This jewel in the Garden Route collection continues to set the highest standards as a golf course and a lifestyle estate, writes GARY LEMKE in the January issue of Compleat Golfer.
To many South Africans, overseas visitors and returning ‘swallows’, Pinnacle Point Golf Estate represents a bucket-list experience. While it’s hard to disagree with that sentiment, perhaps we should clarify something. ‘Bucket List’ suggests that it’s to be ticked off and then one moves on – although exactly the opposite applies here.
Whether you’ve left a few golf balls out on the course – or dare one say, misfired in the direction of the ocean – or managed to keep the bogeys and rings off your scorecard, the chances are that you will be looking to book your next round almost as soon as you’ve wiped the sheen off your forehead.
This, quite simply, is an experience which is an assault on your senses. Visually arresting with views stretching over ravines, cliffs and out to sea where you might even spot frolicking dolphins, the sounds of paradise, the taste and smell of being right on the coast and more than likely a breeze in your face, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick out individual highlights of the visit.
When Peter Matkovich carved the world-class golf course out of the beautiful cliff-tops location just a driver and 5-iron outside Mossel Bay town centre in the early 2000s, before its opening in 2006, he hit the ‘pinnacle’ of a career in course designing which had started in 1975. ‘It is without doubt the most spectacular golf course I have ever had the opportunity to design,’ he said.
‘What I love about Pinnacle Point is the variation of every hole with the wind velocity and wind direction. You play a different golf course every day! Every golf course has one “signature” hole, but at Pinnacle Point all 18 holes are that,’ he enthused.
Pinnacle Point Golf Estate is also home to Major champion Louis Oosthuizen’s Junior Golf Academy, which also includes a full-length driving range, short game section and a chipping and putting area on the left of the estate as you drive in though the security gates.
The lifestyle and security has seen a visible upturn in new faces from inland and director of golf Quintin Byleveldt says this has been more so since the Covid-19 pandemic and its lockdown restrictions. ‘The whole of Mossel Bay is expanding and we’ve found that a lot of Gautengers have sold up and moved down permanently to this region,’ he says.
’The main reason is the safety and I honestly don’t think you’ll find a safer estate.’
‘The lifestyle here is unbeatable,’ Byleveldt continues. ‘We have a restaurant, bar area, there’s a gym which is where the carpark near the entrance used to be, an events and spa/salon facility, a boardroom, driving range, pool, play activities, areas for the kids and also really great specials and discounts. For instance, a golf member here gets 75 free rounds a year and that includes the use of a cart.’
There’s also a putt-putt course with Paspalum grass for those who feel intimidated by the golf course which stretches around an estate which is about 65% of its building capacity and with a stay-in residency rate of around 40%.
It is fair to say that it can be an intimidating course, undeniably so when the wind is pumping, with the prevailing wind coming off the ocean from the south west. However, when you look at the honours board in the upstairs bar area overlooking the 9th and 18th greens, there’s a healthy number of holes-in-one recorded – and even the lockdown restrictions brought on by Covid-19 didn’t do much to halt the stream of aces around the course. That in itself suggests that if you’re able to concentrate on playing what’s in front of you, instead of being intimidated by the fynbos, the uphills, the steep drops and ravines, the ocean and the wind, you’ll be just fine.
‘That’s actually just it. The first-time visitor to Pinnacle Point takes a look – and you can’t blame them – at the ocean, the fynbos, gorges and the sloped greens and fairways and feels a bit overwhelmed,’ says Byleveldt, who relocated to Mossel Bay in 2017 as golf operations manager and head professional after spending two years at Sun City (Gary Player Country Club and Lost City).
He adds that, ‘If you can carry the ball 160m and you don’t get distracted too much by the ocean, you’ll do just fine around this golf course. In some instances you don’t even have to carry it that far. I always tell my clients that if they are intimidated they can just take the ball a little bit further back in their stance and swing softy. You’ll be amazed at how often that works!’
But, the thing with a golf course as spectacular as Pinnacle Point, is you don’t want to arrive back at the 19th not having given it your best shot. Before you venture up to the 1st tee make sure your cellphone is fully charged. Sure, phones on golf courses are an unnecessary evil to many golfers, but I defy anyone who comes to this course and doesn’t stop to capture the spectacular views on display.
