Length of Course: Men 6126 m Ladies 4875 m
Type of Course: Links
Visitors: Always welcome – subject to availability
Practice Facilities: Chipping and putting greens
Hire Facilities: Mizuno top line clubs, EZ-GO electric carts, pull trolleys
Catering: Full service restaurant, halfway house and conference room for 96 seated banquet-style, 120 conference.
Location: 1 Jack Nicklaus Drive, Main Road, St Francis Bay
CEO: Jeff Clause, US PGA of SA Master Professional
Postal Address: P.O.Box 159, St Francis Bay 6312
Phone: 042 200 4500
Fax: 042 294 0749
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
A MASTERPIECE BEARS FRUIT
When Jack Nicklaus opened this remarkable golf course in December 2006, his signature was surely stamped on the dune-laden landscape as he quoted ‘This is probably the best golf course I have ever seen.’ and he told the large media contingent not to confuse this with ‘the best course I have ever done – it’s better that that!’
Indeed, Mother Nature designed the foundation for this masterpiece well before the Golden Bear’s arrival. A natural dune landscape, situated in a coastal location a little away from the oceanfront had been carved and tempered by time into an oasis of natural undulations and blessed with natural flora, bush and protected indigenous milkwood trees.
It is one of my personal memorable moments that I happened to be present when Mr. Nicklaus was first introduced to the site, as Golfdata’s Robbie Marshall (CEO of the Nicklaus representative construction company in SA) had invited me to ‘look over’ a fabulous site.
I recall our walking among the undulating and meandering dunes for several hours and listening to Nicklaus stating that the natural avenues of the landscape were only waiting for a gentle hand to put in the fairways and greens in what seemed to him (and me) situations that nature had always intended for golf.
Today, six years on, the public has experienced this blending of man and nature into a masterpiece of golf design without impacting on the environment. This lack of impact has nevertheless a challenge to it. High sand dunes, hilly contours in parts and flowing sweeping fairways are entwined with history to create a true links challenge. In true traditional links fashion there are blind holes and some testing entries to greens and perhaps most memorable is the bunkering, as it has an aura of having been in place since the beginning of time. Nature also provides an additional challenge, as this coastal location is privy to strong breezes and when these are present the need for the links-like game will be required.
In 2010 the golf course has been recognised by Golf Digest magazine, as being in the top 10 of South Africa’s wonderful courses and having learnt my golf on exceptional (and difficult) links courses, I have a very high rating for this marvel, as I would like to play it again and again (well when the wind isn’t too strong!).
Apart from the course, the experience at St Francis Links as a visitor is made extra special by CEO Jeff Clause, his wife Liezl and their wonderful team, who have consistently set standards for others to follow in the total encounter you have both on course and off course at St Francis Links. This destination has been awarded one of the very few ‘5 Star Experience’ awards in golf, this by the panel of judges in the Compleat Golfer magazine (it is spelt like that!) and the spacious clubhouse venue has lent itself to hosting several memorable weddings (Liezl is known as the Wedding Planner in the area) without any interference to the 19th hole, which is aptly named Jack’s Bar. An Aqua Spa adds to the facilities.
The Clauses are personal friends of mine and I try to curb my enthusiasm for them and the course, however credibility can be justified when mentioning that Jeff was voted South Africa PGA Professional in 1995 and again in 2001 and he was the fist ever to receive the International PGA Professional of the Year award by the PGAs of Europe.
Jeff is well known throughout South Africa for his ability to give each hole an apt name and his descriptions of these holes are the stuff of legend. So here I bow to his repertoire, but I did choose my two favourite holes.
4th Hole – ’Double Vision’ Par 3 – Men 192 m Ladies 107 m
The first time golfer will only see the green with the flagstick. There are two greens! Whether you play this hole from the front tees to the back green or from the back tees to the front green, this is a truly great par 3. Allow for the prevailing wind and note those greenside bunkers are pretty big. When playing to the top green take an extra club – it is carry all the way and the green surface is a lot bigger than it looks.
12th Hole – ‘Illusion’ Par 4 – Men 324 m Ladies 224 m
Before the course was opened there were no flags and this green was lost in the dunes. There is 30 m between the illusion and the bunkers – trust your club. I asked Jack Nicklaus when he played this hole on opening day what his thoughts were as you didn’t see the bottom of the flag. He quipped, ‘With a fairway this wide, you need a little mystery’. This is my favourite hole on the back nine, because it fits so nicely between the natural dunes. A big tee shot and good distance control to a landing area between the front and back bunkers will have you loving this hole also.
THE ESTATE AND SURROUNDS
The fruits of the standards, both on course and off course are seen in the increase of permanent residents on the estate and the fact that this wonderful venue has resulted in a new golfing market discovering this part of the Eastern Cape, and St Francis Bay in particular, as a delightful place to live.
The golfers may be new, but this has always been a favoured holiday destination for many South Africans. This popularity was garnered by a deserved reputation for having achieved the most caring and charming development of its quite special seaside and canal locations. The original vision, to harness the style of architecture into a unique blend of thatch and black and white homes, evolved from the passion for the area by Leighton Hulett, who started the town from a fishing camp and thatched rondavels.
Turn off at the Humansdorp exit. Travel at the posted speed limit through Humansdorp and turn left at the T-junction at the bottom of the main road. 15 km to St Francis Bay. Turn right at the first entrance to St Francis Bay.