De Zalze Golf Club, on the R44 south of Stellenbosch, has only been in existence for 15 years, but in that short lifetime, it has constantly set new standards for excellence, and shows maturity well beyond its youth. Regularly ranked in the Top 30 courses in South Africa, and the Top 4 in Cape Town, it’s not just the course and its conditioning that are noteworthy, but your whole experience; from the moment you arrive at the security gate, to the moment you leave. CEO Dave Hansen and his team never sit still, and are always finding new ways to create a ‘wow’ factor, every time you come here.
Before I talk about the course itself, I must mention the facilities at De Zalze. Golfers want for nothing in terms of preparation for their round – free range balls; chipping, pitching and bunker practice areas, and of course a putting green. All these are within easy reach of the clubhouse, and are maintained to the same high standard as the rest of the course.
The flow from the car park, via the stylish changing rooms, past the courtyard with tinkling fountains to the friendly pro shop, is intuitive, and there are always willing staff members to assist with any needs. The recently re-designed clubhouse bar spills gracefully out onto the broad terrace, overlooking the opening and closing holes, inviting you to linger a while either before you warm up, or certainly after your round.
The course, designed by Peter Matkovich, is always in immaculate condition, and every hole has been designed and located with care and attention to the topography (‘Listen to the land’ is Matkovich’s motto), to the extent that almost no two consecutive holes play in the same direction. The greens are receptive and smooth, with subtle borrows or multiple tiers, will equally challenge and reward your ability with the flat stick.
There is plenty of water at De Zalze – the Blaauwklippen River and a number of lakes come into play on 10 of the holes, but most average golfers will be able to avoid the hazards. Interestingly, more than two-thirds of the greens have greater protection on the right hand side, whether it’s a steep drop, water, or a cluster of bunkers, so hone your accurate short irons on the range before you play.
After your round, return to the terrace and enjoy a chilled glass of what you fancy. As the shadows lengthen across the course, marvel at the spectacular display of evening sunshine on the Stellenbosch Mountains, and make a vow to return again and again, to this idyllic golfing playground. The next time you come, you’ll probably find a new ‘wow’ experience!
De Zalze will let you play for free on your birthday! Book in advance, bring your ID with you, and enjoy your green fee on the house (your playing partners will still have to pay, and golf carts are extra).
Holes to Watch:
With every hole having its own unique challenges, it’s not easy to choose just three. However, if I’m pushed, I would select the following:
Par 3 – 12th hole: Men 153m; Ladies 98m
Not exactly played over water, but there’s enough of the wet stuff to the right and rear of the large green to draw your eye. An array of bunkers on the left will catch the ultra-cautious. Play conservatively to the heart of the green, and make plenty of allowance for the break when you’re putting.
Par 4 – 13th hole: Men 268m; Ladies 218m
A visually stunning risk / reward hole, and wholly justified as the signature hole of the course. New tee boxes have been built into the lake, which you must carry to the fairway, which is angled obliquely away from you to the temptingly driveable green. Take on as much water as you like in order to reach as far down the fairway as you dare! If you’ve got time, put another one down and have a pop at the green, just for giggles.
Par 5 – 17th hole: Men 514m; Ladies 432m
None but the biggest hitter or most foolish golfer would even consider going for this green with their second shot. With more protection than a visiting head of state – a deep chasm in front and to the right, and steep banks up to the vines on the left – nearly all golfers will lay up, leaving their shortest, most accurate iron to this deep, undulating green. Walk off this hole with a par or better, and you’ve played well.
Where Off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West
Contact +27 21 880 7300, www.dezalzegolf.com
Photography courtesy De Zalze Golf Club