As the first, and only, executive golf course in South Africa, Simbithi Country Club’s course is a marvel. Though it is undoubtedly a masterpiece, many golfers have made the mistake of underestimating its quirks and surprising challenges. Speaking of quirks, did you know there is a unique story behind the placement of each hole, named for the area of the original farm it once constituted? In this edition, we take you on a journey from the first to the 18th, and share some of the interesting tidbits with you.
Hole 1: VEGETABLE GARDEN (Par 3)
From amadumbe to strawberries, brinjals to carrots, watercress to beans, this was the flourishing kitchen garden which fed the Ladlau family and the farm’s workers. Come up short and you’re in the … raspberry patch.
Hole 2: FARMYARD (Par 3)
Mannie Ladlau’s business was sugar, but his favourites on this farm were his dairy herd—milk, butter and cream for all who lived here—and his fruit—litchis, avocados, pineapples, paw-paws, granadillas and guavas. Even a small coffee plantation! On this hole, tee off in the paddock where the cows grazed under the trees; hit over coffee and pineapples; put out in the cowshed.
Hole 3: SHAD RUN (Par 4)
The fig trees behind this tee mark the original sand road down to the beach at Shaka’s Rock—a public thoroughfare. Traffic… a couple of cars per day and a few fishermen on foot was its peak in shad season.
Hole 4: WILD ORCHIDS (Par 3)
You will still see them along this hole, “dripping from the trees”, wrote the Farmers’ Weekly of this “paradise of a farm”. They’re one of the features of the jungle of indigenous trees, shrubs and creepers which distinguish this part of the course.
Hole 5: MONKEY HAVEN (Par 3)
All the things that monkeys love and need remain in this stretch of pristine forest.
Hole 6: LEGUAAN’S LAIR (Par 3)
Home of Africa’s largest lizard, the water monitor; still seen slipping into the reeds to avoid errant golf balls.
Hole 7: UNGODIWODODI (Par 4)
Hole of the dirt with a sea view of Salt Rock beach, which used to be the farm’s very scenic rubbish dump.
Hole 8 : SHEBEEN (Par 3)
Here, in a hidden clearing in the middle of the crane-break, was the farm’s informal, illegal and very popular distillery and pub, where potent home-brew was made and sampled.
Hole 9: AMAKHOWE (Par 3)
A prime spot for the hunter-gatherers of one of the world’s most delicious wild mushrooms. Termitomyces umkowaani, locally known as amaKhowe, which pop up after Spring and Summer rains.
10TH: TRAMLINE (Par 3)
A narrow—gauge line ran through Zorai and neighbouring Tara, taking cut sugar cane to the loading zone en route to the local mill.
Hole 11: PANIC STATION (Par 3)
Favoured nesting spot for Potamochoerus porcus, or bush pigs; just a snuffle or a fleeting sighting of these fearsome –looking nocturnal creatures caused major consternation among farm-workers weaving home from the shebeen.
Hole 12: GOLOVANE (Par 5)
These were the little trucks which ran along the farm track, filled with cut cane.
Hole 13: LOADING ZONE (Par 3)
Nothing (or so we believe) to do with a locally distilled cane spirit of the same name! This was an early morning meeting place. Farmers and sirdars met here to supervise the send—off of their cane to the mill, to chat and catch up. Locals were taught to drive here.
Hole 14: MHLABATHINI (Par 4)
A very sandy area of the farm—most convenient for the making of the greens on the course.
Hole 15: BANANA HUT (Par 3)
Here is a hide-out; made of banana leaves, used by farm guards whose job was to protect young cane from marauding monkeys and rooting wild pigs.
Hole 16: UMNYUZI HILL (Par 3)
On these steep, coastal farms, ridging the cane fields was a job for mule-drawn ploughs.
Hole 17: ISIQHINGANA (Par 3)
Zulu name for the tiniest island—an islet: unless your pitching is spot on, one of the biggest challenges on this deceptively demanding course.
Did You Know?
The 17th is our Course’s Signature Hole. Golf Pro Elbert du Plessis explains the hole’s uniqueness lies in its short length; it only plays 80m. “It’s an easily underestimated hole, and has caught more people out than any other! Interestingly enough, though, it also produces quite a high number of holes-in-one.” Elbert also says the hole is unarguably stunning: the surroundings, view and vantage point make it deserving of the title of Signature Hole.
Hole 18: CRY BABY (Par 4)
The little loco which ran through the farm would toot in the early hours of the morning—a wakeup call for farmers, staff and sleeping Marot girls, Kay and Jen, much to their mother Mary’s dismay.