The course at Clovelly Country Club is set in the Fish Hoek (Silvermine) Valley a few miles south of Cape Town. The course dates back to 1934 and was originally laid out by Dr Charles Molteno Murray (he was responsible around that time for a number of good courses, including Royal Cape and George).
The Silvermine River comes into play at the moderate length but rather tight Clovelly. The layout is routed among the sand dunes and a number of other water hazards in the shape of ponds create further challenges where accuracy rather than length will pay dividends.
There are a number of tight drives at Clovelly and one of the best is the par four 4th with a stream and out-of-bounds on the left. A pond guards the green focusing the mind for the approach shot.
With spectacular mountain views, False Bay and the ocean as a focal point, it’s no wonder that Clovelly was one of Bobby Locke’s favourite courses.
In this brief edited extract from the book he co-authored with Jamie Thom entitled South Africa’s Greatest Golf Destinations, Stuart McLean writes:
“This is one of the Cape Peninsula’s most scenically attractive and aesthetically pleasing courses. It oozes charm and character from the moment you arrive at the attractive clubhouse and look down from the terrace on the course below. You tee off next to the clubhouse, with challenging drives into the valley.
Clovelly’s advantage over other Cape courses is its relative remoteness, the quiet and solitude of playing here, and the natural surroundings – the Silvermine River that borders the property, sand dunes, indigenous bush, all overlooked by a rugged mountainside.
There is a lot to be said for courses like this one, where golf shots requiring accuracy and finesse, couched with an element of risk, are more rewarding than power. That is why they remain popular. The only drawback is that Clovelly is extremely busty in the summer.”
The great Bob Ryan once said golf is "a passion, an obsession, a romance, a nice acquaintanceship with trees, sand and water."
And, oh my, what a stretch of trees, sand and water you get at Clovelly Golf Club!
Sandwiched between two great oceans on the southern hook of Africa, the view gets the butterflies in the tummy going as soon as you enter the parking lot. This will more than likely evolve into violent nerves, as soon as you step out of the car, given the high probability that the prevailing ‘South Easter’ wind is pelting off the Indian Ocean.
And you’re right to feel this way. When the trees bow down to the wind (as they literally do all over this course) then your game may well do the same, especially if you’re originally from Johannesburg, where wind is comparatively an anathema.
Nerves should turn to excitement as you roll into the clubhouse which is wedged into the mountainside, and perfectly subservient to all the views. Given the friendly staff, there are not many places with better starts before you’ve even swung a club…
Stand on either the first or the tenth tees, and ski-slope-like drops beckon you into a golfing amphitheatre. The screech-squaw of peacocks calling to each other echoes up to where you stand.
And then begins what is guaranteed to be a great golfing day out.
I find hole-by-hole commentaries dreadfully boring so just a couple of highlights:
- Both the 1st and the 10th deliver right and left doglegs respectively, dangling risk/reward for the long-hitter in perfect balance.
- Stand on the 2nd tee, and I imagine this is what it feels like if you’re ever lucky enough to tee off at Augusta – undulating fairway hemmed in by interesting tree profiles & flowers, with bunkers on-guard in key spots.
- If you have a tendency to hook the ball, the 3rd and 4th will have you wincing, with fynbos (local flora) out of bounds all the way up the left. The approach into the 4th will have to sucking in your belly, as the course funnels up to a single point- imagine the head of a spear. Stand on that 4th green looking back down the course, and you feel as a captain would standing on the aft deck of a pirate ship, more-so if you’ve just pillaged a par.
- You’ll quench your thirst at the watering-hole next to the tee on the 5th – it runs continually, which is fine given it runs straight off the mountain!
- Take a pause as you walk up to the 8th green, and take in the mountain right there. Yes, there are lots of mountain views on courses in the Western Cape, but few have one that is so proximate. Crane your neck upwards, and with the clouds rushing overhead it feels like a ‘land wave’ is about to come crashing down on your head. It also serves you up with a wall of colour: flower spectators in a different sort of gallery on the final hole of a major.
- The 15th is a wonderful golf hole, particularly the green complex, surrounded as it is by lily infested waters.
Shake hands on the last hole, and you’ll feel a deep satisfaction of a day well spent, and perhaps, the following quote from the Australian cult classic ‘The Castle’ will pop into your head:
‘Location, Location, Location’
Given the views, the wind, the peacocks (+ other fauna), the colour and contrast of the surrounds, this is one course you’ll never get bored of playing.
What a wonderful course and a great day out especially when going to Fish Hoek for lunch.
Course is not easy, and i carded a very high round. Greens run fast so short game is a must.
Club house facilities were excellent and the experience was very enjoyable, although the course was packed so at times felt a little rushed.
This is an outstanding course and MUST be played whilst you are in SA.