The 1st hole is a little dogleg left uphill to a kidney-shaped green. Standing on the tee box there’s plenty of wide open space in front of you, enough to settle any nerves, and there’s no ocean view to distract (or intimidate) you. Take your driver should you feel the urge, but there’s nothing wrong with a 3-wood hit around 180-200m up the fairway. From there you have an uphill 150-160m, so grab a 6-iron and avoid the bunkers guarding the green. As you will discover on this journey around the course, the greens are rather forgiving, and many of them have helpful backstops that encourage the ball to slide back towards the centre of the green.
With a gentle start out of the way we arrived at the par-four 2nd hole. It’s a straight hole measuring only 306m from the white marker. Some will fancy their chances here with a driver in hand, but if you’re not warm, take out the 3-wood and take aim between the two bunkers that frame the fairway. From there you’ll have about 130m left, comfortable enough to play a 7- or 8-iron. If your ball is below the hole, it’s firm up the slope, and conversely, a bit quicker down the slope.
The first par five arrives next, so you have no choice but to pull the big dog and you have a wide fairway, split into two, to aim at. Your second shot is uphill, and of prime importance is to avoid any of the 11 bunkers on either side of the fairway. You should be left with a chip of around 100m and hopefully a two-putt for a decent par.
Still on the uphill climb you hit the highest point at the course at No 4, a 360m par four that was the old stroke one. Aim at the flag – not that you’ll reach it – and you should be left with a 5- or 6-iron approach to a green that is protected by a large bunker on the right. A bogey would feel like a par here.
This is where you turn towards the ocean which will now be straight ahead of you. It also happens to be the easiest hole on the course, a par five with wide open spaces on the right. Take driver or even 3-wood and you’ll have the option of going for the green in two or laying up. If you’ve connected well with the driver you might only have a short-iron for your approach to a big, sloped green.
Another par four awaits as you continue playing towards the ocean, and this has a links feel to what can be quite an intimidating hole from the tee box. You’ve got to carry the gorge on to a two-tier fairway and your approach, possibly with a 6-iron, is to a long green that again allows your ball to work its way towards the flag with the mounds on either side of it.
By now you would have had the phone out of your cart on a number of occasions but if you haven’t, make sure you grab the moment here on the 7th. It’s a wonderful piece of golfing eye candy, a par three of only 111m, but with a steep drop to the green from the high tee box. It’s no more than a 9-iron for a double-digit handicapper, but be careful of the wind. When you putt out take a moment to look around you. Even pinch yourself, before moving on to No 8.
The clubhouse should be your target here, landing you on the fairway and leaving about 150m to the green, although no one will blame you for taking out the big stick and earning your bragging rights at the 19th. It would require a carry of over 200m over the ocean at a green protected by eight bunkers and you’d better hope the wind isn’t going to ruin the attempt.
The 9th has the prevailing wind coming over your right shoulder (for right-handers) but is a par three that throws up its fair share of aces. With the ocean on your right the most common shot is to err to the left of the green, but most balls hit on to the bank on that left hand side will roll on to the green and leave you with a comfortable two-putt.
No 10, like the 1st, is uphill and also has a wide fairway. Hit a decent 200m drive to find the short grass and you could only have a 7-iron in and a chance to rack up valuable points on this stroke three. There’s more forgiveness off the tee at the par-four 11th if you go down the left of this right dogleg fairway and your approach is slightly downhill to a four-tier green with a characteristic backstop, which will allow your approach to use the help and roll back towards the centre of the putting surface. Next up is the signature hole (see page 63).
The third par three of your round arrives next, another picture postcard and yet another hole that could qualify as the standout on the course. The gorge on the right cuts right across your eyeline and this is another where the intimidation factor will catch some out, especially if they haven’t been striking their irons too well up to now. But it’s only 124m, nothing more than an 8-iron to a long green.
Again, the gorge and ocean run along the right of No 14, a 323m par four with your tee shot being crucial. Byleveldt is said to take driver off the deck here to a fairway that slopes towards the ocean. For us mere mortals, rather make sure you get good connection off the tee and if you hit it left it will feed back to the fairway, leaving you with a 7-iron to a two-tier green that also has a backstop.
The ‘championship holes’ back to the clubhouse start with a par four where you could have the wind behind you, but you’re then faced with three of the toughest finishing holes, especially if you’re feeling a little weary from your exploits, The stroke-one No 16 is a beast and if you don’t take driver off the tee you’re in for a long, long journey to the flag. Be patient and hit driver, 3-wood, 7-iron and the end result might well surprise you.
