Arabella Golf Club is set dramatically on edge of the Bot River Lagoon. This wetland is home to thousands of waterfowl, so keep your eyes peeled for the Blue Crane… this beautiful bird is even the Arabella club emblem.
The prolific architect Peter Matkovich laid out Arabella on what was originally stony farmland. There was plenty of clearing to be done, “ you could not even walk next to the lagoon,” said Matko. So, in 1998 after a fair amount of earth moving and felling of invasive trees, Arabella opened for play to a rapturous standing ovation.
Arabella is in balance and naturally in tune. Each hole flows seamlessly and sits comfortably with the landscape The Bot River Lagoon certainly provides an unforgettable backdrop and the 8th hole, a magnificent par five, capitalises on the vista to a dramatic effect with the green seemingly cut into the lagoon itself.
Arabella Golf Club held the Nelson Mandela Invitational for a number of years between 2000 and 2006, after which time the event was re-branded as the Gary Player Invitational, which Arabella continued to host until 2008. At 6,381 metres, Arabella was not the stiffest of tests for the top pros, but the charity event was rather special and the atmosphere was more like a carnival than a normal PGA tour event.
Arabella leaves nothing to chance and this course really is in tune with nature. Even the long bunker, which runs along the edge of the 18th, is there to protect the Bot River Lagoon ecosystem. The sand is there to trap the chemical run-off so that the ponies and flamingos can go about the business in harmony with golf. “Listen to the land” is a wonderful design philosophy… thank you Matko.
Arabella is a quality parkland course set around a security gated housing estate and luxury hotel with many holes having views of the Bot River Lagoon. The 9th, 17th and 18th holes play alongside the lagoon and its waters are some of the courses many hazards. There are plenty of groundstaff so the course and surrounds are kept in very good nick and much of the rough could be 'garden beds' on other courses! As expected for a course of this quality, a round is relatively expensive for SA courses but really would be considered a bargain in other countries.
There had been a significant amount of rain around before playing so the course was quite heavy, but it did little to detract from the wonderful layout and aesthetics of this golf estate. There was even another shower which blew over whilst playing the 16th and 17th, but then the clouds parted and we played the 18th in late afternoon sunshine. A birdie on the par 5 last capped off a really enjoyable round. This course is one of those where you can think back and feel satisfied that you've been tested, that you had opportunities to use different clubs and shots and that golf is a wonderful pastime. Recommended as an easy day trip from Cape Town.