course and Hotel


Arabella Golf Course, Western Cape

As Larry’s home club and one considered to be the Cape’s greatest challenge, the Arabellahad to feature in the Top 5. Created by Peter Matkovich, the course is classical and scenically spectacular, attracting international events such as the Nelson Mandela Invitational Tournament. On the shores of South Africa’s largest lagoon and close to the famous whale watching spot, Hermanus, the Arabella hotel is the perfect setting to unwind after a day on the course.

The Arabella Golf Course

Tel: +27 (0)28 284 0105 / Email: golf@arabellahotelandspa.com


The Links at Fancourt, George

Larry describes this Gary Player creation as a “remarkable phenomenon in design, manicuring and challenge.” As an inland links-style challenge to test only the best golfers, visitors to the course are transported to a world more likely seen on the greens of Ireland and Scotland – but the Outeniqua Mountains and the far more favourable climate serve as a constant reminder of the beauty of South Africa.

Fancourt, George

Tel: +27 (0)44 804 0000 / Email: hotel@fancourt.co.za


St Francis Links, Eastern Cape

Larry attended the opening of this course nestled among the natural sand dunes when the designer, Jack Nicklaus, was asked if this was the best course he had designed. He replied, “I did not say that; I said it may be the best course I’ve ever seen. That’s different. That’s better than the best I’ve ever done.” I think that says it all.

St Francis Links

Tel: +27 (0)42 200 4500 / Email: golf@stfrancislinks.com


The Gary Player Country Club, Sun City

One of the longest courses in South Africa, this course is a true challenge in Africa and home to the Nedbank Golf Challenge since 1981. With lightning fast putting surfaces and imaginatively placed bunkers, this course is ideal for the skilled professional. However, a clever design featuring multiple tees without compromising design allows novices a great day out on the course too.

Sun City Golf

Tel: +27 (0)800 237 422


Leopard Creek, Mpumalanga

Gary Player and Johan Rupert joined forces to created this spectacular course on the border of the Kruger National Park – the perfect place to catch a round of golf in between game drives. Leopard Creek is an unobtrusive part of the environment and in only seven years of operation has been praised as the 2nd best golf course in South Africa.

Leopard Creek

Tel: +27 (0)13 791 2074 / Email: dmurdoch@mweb.co.za


To plan your South African golf holiday, contact one of our expert travel consultants at Rhino Africa.