At 169m, the 17th is a long par three, a slight downhill dogleg to the left to a green guarded by bunkers on the left, but with the wind in your face, it’s not terminal to leave your tee shot short and have a chip to the putting surface.
Which brings us to No 18, one of the most photographed holes in golf. Despite its stroke 17 rating, this 463m finishing par five requires a solid drive to carry the gorge in front of you and you need to keep it right to avoid the 300m long bunker down the left of a fairway sloping from right to left. A good drive will leave you with about 220m in and the clubhouse set against the ocean backdrop. Take your 3-wood and watch as the ball works its way down the slope from right to left and towards the green.
And so you come to the end of your unforgettable journey, some four and a half hours of the finest escape from reality you’ll find anywhere. The guarantee is that the entire experience will leave you not chastened, but coming back for more. This is simply not a course experience that can be tried just once.
STAMP OF EXCELLENCE
South Africa is renowned for the quality of its golf courses and The World Golf Awards, which is into its seventh year and honours golf tourism, world-class courses and golf destinations, has again given its stamp of approval to one of the country’s top courses.
Pinnacle Point was voted Africa’s Best Golf Course for 2020, making it four South African courses to take home the title of the continent’s finest, joining Royal Johannesburg & Kensington (East Course) in 2018 and 2019, Gary Player Country Club in 2015 and Leopard Creek Country Club in 2014. Talk about an ‘awesome foursome’ of golf courses.
For at least the next year Pinnacle Point can hold bragging rights to being the finest golfing destination in Africa. Considering Augusta National, host of The Masters, was named the world’s best golf course for 2020, Pinnacle Point has put Mossel Bay on the golfing map.
Pinnacle Point Estate went up against the creme-de-la-creme of golf courses, 26 of South Africa’s finest, including Steyn City, Fancourt (Montagu), Pearl Valley, Arabella, Leopard Creek, Simola, De Zalze and Gary Player Country Club.
In 2016 and 2017, Pinnacle Point was named South Africa’s Best Golf Course at the World Golf Awards. Understandably, there is a lot of pride, coupled with ongoing humility and a burning ambition to build on the successes, at the estate’s HQ. ‘To win in South Africa and now in Africa is such an accomplishment and one cannot deny the feeling of absolute pride to be awarded this title, says Pinnacle Point’s director of golf, Quintin Byleveldt. ‘Our utmost thanks to everyone, who not only voted for us, but also to the staff and management who made it all possible. The ultimate prize would be to claim the World’s Best Golf Course.’
There is still room for more in the ever-expanding trophy cabinet. Pinnacle Point Estate also received gold for the second consecutive year as the Most Popular International Golf Course at the 19th annual Golf Journal Travel Awards 2020. The Golf Journal, based in Germany, celebrates the top golf courses, hotels and travel destinations from all over the world.
Pinnacle Point also would like to highlight the contribution of a 14-year-old relationship with Global Golf on-course retailer Pro Phop. The Pro Shop has always satisfied passing golfers and given top service.
Pinnacle Point Golf Estate
Hole No 12, 318m, par four
By the time you get to the 12th hole you’ve probably exhausted your ‘selfies limit’ for the day, but this is a course that keeps on giving those moments. This hole is one of them. But, as golf director Quintin Byleveldt explains, if you are able to block out the ocean on the right, you’ll have a lot of success on this hole.
‘Everyone seems to look at the ocean instead of the fairway. When you stand on the tee box you have this wonderful view,’ he says. ‘You are high up and have this amazing chessboard look ahead of you. Everything is cut to perfection and you have the bunkers to your right. It’s a typical Peter Matkovich design with a Pebble Beach-type vibe. The green looks mouth-watering from where you are and the fairway is split into two. The two pot bunkers on the left is your line. If you’re new to the course, take a 3-wood or 2-iron, or even a hybrid club, rather than your driver. You can find the fairway with an easy 180m drive. Left of the fairway is quite wide with undulations and if you go too far left into the rough, the ball can bounce out and roll on to the fairway.
‘From there you have about 140m to the two-tiered green which also slopes down to the sea, but if you take an easy 7-iron and aim towards the left, your ball should work its way back towards the middle of the green. The same applies if you go top right – avoiding the bunkers there – and again the ball should use the natural slope as a backstop and roll towards the centre of the green.’