Simbithi is not a long course, but it is superbly designed and provides an exhilarating experience for fast-living golfers, writes MARK SAMPSON.
After a 30-minute drive north of the bustling centre of Durban you will find the Simbithi Eco-Estate between Ballito and Salt Rock on KwaZulu-Natal’s Dolphin Coast.
Just 10 minutes away from King Shaka International Airport, the estate is well positioned for accessibility, and its reputation as a lifestyle estate is well earned.
The thriving housing estate has successfully balanced its growth with minimal impact on the natural surroundings. The ‘eco’ status is taken seriously and numerous environmental projects are on the go throughout the 430-hectare site.
The course was built by Peter Matkovich with today’s fast-paced lifestyle in mind. At 3 752m, it enables those with demanding schedules to play 18 holes in three hours or less.
The card is made up of 13 par threes, four par fours and a par five (for the men) in an ‘executive’-style layout. It enables you to slip in nine holes before or after work. Another clever addition is the variety of tees at each hole, allowing for some short holes, so the beginner or junior golfer is not overly intimidated.
Many may think the shorter length makes it an easier course, but nothing could be further from the truth. Matkovich says short does not equal easy: it was designed to ensure every club in the bag is required.
The land on which the course is built is mostly rehabilitated sugarcane farmland and the rolling hills of the area dictate the route of the course through the valleys. The natural waterways and indigenous forest help to shape many holes and accommodate a prolific bird community.
The changes in height, undulating fairways, small greens and ample water hazards all play a role in making club selection a difficult task.
Take note of the hole names, which all originate from the farm regions of yesteryear. For example, the 1st is called ‘Vegetable Garden’. At 109m it’s an easy start to the round, although the drop from the tee and sizeable bunker right must be kept in mind. The 2nd is slightly longer at 134m and its large, elevated green, with a number of slopes and mounds, make it stroke four.
Next up is the first par four, a 355m downhill, narrowing fairway leading to a well-protected green. A good drive will leave a short- to mid-iron to find the surface of the well-bunkered green with a water hazard right.
The 4th is an uphill 136m. The small, elevated green and thick coastal bush along its entire left flank can tighten the swing. Deeply embedded in the coastal bush, the 5th is aptly named ‘Monkey Haven’. At 194m it is the longest par three on the course and with its well-bunkered surface it earns stroke-two status. Going left on this hole is not an option, with a massive bunker and bush protecting it. The 6th is a trademark Matkovich beauty with water and bunkers protecting its undulating surface. An elevated tee box highlights the splendour and danger of the hole.
The 7th is a short but dangerous uphill par four. It’s only 270m, so a good drive will leave very little into the elevated green. The putting surface is protected by mounds on the one side and bunkers on the other, so accuracy is vital The 8th is a lengthy par three at 178m, protected by water left and two decent-sized bunkers right. The 9th, taking you back to the clubhouse, is a long, uphill par three. The elevated green and massive bunker right are its main defence.
The back nine starts with two decent-length par threes. The 10th is a tight downhill hole of 153m with bush on the left of the undulating green. The 11th, at 148m, is a lot more intimidating with a water hazard to clear and a massive bunker down the left side. Missing the green right is not a bad option.
The 12th is the only par five on the course and is not easily forgotten. The fairway is split by small rivers making their way down the valley. Reaching the elevated green in two will take two good hits, while the hazard left will gratefully accept any wayward shots.
The 13th is a strong par three with coastal bush down its right flank. The par-four 14th is a picturesque hole with profuse grassland that needs to be cleared to reach the rising fairway. With a length of 383m and being exposed to prevailing winds, it is a well-earned stroke one. The 15th is another stunning hole on which the land falls away from the green. Bunkers left and right make its surface a tricky target, especially at 193m and exposed to the prevailing winds.
The 16th is only 99m over water, but the narrow green makes for a difficult target, with the tee options adding some confusion to club selection. The 17th is the shortest hole on the course. But don’t let the 76m fool you.
The final hole, of 387m, takes you back up to the clubhouse and a well-deserved beverage. It is a long hole, with bunkers lining its fairway up to the green. Besides having some severe slopes, the green also has two pot bunkers left and a massive bunker right. A fitting hole to remind you an executive-style course is no gimmick.
Simbithi’s status as a leading South African estate is enhanced by the fact it was awarded the Compleat Golfer/Volvo 5-Star Golf Experience Award for four years in a row. The relaxed and safe family atmosphere and numerous facilities throughout the estate add to its reputation and make it a desirable destination.
The course itself has set a new trend in golf, creating an amicable solution between today’s demanding lifestyle and spending time working on your swing. The fact it has the Matkovich seal of approval clinches the deal.
The family-oriented estate offers many activities. A multipurpose clubhouse encompassing a swimming pool, large lounge area with a restaurant, bar and more intimate spaces for private functions are on offer, alongside a new children’s play area.
Be sure to spend some time at the in-house John Platter Wine Gallery. You may even bump into the man himself, as he resides on the estate.
Affiliated: 18 holes R250
9 holes R180
Visitors: 18 holes R250
9 holes R180
Juniors: 18 holes R150
9 holes R100
Carts: 18 holes R280
9 holes R200
Cape Town: 1 677km
Port Elizabeth: 957km
East London: 706km
From Durban or King Shaka International, take the N2 and pass through the oThongathi Toll Plaza. Take the 212 (Shaka’s Rock Road) exit. At the T-junction, turn right and go over the N2 bridge. Proceed for 500m and Simbithi will be on your right.
Pro Shop: 032 946 5407
General enquiries: 032 946 8360
– This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Compleat Golfer