The South Coast of KZN has 11 well known and highly rated golf courses, but on one of my field trips into the rural areas inland of the coast I found to my astonishment another like no other and I rejoiced in the discovery.
My colleagues and I were on an impressive high grassland plateau overlooking the stunning Uvongo River Valley near Gamalakhe when I spotted in the distance three gents scouting around in the grass for something. They had no dogs with them so they were not on a hunt and then suddenly a glint of light from a shaft suggested they could be playing golf- in the middle of nowhere it seemed!
Eager to find out more and much to the consternation of car owner Mazethu, we broke ranks with the dusty road and drove cross country avoiding rocks, a stretch of water and dongas until we came across the three intrigued gents still looking for a ball. We got out, courteously greeted each other and I asked what possessed them to play golf in a place that was usually the domain of cattle.
Their response was that they have a course there. “A course where?” I asked seeing nothing but very long grass, rocks and little else save for the lovely views. The response was that they normally have a “club” of 5 who play their three-hole course on which they play six loops per competitive outing.
I asked where their greens were – scouting for something to aim for. We were beckoned some 50m from where we were standing to a circle of compacted soil less than 6m in diameter and there in the middle was the weathered hole (minus stick or flag). It is a two-putt green I was informed- it had to be noting its multiple undulations. There were no discernible tee boxes either.
Alison Langazane, Nhlanhla Cwele and Muzi Mkhize were kitted out for play, shared about six hand held and supremely damaged clubs, kept a scorecard going and each claimed to have an unofficial handicap of less than 10. I could not believe I was seeing.
I know that golfers have passion but these guys take it to a whole new level. They felt that joining a recognised club was just beyond their means so they just organised themselves into their miniscule club and promptly made a very rural plan.
From what we witnessed, I would think their play from the rough would match any pro – they’ve had practice at that! While we were there, the Amazonian par 4 was parred by two of the three intrepid players. Now that’s great play!
In our vehicle we had a few branded South Coast golf caps so after giving the lads their new headgear and taking a few happy photos, we left them to tee off and we said our goodbyes.
Our off-the-beaten-track excursion was the highlight of our day and who knows, if the golfing gods are kind these wonderful men then one day, there on a beautiful plateau in Africa something special may spring. The club of five – or more I hope – may not have to look for ages in the long grass after every shot.
Their ‘course’ may not get into tourist brochures but they love what they are doing and that’s all that counts.
To Alison, Nhlanhla and Muzi: Keep on swinging! You are inspirational. My desire to play more golf has been re-kindled.
– Written by Justin Mackrory, CEO at Ugu South Coast Tourism and is an infrequent 12 handicap golfer.