Ernie Els’ clifftop resort course at Oubaai Golf Club

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When you are an avid golfer and you are staying in George, South Africa for a little while, you have a couple of choices. You have 3 world-famous Gary Player golf courses at Fancourt to choose from, one Ernie Els signature course at Oubaai, the George Golf Club and at least 5 other courses in the region not far from each other.

Fancourt are quite strict with people who are admitted to play the famous ‘Links’ course. That’s generally just possible for estate residents and resort guests. As we stayed at the Oubaai Resort a bit outside of town in Herold’s Bay, not at Fancourt, we figured it’s probably not a bad idea to play the resort’s own Oubaai course. Especially because the Montagu course at Fancourt was blocked for a corporate tournament that day.

A word and a blow, we got a tee time quite short notice—2 hours in advance really. How is that even possible, you might ask, but truth be told, the hotel and the course was pretty empty. Especially the hotel seemed as if we and maybe another handful were the only guests on the rather large compound. What seemed weird in the hotel in the beginning turned out to be quite cool on the golf course, as we hardly saw anybody else playing there.

But first things first. Oubaai is an Ernie Els signature golf course, and it’s actually his first one in South Africa. And although the hotel complex is falling behind in quality, the course seems to be in rather OK shape. There might be some yellow-ish areas here and there and some others which lack maintenance, but nothing too bad to mention.

The course is a very typical hotel resort property layout with wide fairways, mainly challenging golfers not with the tee shot but with the shot into the green. It features an interesting design but is far from being overly complicated, difficult or consequently exciting. But it’s not getting boring either. All golf holes have their right to exist in the way they do and there are at least two fantastic and outstanding holes: the 6th and the 17th.

The 6th is a 180m par-3 over a gorge (for men) and hence demands a brave tee shot to a fairly small target. This is by far the most interesting hole on the course, at least in heart beats per minute terms.

The 17th is another par-3 and is the absolute signature hole at Oubaai; very short, played from an elevated tee box towards a green sitting directly on the cliff. It’s an easy hole but has some serious golf porn potential. Unfortunately we had some low hanging clouds that day, otherwise we had some pictures taken that could easily work as Golficiency homepage banners. Very beautiful. It must have been the distracting views across the ocean that we both screwed up our birdie putts.

We finished up our round surprisingly quick for a high-season mid-day round of golf but quite liked the fact that it was possible at all.

The only sub-optimal points I’d like to mention are the pretty lame GPS and screen devices on board the golf carts. They are non-touch-screen devices and lack quite some functionality compared to those with touch screens.

The other annoying thing is that the golf club somehow belongs to the hotel, but somehow doesn’t. So you can’t charge any purchases or beverages/food onto your room bill, nor are you allowed to enter the property without the hotel porter who takes you to the club house in a 15 minute ride with a golf cart. All that is for security reasons obviously as nobody should be allowed to enter the golf housing estate without proper and official company. Understandable but a bit inconvenient if you ask me. As in all golf estates in South Africa the upper ten thousand want to feel secure when they step outside their huge beachside and clifftop mansions. Point taken. But there must be other ways to keep out the non-golfing burglars. It works in other estates too.

We were later told that Nelson Mandela’s niece lives on the property (in quite some palace) and even Ernie Els, Mr Big Easy himself, lives just around the corner from there, at least when he’s around which obviously is not too often as a touring professional with other residences in Florida and London.

By the way, as a warning, if you are like me and you booked the hotel not only for golf, but for the Hyatt Regency resort quality, the hotel amenities and the South Africa Golf Hall of Fame museum on premise, please be warned: the Hyatt Regency group left the resort to new owners a while ago, all shops in the yard are closed down, the overall look and feel of the hotel complex has to be described as ‘surrendering’ and last but not least the South Africa Golf Hall of Fame was also closed down and apparently moved on to Cape Town.

So after all, some mixed feelings about the hotel property in general but quite positive on the course itself. Not a top-notch course from an architectural standpoint but absolutely a great day on the course with breathtaking views.

Golficiency Rating: 6/10

The Els Club Dubai – a Golficiency slideshow

Early February we were fortunate enough to travel to Dubai and play some absolute outstanding golf destinations. See here.

