Golf Course Review… Drakensberg

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Fact File

Par-72
Rating – 72
Length – 6203m
Best Time to Play – March, April, May

History

Champagne Sports Resort in the Central Drakensberg of South Africa offers the most high-end golf experience in the region, with a championship layout that regularly features in the top 50 of the annual Golf Digest SA rankings. About four-and-a-half hour’s drive from Johannesburg and two from Durban, the course was re-designed by Hugh Baiocchi in 1999.

The Course

It’s a challenge, but if you’re straight off the tee, you should be able to score well. “You’ve really got to play good golf,” says resident pro, Trevor Livesey. “But, the high handicap players can play the course and shoot good scores. I think it’s a golf course for everybody.” Champagne Sports has bent grass greens and lush kikuyu fairways and tees, and, as with all the courses in the region, makes good use of the natural mountain views. What sets it apart, though, is that it isn’t self-indulgent in this regard and still goes to the trouble of offering interesting holes with which to test one’s skills. Take the par-four second hole. A big downhill dogleg to the left makes for a challenging approach shot, as you seek to get your club selection spot-on. But, if you find the fairway, the difficulty factor is significantly reduced. The front nine definitely offers more in terms of variety and is fairly undulating. Livesey is of the opinion that it’s slightly easier than the back nine and one can afford to miss a few fairways. But, most of those are tree-lined and an errant beat from the tee, can see one having to play out sideways. What the back nine has on the front nine is better use of the mountain views. With Champagne Castle and Cathkin Peak framing most of the tee shots, one is afforded the treat of looking up and seeing one’s ball sail into the mountains. Assuming, of course, that you haven’t hit it on the head! The 10th is an interesting risk-reward par-four that will offer the bigger hitters the opportunity to drive the green, whilst holes 13 and 15 are both par-fives that maximise those spectacular mountain views. The 15th, in particular, presents the added challenge of attempting to find another narrow green over some rather nasty-looking water. Throw in a water feature at the back and you’ve got a difficult approach shot, regardless of how short the iron in your hand is. To cap an interesting round, the 18th is a great finishing hole, requiring a decent drive, ideally with a draw, to a dogleg left and an elevated green fronted by water and sand. From there, make sure not to miss out on a rather inviting deck that overlooks the course.

Signature Hole

The signature hole is the par-three fourth hole, which offers a decent challenge. An elevated tee has you eyeing up something in the region of an eight iron from the blue markers (148m), over water to a narrow green, which has further protection in the form of bunkers at the back. Avoid the sand and water and you’re in good shape. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Rates (18 holes)

Visitors (affiliated) – R325  
Hotel guest – R210
Cart Hire – R225
Club Hire – R300

Directions

From Johannesburg, take the N3 highway to Durban. Take the R616 Bergville turn-off, proceed left on the N11 towards Ladysmith for approximately four kilometres and turn right onto the R600 (Spioenkop/Winterton Rd). Travel along over the highway and when you reach a T-Junction, turn left to Winterton. Then, take a right over the railway line (R600) when you get into Winterton. Follow that road until you reach the crossroads at Thokozisa. Go straight over the crossroads and travel a further 11 kilometres.

Contact
Tel: +27 36 468 8000champagnesportsresort.com

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