February 19th saw the arrival of 35 GSGB members at the Protea Franschhoek Hotel in the Cape Winelands of South Africa. It should have been 36 but sadly Carolyn Mahony had withdrawn to look after her daughter.
Very soon everyone was enjoying the warm sunshine and checking out the great restaurants in Franschhoek for lunch.
Drinks in the bar were followed by a welcome dinner in the hotel.
Old friends, new friends, singles and first timers all mixed in.
The following day 34 golfers set off for De Zalze Golf Club, designed by Peter Matkovich, on the Spier Wine Estate. Only 34 because the tour leader was severely indisposed, probably too much sun !!!!!!
By all accounts it was a rather slow round on a course surrounded by housing developments, albeit with fine views of the mountainous backdrop. A late return to the hotel almost spoiled the dinner bookings.
Saturday was a rest day but a trip had been organized to the Anthonij Rupert wine estate, L’Ormarins. This included a visit to the Franschhoek Motor Museum, an absolute must for any self respecting petrol head. As luck would have it, for Robin Hart anyway, the local Ferrari owners club was holding a track day on the estate’s racing circuit, which we passed on the way to lunch. Seldom would you see so many Ferraris in one place. An excellent lunch and wine tasting rounded off a very good day out.
On Sunday we played at a strangely empty Pearl Valley GC. A Jack Niklaus design,surrounded by the Simonsberg and Drakenstein mountains. This was a beautiful golf course which proved a stern test for us all, including Ian Macleod who came up from the coast to join us.
Another rest day on Monday with various trips being undertaken, including visiting Cape Town, saw quite a number of people having lunch at the spectacular Roca restaurant at Dieu Donne vineyard. This became a highly popular venue. Taking the wine tram around Franschhoek’s many vineyards was also a popular occupation.
On Tuesday we were back to Pearl Valley which was a bit busier this time, but not quite as testing with more generous pin positions on their wonderful greens.
Erinvale GC was our next stop and I think, despite being very busy, was enjoyed by all, once again including Ian Macleod.
That completed the Franschhoek “swing” and on Thursday we had an uneventful, thankfully, flight up to Durban and short transfer to Zimbali lodge. A wonderful throw back to more gracious days, if a little tired now. We all dined together on their highly recommended curry menu.
In the morning 18 buggies were waiting for us at the hotel door for our first round at Zimbali GC. We all enjoyed this interesting and attractive golf course with quite a few opting for another round on their rest day.
We had two rounds at Princes Grant GC , possibly our favourite course, the first of which proved such a stern test that it was decided to play the customary Ladies v Gents match, rather than the final round of the singles, on the second day. Played under the Sunningdale convention all matches went to the wire, but, great result boys.
And then to the final round at Zimbali. A beautiful day on a lovely course, what more could you ask for. Linda Hill was the leading lady with Margaret Brett as runner up and David Storer the leading man with Ed Devine runner up.
And so to the final dinner and prize giving. The hotel had done everything in their power to make our stay enjoyable and they certainly didn’t fail on the last night, laying us tables in the warm evening air, outside but under cover. An excellent meal and wine was followed by prize giving with at least 35 people picking up prizes for something. The cabaret was provided by Judy Gardner, Mike Pring, Robin Hart and Dudley Carvell.
The organizer was presented with a beautiful book on Franschhoek and the winelands and a selection of Ernie Els wines to come. Thank you all very much.This was a lovely tour with a number of debutants and singles as well as “the usual suspects”. Everyone got on really well and there was a happy atmosphere to the whole venture that even British Airways couldn’t quash despite their best efforts.