One of these fine and luxurious golf venues was The Els Club Dubai, a fantastic course in one of the most affluent areas in Dubai, Victory Heights. The course is nestled between the residential areas and therefore meanders through lines of villas left and right the fairway.

The course was in fantastic condition and I believe this wasn’t just because the Omega Dubai Desert Classic was hosted just a stone’s throw away in the Emirates Golf Club one week earlier. Famous golfers like Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Ernie Els himself visited just some days earlier and I was proud to play such a great course, designed by a living legend in one of the most interesting cities in the world.

I created a 5min video, which is not more than a picture slideshow, but it expresses very well the atmosphere of the course, the main course characteristics and supports me in saying that this is a great place to be.

More information:

Planning for South Africa in full swing

You may or may not know, Golficiency will travel to South Africa later this year. We’ll be heading south again to Africa and this time it’s the Cape region we’re gonna travel to.

The planning and organisation is in full swing but nothing is really fixed yet. Therefore the overall agenda is quite packed, but we’re still trying to figure out how to get all the dots connected.

Obviously on our list is a safari, then traveling along the Garden Route, a bit of hiking, beaching and whale watching at the coast, wining and dining in the Winelands, sightseeing at the Cape Peninsula, chilling in Camps Bay and then finishing and relaxing in the beautiful city of Cape Town.

When you’ve been there already and you know what I’m talking about here, then you are lucky. I’ve never touched ground on South African soil, but I can’t wait to and will definitely read more and more about this great country over the next months.

One of all the great things you can do in South Africa as well is golfing! The British brought their love for the game and it stayed when they left. Plus in this region you have the perfect golf weather all year round. That in combination with numerous first class courses makes this place on earth somewhat special; a golfing heaven.

I talked to quite a number of people already, received a lot of great advice and I’ve read so much about golf in RSA over the last weeks that I’m pretty confident that I came up with a superb list of golf courses which I could play. As I said, the planning is not yet fully done and I have currently no feeling for how many golf days I can manage to squeeze in but if I could, I’d play all of them!

Due to the route we’re taking and to reduce the number of domestic flights, I crossed out two major golf destinations already. One being Sun City and the other one the famous Leopard Creek Country Club, just at the southern tip of the world famous Kruger National Park.

What I came up with is a list of some highly regarded courses and clubs, which I tried to group in sort of the geographical order along the south coast of South Africa (incl. architects):

Knysna

George

Cape Town

So that’s the list of courses which is my basis for further planning. I keep you in the loop once I decide on further steps in the organisation process. As always there might be some changes to the current plan but I have to start with something.

Even Gary Player likes the idea!

I really feel humbled that Gary Player from time to time responds to my tweets. He is one of my heroes, not only for the golf but from a personality standpoint as well and I can’t wait to be in South Africa, walk in his shoes and play golf courses that he had designed. I have a similar strong feeling to Ernie Els and as he’s from RSA as well, I’m sure the trip will be unforgettable.

If you have a personal tip to share, please let me know—via a comment below or the contact site. Thank you.

Green heaven on earth at The Els Club Dubai

Golf day 2 in Dubai. On day 1 I was playing The Address Montgomerie and in order to keep me excited I figured The Els Club Dubai would do the trick. So I made my way to the Dubai Sports City, a district in south Dubai in which you find football and rugby stadiums, hockey clubs and tennis courts. A complete part of the city dedicated to sports. It offers some residential areas also and in the middle of it, exactly, you have a golf course.

To be honest, when you drive to The Els Club, and I’m still not sure whether we took the correct route, you don’t see much at all. It’s like leaving the city for the desert and you see sand wherever you look. This part of Dubai is under construction big time. And then suddenly you’ll find the entrance to the property, the gated community Victory Heights, lush green, trimmed and manicured gardens present themselves. You drive along a driveway and suddenly you reach the impressive club house, which is even more impressive than The Address.

