Thirty years ago, San Lameer Country Club appeared on the map.
The KZN south coast is blessed with several fine courses to play, but this is one that always seems to appear on the ‘to-do’ list of golfers travelling in that direction.
The estate is not just a top golf course but has super facilities for the entire family. Villas are set among the tropical surroundings, allowing families to combine several activities while on holiday.
There was a vision to create the first premier golf estate in South Africa, and this became a reality when the course, designed by Peter Matkovich and Dale Hayes, was officially opened on 7 November 1992.
Being the test of golf that it is, San Lameer has played host over the last 30 years to many Sunshine Tour events, the SA Ladies Open, as well as the men’s premier interprovincial tournament.
Over the past few years, a lot of work has been put in to improve the facilities and the course. A new tee box on the 13th hole has improved the playing experience and makes it a very good risk-and-reward hole. One of the biggest improvements has been the upgrade to the ladies’ tees, which now offer them a real experience of the course.
San Lameer is in the process of implementing a 10-year course improvement programme, with a significant change to holes 1 and 17 scheduled. Interestingly, San Lameer is one of the few courses in the country that successfully oversees their greens every year, so the greens are a pleasure to play on in both summer and winter.
All this bodes well for the golfers and San Lameer promises to stay in the sights of those that want to experience a true test of their game.
As you walk out of the clubhouse, making your way to the 1st tee, the view of the Indian Ocean is breathtaking. The 1st hole is a 473m par five that is a gentle introduction to things ahead.
Standing on the 2nd tee, the view is spectacular. The tee shot needs to be aimed to the left as the ball will run down from that side. It is a well-rated hole at stroke five. Next is a par four up the hill to a raised green. Ideally, you want to approach the green from the right side of the fairway.
By avoiding trouble for the first three holes, you arrive at San Lameer’s first short hole. It plays downhill, with water protecting the wide green. Club selection is key as bunkers lie in the slope behind the putting surface. The 5th hole has a gentle dog leg to the left and at 333m has no real challenges.
The 6th hole is a downhill par four that has bush and trees on both flanks waiting to swallow your ball. The tee shot to play is towards the palm tree on the left which then requires an accurate approach to the green that sits well below the fairway, with water short and left. It is well known that water is San Lameer’s biggest defence, and being accurate is far more important than the length off most tees.
One hole that does require a little more length off the tee is the 7th, which is the course’s stroke-one for a reason. The hole measures 400m, which means most mid-level golfers are hitting driver and a long- to mid-iron into the green. You now turn to head up the hill with the par-five 8th hole. As with most of the holes at San Lameer, the positioning of your drive is essential and it would be advisable to favour the left-hand side of the fairway.
The 9th hole, the second par three is 190m long with a steep downhill (see our signature hole).
After stopping at the really good halfway house, where quick service is the name of the game, it’s back down the hill to the 10th tee and the start of the second nine, which is the more daunting of the two.
The 10th hole, a short par four of only 213m has a narrow fairway with water on the right. If played with the head and not the heart, a simple 5-iron up the fairway followed by a short-iron approach will get you safely on the green, but if there is wind, and there normally is, this plan can be pulled apart.
A walk up the hill to the 11th tee follows. Again, one needs to think about the tee shot because there is danger up front on the right that could be reached. The water around the green on the right is also in play for your second.
The 12th hole is a severe dog leg to the left with strategically placed bunkers. Stroked as the easiest hole on the course, the long hitters may fancy their chances of getting on or pretty close to the green. The danger is going too far left and ending up down the steep banks. Another fairly large green awaits.
As you walk up to the 13th tee and look forwards, the par-5, stroke two immediately gets you thinking, as water plays a part from tee to green. If you go too far right, the first bit of water gets you. If you go too far left, a shot to put you in play for going for the elevated green is almost out of the question. Water cuts off the fairway and runs along the left of the ‘second fairway’ and protects the green. It’s a hole that has ended many a title challenge but is playable if you concentrate on your yardages and avoid the left in your approach.
A short drive in your cart takes you to the third of the short holes. A slight downhill, this 152m par three has a steep bank on the left of the undulating green that needs to be avoided.
The next hole, the 15th, is a downhill par four of 326m that requires a straight tee shot, favouring the right-hand side of the fairway. A large bunker a short distance from the green on the left-hand side is the danger.
The last of the par threes, the 161m 16th requires you to go over the stream in the front and is also protected by the steep bank on the left. Yet another undulating green awaits.
The 17th tee box overlooks a fairway that slopes from left to right but does not reveal the stream that cuts off the landing area. Possibly the best option here is to be conservative and play this par five with respect. A well-placed hybrid or 3-wood leaves you with a second shot offering little danger as you prepare for a wedge into a green with water short right
The 18th hole is one of the most talked about by those that have played San Lameer. It’s a magnificent hole but with more than its fair share of danger. Tall trees and out of bounds on your left and water down on your right, sees the smart play being an iron off the tee and probably a lay-up to in front of the sloping island green. A par to finish will feel like a birdie.
San Lameer Country Club can make you laugh or cry, but one thing is guaranteed, you will want to come back over and over. San Lameer offers golfers championship golf played in pristine conditions all year round.
The magnificent clubhouse, which houses a well-laid-out pro shop and views from the surrounding balcony overlooking the course down to the beach while at the 19th, provides a great ending to a challenging day.
Hole No 9, par three, 182m
The team at San Lameer prides itself on having a course of 18 memorable holes, so that makes it very difficult to single out one hole,’ says San Lameer GM, Pierre van Vuuren.
‘My hole of choice, however, has to be the 9th hole, due to its elevated tee that gives you a spectacular view of the 13th and 18th holes.
‘While San Lameer is known to have some of the most picturesque par threes in the country, this one is arguably the most photographed and is an extremely challenging hole for all golfers.
‘Standing on the elevated tee gives you a view of the green and the ravine separating it from the 10th tee box and the clubhouse sits on the right-hand side. Wind plays a decisive factor and will change your club and approach depending on its strength and direction. You could hit 3-wood one day and wedge the next.
‘Another important consideration is the pin placement. The shot of choice is to play to the right. If you land it just over the bunker that sits about 30m short of the green, the ball will feed onto the putting service.
‘The green is relatively flat but still has some subtle breaks which need to be taken into consideration when putting. Then reward yourself with a cold beer and our famous lamb bunny chow – if your diet allows – as you refuel at our halfway house and get ready for another beautiful but challenging back nine.’
- Non-affiliated visitor: R550
- SAGU-affiliated visitor: R410
- Estate visitor: R355
- Under 25s: R300
- Under 18s: R220
- Member: R170
- Junior member: R140
- Durban: 153km
- Pietermaritzburg: 196km
- East London: 496km
- Bloemfontein: 596km
- Johannesburg: 722km
From King Shaka International Airport, get on N2 from M65. Travel for 174km before turning left onto the Sanlameer estate road
Estate, Main Road, Sanlameer, Southbroom, 4277
– This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.