Recently renovated and with direct flights now available to Margate, Simon Hill felt it was time he ditched his nine-to-five job and paid the folks down at San Lameer a visit. And as it turns out, he wasn’t disappointed
The engines of the CEM Air Bombardier Dash 8-100 whirred to life. Like a naughty schoolboy I found myself perched at the back of the aircraft watching as the last passengers clambered on board. And just like a school kid about to go on an outing, I was excited.
With a cruising speed of just under 450km/h it would take us roughly 90 minutes to get from OR Tambo International to Margate Airport – certainly the fastest I had ever done the trip, which for the better part of my 31 years, was in the back of my dad’s Toyota Cressida with ‘Hier kom die Bokke’ on repeat in my Discman. Looking back, I can only imagine how long the drive must have seemed to my poor parents.
Flying to Margate is probably not top-of-mind when it comes to ways of getting to the South Coast, so when I was told that CEM Air operated a route out of Joburg and that I was going to be doing exactly that I was more than a little surprised.
Margate, for those of you who have never been there (ie, most Capetonians), is on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast about 20km south of Port Shepstone. Ironically, the river that flows into the sea at Margate is called ‘Nkhongweni’, which means ‘place of entreaty’ because the original inhabitants were reputed to be so mean that travellers had to beg for hospitality.
I say ironically because email correspondence between Meyer du Toit, golf director at San Lameer, and myself before my arrival that Friday morning already alluded to ‘braais, beers and the odd brandy’ as highlights I could look forward to during the duration of my stay there. Begging, it seemed, was not something I would have to do this particular weekend. At least not when it came to the hospitality side of things.
Those of you who have heard of Margate will know it is located on one of the most popular stretches of coastline in the country. Every December thousands and thousands of people (mainly from Gauteng) travel there to relax and unwind from another stressful year spent mainly in traffic.
It’s a town on the Hibiscus Coast and the surrounds are loaded with cool stuff to do. Like playing golf – there are golf courses dotted all over the show and that is what had brought me there. Not that I was a stranger to the place but I’d heard things had changed and felt I was in need of a refresher course.
Margate, however, was not my final destination, 15km down the road is the well-known holiday resort of San Lameer. I say resort but I really mean private township because that’s what it was proclaimed in 1977.
The clue is in the name and if your immediate thought was that a well-known insurance company may have had a hand in the development, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. Sanlam purchased the land in 1974 and today the estate is home to some 630 houses, the odd antelope, two blue flag beaches and one of the last remaining wetland forests on the South Coast. It’s also where you’ll find a Matkovich and Hayes-designed golf course.
It was the latter I was particularly interested in especially since I’d heard that all the greens had been redone and the clubhouse completely renovated.
‘The revamp was done in October 2014 and it’s a completely different vibe now,’ says Meyer, who moved up from George in May 2013 to take over the running of the place.
Meyer’s smiling wife, Vickey, who runs the pro shop, meets us out front with the keys to our golf cart knowing full well I was eager to get out there and swinging. Together this young husband and wife duo seem to have re-energised the establishment. Night golf on the estate’s mashie course followed by pizzas up at the clubhouse afterwards is but one example of how they’ve tried to shake things up. Oh, and they like to do sushi evenings too.
It’s all part of a new-look San Lameer that, like quite a few South African clubs, has realised you need to change with the times or risk becoming a statistic.
And things like a pizza oven and sushi nights help you do that.
‘You must see that pizza oven gooi in December. It pumps,’ says Meyer to me that evening after a blustery day out on the course that left me with a dented ego and a hairstyle resembling someone from The Jackson 5. ‘We actually can’t keep up with demand.’
Meyer clearly knows what he’s doing when it comes to running a club, having worked at the likes of Pezula and Simola in Knysna. And the formula he applied there seems to be taking hold here at San Lameer – just like the ‘old days’ the club has once again become the central focal point. People meet not only to play golf but to also enjoy the facilities like the restaurant and stylish open plan bar and lounge.
Also recently upgraded was the four-star San Lameer Hotel complete with 40 rooms as well as an awesome spa (believe me!) and conference facilities. It’s within walking distance from the course but if you’re feeling lazy hotel manager Marc Gers says he can organise a golf cart for you.
My time there was to include three rounds of golf. One at San Lameer, the other at charming Southbroom and the third at the famous Wild Coast Sun. However, due to inclement weather on the Sunday the round at Wild Coast had to be abandoned, which upset me so much I felt the need to comfort eat. This was done at the renowned Waffle House in Ramsgate and it’s a must for anyone feeling like they need a bit of a pick-me-up or just a flippen’ nice breakfast.
The point here, though, is that there is a plethora of very good golf courses in the vicinity. Apart from the ones I have mentioned, there is also Port Shepstone Country Club, Umdoni Park Golf Club, Selborne Golf Estate and Margate Country Club all within driving distance.
San Lameer also have a villa rental division, making it the ideal spot for golf tours or just a lekker family holiday.
A return flight from OR Tambo to Margate on CEM Air will set you back around R2 500. However, if you take into account the tolls, traffic, petrol and general wear and tear spent getting down there by car, it is money well spent. And if you’re staying at the hotel San Lameer’s shuttle service will collect and drop you off, which means you don’t even need transport.
So next time you’re thinking about a weekend golfing getaway look no further than the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast and in particular San Lameer. Fantastic facilities combine with a challenging, undulating layout that will have the best of golfers tested especially if the wind gets up, which it often does.
And while you’re there, and if you ask really nicely, I’m sure Meyer and Vickey will have you over to theirs for a braai and some ‘lemonade’. Just make sure you don’t have an early tee time