The staff is very friendly and charming, taking care of your tee time, your bag and your belongings. There was not one single person of staff in bad mood the whole day. Very impressive. So I entered the open terrace of the club house and I started to realise and visualise how this course was basically set out. Standing on the back of the clubhouse, overlooking the putting green and greens no 9 and 18, you’ll immediately see that there are perfectly maintained and treasured fairways bending between lines of houses. A view you wouldn’t expect from the outside of the estate.

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Before I headed outside, I went in again to change in the locker room. Again, very thoughtfully decorated, offering full service, from toiletries to fresh fruit drinks, jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms. Basically everything you would wish for was to find here. A locker room paradise, with a reading corner and some flat TVs with golf coverage. I started to love this place.

But then it was about time to hit the course, or better the driving range before that. So I took the cart to the training facilities area, just to realise that this place is home to the Butch Harmon Golf School and later I was told that Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Ernie Els himself been there two weeks earlier to work on their game in preparation for the desert swing on the European Tour. And now it was me, hitting white balls down the range… quite a feeling.

The course itself is run by Troon Golf, but in contrast to day 1 at The Address the grass looked so much greener, just more taken care of. The starter was overwhelmingly nice and friendly and we had a good chat before I teed off. The course seemed not to be busy and tee 1 was very empty. I was told I’d play on my own, the 2-ball in front of me was already on hole 3 and that day they measured a green speed of a 10 on the stimpmeter. Ehm, excuse me, did you say “ten”? He did say ten, so I knew what I could expect—freaking quick greens!

After he took some pictures of me pretending taking a shot off the tee, I packed away my driver (which I got out just for the photo) and grabbed my beloved 2-iron. Topped the first ball and lost it in the wasteland area. “Mulligan” the starter screamed with a huge grin from behind. The second shot (well third with the penalty) was a real stunner, easily 200 metres down the middle of the fairway. Much better. I was pumped, jumped on the cart and off I went.

The cart was, quite similar to the Montgomerie course, equipped with tees, towels, ice cold water and a scorecard. Plus it had one of these on-board GPS systems, and this time even the really good one, with which you can contact the Marshal, the front desk or the halfway house for refreshments.

I loved this course the minute I stepped out of the car and these holes gave it the rest: an immaculate course condition, beautiful, lush, dark green fairways and greens, perfect bunkers and interesting wasteland areas.

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There were many (and I mean many) green staff on-site, taking care of golfers and the course. So many people working hard to create a green masterpiece within a desert environment. Strange obviously, but well executed! All the maintenance people were very friendly and secretly acted without disturbance. And you felt they tried everything to make this place look like in a calendar. I even saw one guy with a very long flexible stick sweeping away foot prints on a green! Can you imagine? A person removing sand on a green because it doesn’t look good enough! I was even more impressed!

The course is a long 18 hole, par 72 layout and has a mix of a links style design combined with a desert style setting. You will see large sand waste areas, undulating fairways and greens and massive bunkering. All this set on undulating slopes of native desert vegetation. And when I say desert, I mean desert. This course offers proper sand areas, much more than others in the region I suppose. Fairways are narrower than normal and it features quite impressive elevation changes. Some bunkers are probably 3 metres deep, so you might want to leave it short…

It is said that all holes constitute Els’ favourite characteristics from around the world: bunkering from Royal Melbourne, greens resembling Pinehurst No. 2 and wide, rolling fairways. A true masterpiece in golf course design. And although the location is in a fairly remote part of the city (compared to areas such as Dubai Marina or Downtown) the course at the Els Club is a pure treasure in the golf world map–and made it to my favourite Top 5 immediately.

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Where do I start describing the course? There are so many fantastic holes that it’s really tough to go for some favourites. The first holes are quite easy to play, nothing too fancy, not too difficult. The 4 is a nice par 3, playing down into a small valley. And you start to realise what a 10 on a stimpmeter is when you constantly putt towards the flag and the ball keeps rolling and rolling and ends up the bunker on the other side of the green. Then you realise what tour players have to putt on…

The next hole 5, a dogleg left with quite a vast wasteland area to carry. The par 4 7 with its carry over water and a lake all the way to the left was a first very interesting hole featuring water. Hole no 8, the next one is a par 4 with an interrupted fairway by huge wasteland again. And then there is the 9, a fantastic hole, elevated tees, huge wasteland to carry, a tree right in the middle of the fairway and a difficult second shot. The green is beautifully set in front of the club house terrace. What a great hole! I was in love with the course and had just seen half of it, which made me smile.

