The drive through the entrance at Royal Swazi Sun & Spa was like a trip down memory lane for me.
At the age of 14, my brother and I convinced my Dad to take us on an adventure to meet the Liverpool football team who were scheduled to play Tottenham Hotspur at the Somhlolu Stadium (1984).
A number of highlights stood out from that trip:
- Playing golf with Bruce Grobbelaar was a blast!
- Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush are terrible bowls partners!
- Both Liverpool and the Spurs team members were awesome, but the Liverpool slightly more so!
- Joe Dlamini, the resident pro, was both an awesome host and a marvel to watch play the game of golf!
The golf course was fun, timeless and a challenge always worth playing!
Later, I was to find some form as a professional golfer around the testy design and I found a few top finishes. The course was both kind and ruthless to me over the years.
The Sunshine Tour has forever been a great patron of the wonderful layout designed and built in 1966 (front nine) and then 1967 (back nine) by “Uncle Max” Wilhelm, which nestles magnificently in the Ezulwini Valley.
I remember watching the live broadcast when Mark McNulty dominated the field of South African, European and American golfing greats as he romped home to a sizeable victory with a world-record score of 29 under par. This has since been beaten, but it was an incredible feat back in the day.
Then of course, there was also the “act of infamy” when John Daly decided that his hotel room should bear the brunt of his anger after a poor round and some poor luck in the casino. A full refurbishment of the room was required and his irons suffered some gruesome damage as he swung his way through his sleeping quarters and wreaked havoc in the hotel bathroom.
The venue, facilities and course are world-class and the Sunshine Tour finds it a fitting location to host all of four events there this year.
The Investec Challenge and the Lombard Classic have already been played with popular young South African pro, Justin Harding, taking the silverware for both events. Clearly, the course suiting his big-hitting and aggressive approach to the game.
The well-oiled machine that is Royal Swazi Sun & Spa hasn’t achieved this successful longevity by any form of gambler’s luck though.
Hard work by a dedicated team are responsible for this.
With 36 years flying the Sun International banner (with a few short breaks in between), Lance is like furniture when it comes to hotel management and ensuring that the resort runs smoothly and profitably.
Having cut his teeth at many of Sun International’s popular destinations such as Sun City, Wild Coast, Gabarone and even the famous Friday evening venue of Sunnyside Park, Lance’s portfolio has seen every conceivable type of hotel guest and recreational requirement imaginable.
The casino too, is a massive draw-card that compliments the beautiful golf course to create a perfect recreational getaway for all and Lance keeps his finger on the button by ensuring that guests experience an all-round world class facility when visiting Royal Swazi.
He holds the reigns tightly and his passion for Royal Swazi is evident as the light of his office burns brightly late on most nights.
Kevin Connor – Golf Director
Kevin is the face behind the golf at Royal Swazi. His CV is littered with accolades and a vast array of business ventures. It would be difficult to call him anything other than a “Jack of all trades”! He uses the term “QBE – qualified by experience” to describe his set of tricks.
Having started out as a professional tennis coach in Durban in the 80s, Kevin found himself moving to Swaziland to manage the tennis aspect of the hotel. He then started a sports shop in Mbabane.
During this time, he also filled the boots as Sports and Country Club manager at Royal Swazi as well as representing Swaziland in their national cricket team.
He then journeyed East to Riviera Country Club and took up the position of General Manager. Restlessness then lead him to the South Coast to open and manage a restaurant called King Prawn. A stint as Camp Manager with Kwazulu-Natal Wildlife then started a new direction in wildlife and conservation and soon the traveling started again. Mariental in Namibia was the last calling outside of Swaziland before returning to “Kingdom” where he saw himself managing 3 private game facilities with Big Game Parks under the guise of renowned conservationist, Ted Reilly.
Top Turf – appointed turf and landscape managers of Royal Swazi – then snapped him up when their greenkeeper headed south to Cape Town.
Over a few years, Kevin developed the skillset to take on the management of the golf club at Royal Swazi and his hospitable team provide service of the highest levels.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and this rings true with the classic and enjoyable design.
Over the years there have been very few changes to holes and the course … mostly because it doesn’t need to be changed.
The green platforms and a few minor alterations to the course were sculpted by design legend Peter Matkovich in the 90s and the course evolved further to be an even more desirable golfing destination.
The style of play required is “creative” and insists that all of the golfers’ possible shot-shapes are brought out of the bag on their journey around the course.
The course definitely provides a tough walk as well with many hillocks and slopes, with the 11th hole even being called “thrombosis”.
The course is conducive to good scoring and this has been evident with the Sunshine Tour professionals over the years (Peter Karmis shot a 59 in 2009 in the Lombard Classic), so there are more happy golfers celebrating their scores on the clubhouse deck than semi-suicidal ones.
In all, the course is superbly enjoyable, lenient on the handicap and presents a world-class “championship” layout that will keep you coming back.
“We want guests to come here and play their best rounds of golf” – Kevin Connor.
Royal Swazi Sun & Spa is a very appealing holiday and corporate getaway destination!
Only four hours from Johannesburg – including the typical stop at the border gate – it is a popular destination for corporates as the resort has a fully-equipped conference centre, golf groups (the rates are always reasonable and the casino has appeal to the “lads coming in from Joburg”), international travellers, South African holidaymakers and also has allure for families (Kamp Kwena caters for the kids with activities and programs in the holiday seasons) and of course, as a destination to watch some great Sunshine Tour golf.
The Annual Nomads Nationals is also a highlight on the calendar of all of the Nomads from South Africa who flock across the border to enjoy the golf, the festivities and all that the resort has to offer.
Golfing packages are customised and structure to accommodate everyone’s needs and requirements and there are always special deals and packages available.
For enquiries, contact Kevin Connor via email@example.com
Over the years, Royal Swazi Sun & Spa has hosted:
The Moody Blues
The Duke & Dutchess of Kent
Adding to the appeal of your visit to eSwatini, the food offered in the many restaurants in the two hotels is “magnifique”!
The resort’s Executive Chef, Omar Menhouk, warrants that your culinary experience will equal that of some of the finest restaurants in the world.
The Algerian born “taste facilitator” has travelled the world and cooked for some of the toughest palates ranging from casual guests to royalty.
His time behind the stove includes working at Sun City, in South African restaurants, in Kenya – Hemmingways Group – and even some time working for Richard Branson.
“When you come to Royal Swazi, you can expect beautifully prepared international cuisine of the highest standard” insists Omar.
Activities in and around the resort include:
Health Spa, Cultural Village, Swazi Museums, Ngwenya Glass, Swazi Candles, Handicrafts, Hand Weaving, The Chocolate Shop, Game Reserves, Hiking, Horseback Trails, Quad Trails, Caving, Canopy Tours, Mountain Biking, Fishing, White Water Rafting
So if you are planning a golfing getaway with all of the appeal (to both the golfer and the non-golfing partner), blow the dust off that passport and make the journey to the magical Ezulwini Valley and experience a Royal treat with all to offer.
By Michael Scholz