The 11 is a lovely long par 3 and no 12 is a dogleg right with well-guarded green behind a sand dune. Two holes later you find yourself at the same lake which was in play on the 7, but now you play along the other side of it. I was brave, tried the Tiger-line and lost two balls… That was the last time I acted brave that day I guess.

Notable holes number 17 and 18: The 17 being a par 3 towards a huge sand dune. All you see is sand, but the green you try to land the ball on is tricky, quick and unforgiving. The 18 is a long par 5 with a forced carry over wasteland from an elevated tee box. I hit the ball 2 metres next to the pin with my third, putted for yet another birdie—and three-putted.

What a round! It was hot and I was exhausted but if I could, I would have started over again, 1-18. Definitely a great course in a great setting. Just like the Montgomerie course the day before, you won’t find a place with free vista, just dunes or fairway. That’s just not possible because the houses along the course are so close and the holes really meander through these multi-millionaires’ backyards.

When you are around and after a good round of golf, you have to come and play The Els Club. It’s definitely worth the effort. It’s quite an expensive undertaking though: 895 AED (215 EUR) for a midweek round is very expensive if you ask me. So bring some cash and enjoy one heck of a golfing destination.

I bought one sleeve of Titleist logo balls and couldn’t leave without a Els Club polo shirt. I was in golfer’s heaven.

The Dubai 2015 trip: a short recap

els-banner8Just today, early morning I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany after a one week trip to Dubai. At 5:30 we touched ground in wet and cold central Europe. The days before I was fortunate enough to enjoy the sun, go for a swim in the pool, have a breakfast outside, go sight-seeing in the glittering city of Dubai and play some of the most magnificent golf courses in the world! All in all a great one week break! As planned (see here) I booked tee times at:

Over the next days I will publish more in-depth course analyses and descriptions. One thing I can reveal already is that all courses kept up with my requirements and offered outstanding service and great fun, on and off the course. One club however stood out, in a positive sense, and immediately made it onto the Golficiency Top 5 courses list! What didn’t work out was to see the Sunday action of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club to see Rory McIlroy lift the trophy in the end. But as the rest of the week turned out to be so superb, this was easy to get over with. In general I really recommend playing all the mentioned courses, although this is not a cheap endeavour at all. But Dubai really is worth a trip as it offers so many interesting things you can see and do—golf included.

Golf travel plans in 2015

The longer I think about travel plans with my wife in 2015, the more I keep golf in my mind. It’s not what she’d appreciate to hear, but for nearly every location we have on our list, I check whether there are sufficient possibilities to swing a club. If not, I’d find a better place to stay—which is not entirely true, but almost…

But it’s more the general travel bug combined with golf rather than pure golf trips I have on my list for 2015.

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First thing on my list is a one-week trip to Dubai in February. We’re meeting up with friends, staying at their house, playing with their new baby girl and on three consecutive days I will excuse myself for 6 hours respectively to play 3 awesome courses according to current plans. I’m currently checking rates for green fees and boy, these are quite expensive!

  • The Els Club Dubai
  • The Address Montgomerie Dubai
  • Jumeirah Golf Estates Dubai

Next on the agenda so far would be a one-week hiking trip to Kitzbühel, Austria in June. Together with my parents we’ll stay in the Wilder Kaiser region to climb some mountains. As “Kitz” offers a variety of courses (which is not common in Austria) and beautiful country side alike, it was the perfect match for joint hiking and golfing endeavours. The courses I have on my list are these:

  • Golf Eichenheim, Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Schwarzsee, Kitzbühel-Reith

Some time in summer, when the weather is nice in Germany too, I’ll go and see my cousin who recently moved to a new place outside of Hamburg, Germany. I grew up in the north and I do have quite some friends living in Hamburg but I never managed to play a round of golf there. This is about to change this year. As my cousin lives south of Hamburg, I figured I’ll start with the “South of Hamburg Courses” first (and attempt the others such as Gut Kaden, Falkenstein, Wendlohe, etc. in 2016 maybe):

  • Hittfeld
  • St. Dionys
  • Green Eagle
  • Schloss Lüdersburg

After a short romantic break in Venice in September, during which I (guess what) won’t play any golf at all, we might end up in South Africa for a long Cape Town and safari vacation later this year. This has been on our list for quite a while but we did postpone it again and again as we decided to go to Mauritius for honeymoon instead. Now it’s back in our heads but yet not fully confirmed. Especially the golf is not set in stone at all but of course I think about Fancourt, Pinnacle Point, Leopard Creek and others. In case you have a great idea or even a travel itinerary which combines sight-seeing, safari and golf, I’d be really grateful to receive good advice. I’ve never been there but I’m sure it’s a beautiful country with loads to see, to do and many magnificent courses to play.

Sounds like a plan? The next 12 months will tell whether we managed to get all this golf scheduled into our other commitments. Fingers crossed we all stay healthy to execute everything as envisaged. We’re always very thankful that we are as blessed to have the opportunity to travel that much as this is not taken for granted at all.

Next stop: Golf in Dubai

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I’m restless, especially during winter when there’s not much going on. In those situations I think about trips to make, places to go and courses to play, keeping my bucket list by my side and trying to tick some boxes.

The next awesome trip will be again to Dubai in February. Yesterday I booked the flights and my boss today signed the days off: 8 days in the UAE, mainly Dubai but possibly Abu Dhabi as well, the nitty-gritty details are still to be decided.

What’s pretty much set in stone on the other hand is 3 or 4 rounds of golf. I’ve been to the UAE before and was fortunate to play the Faldo Course at the Emirates Golf Club and Tower Links in RAK, but there are plenty of other treasures to lift in that region.

Desert golf may not be everybody’s cup of tea and I assume some will say “what the heck does he want there?” but truth be told, golfing in the Emirates is a unique experience and this put together with unparalleled service and amenities, it’s just a very fine thing to do. And you will agree the moment I put some pictures on the website.

Looking at my bucket list, there are some interesting courses which want to be discovered. I’m still in a very early planning process, but given that Abu Dhabi is probably out of scope due to other commitments in Dubai, this is what’s currently on my list:

If I could even fit in another round I’m not sure whether I’d go for the second course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates or try another one. That could possibly be either the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club or the Dubai Creek Yacht & Golf Club, both fantastic courses I’m sure. And even Robert Trent’s Al Badia Golf Club or Jack Nicklaus’ Arabian Ranches are far from being shabby dunes courses, they are absolute stunning highlights—everyone in its own way.

But time is precious and playing golf in UAE is expensive, therefore I go for 3 or 4 rounds max I reckon.

Please leave a comment in case you have some advice. I would be very thankful for further insight and ways how to decide what courses to play.

Getting ready for Mauritius

The wedding is around the corner and with it the planning for the honeymoon. We’re going to Mauritius and I can’t wait for it! The next two weeks will be absolutely hell in the office—my thoughts always circle around the wedding ceremony, the party and the honeymoon.

Mauritius is the perfect golf destination and I’m very much looking forward to the two weeks with my wife-to-be and obviously to the rounds of golf I’ve scheduled in. The missus rarely plays golf so she’s not as excited as I am but she obviously knows about my passion so I got my OK to play some rounds.

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Mauritius more and more becomes famous for being the place-to-be golf destination in the Indian Ocean. That’s partly because of the superb golf courses they have there, but as well because of the numerous 5- and 6-star hotels and beach resorts. Flipping through the travel catalogues it’s sheer luxury what pleases your eyes and imagination. And that’s basically what all golfers want: sunshine, great golf courses, beautiful surroundings, pleasing amenities and outstanding service and accommodation!

The following courses are the ones which I currently have on my list for the trip. And I do hope that we can squeeze all these in!

Some of these courses are nestled within rainforest, but most of them are situated right at the coast line, offering fantastic vistas onto the Indian Ocean. I’ll have my camera ready—time to follow Golficiency on Instagram!

Any thoughts or suggestions, please let me know!