The Links course at Fancourt opened for play in November 2000 and it represents a unique and very tough South African golfing experience. The course was designed by Gary Player but only after the Black Knight’s team had studied in great detail the characteristics of classic Scottish links courses. The Links at Fancourt does indeed resemble a traditional seaside links course but so far they have failed to recreate the changeable British weather.
It’s hard to believe that the host venue for the 2003 Presidents Cup, which resulted in an historic tie between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, was once an airfield. The earth certainly moved at Fancourt and the result is a jaunty ramble through gigantic dunes with the majestic Outeniqua Mountains providing a stunning backdrop. Surely this is South Africa’s most unusual and remarkable golf course?
Gary Player commented in the book, Top Golf Courses of the World, as follows:
“I feel this is one of the very best golf courses in the world, even though it may have been built on the worst piece of ground – clay as flat as an airport. I’m proud to have worked as the course designer and could not be happier with how it turned out. It has been designed to make golfers feel as though they were at Ballybunion, Dornoch, or St Andrews with rolling fairways, pot bunkers, big greens, high rough, and a seascape appearance.”
The Links at Fancourt is a private club but a few tee times are available to guests staying at the Fancourt Hotel. So if you can’t befriend a member but fancy a real treat we recommend an overnight stay.
When Dr Hasso Plattner bought Fancourt resort in the early 90's, his expansion plans included the addition of a links course to be built on an adjacent airstrip. That strip had no natural features and a heavy clay base.
Again using the design services of Gary Player and compatriot Phil Jacobs, Plattner brought in 700,000 of cubic metres of sand and soil to build his own massive dunescape.
In 2000 the Links at Fancourt opened for play, and has drawn acclaim world wide since. It has hosted tournaments such as the famous tied Presidents Cup in 2003, the Volvo Champions, and Womens World Cup.
Let me say straight up- this is not a 'true' links course - it is more of a hybrid parkland/links combination. The fairways are lush, and whilst they are rolling, there is perhaps less movement than most links courses exhibit..
Water hazards abound, and the greens are not as firm and fast as you would expect on a links course. Nevertheless I loved the course, and regard it as the best in South Africa.
The man-made dunes set the scene, combining with long grasses waving in the wind to frame the fairways. Add some picture perfect water holes, and the backdrop of the spectacular Outeniqua mountains and it makes for a compelling setting. It is a tough test of golf, too!
The Links plays long at 6930 metres from the back pegs, and can be tight in places, and penal if you miss. Deep pot bunkers and long grass can make recovery difficult...
Interestingly the revetted pot bunkers had faces lined with sod wrapped in some sort of material, and treated- but it looked and played very well.
The par 4 third hole is called 'Calamity' and plays 398 metres off our forward tees (429 off the black) If you can avoid the myriad of pot bunkers and long rough off the tee, you are faced with a long approach to the green. The green is shallow and surrounded by trouble! It has a burn running across in front of the green and stone retaining wall fronting the green. That's one tough hole!
I thought the uphill par 5 eighteenth hole was a little underwhelming. It felt like a connecting hole to get back up the substantial hill to the clubhouse. The hole is called 'Near The Dram" There is a significant carry to get to the fairway above you- but if you look back you will see that the carry off the black tee is enormous!! The green is overworked, and has a large pimple in the middle where the flag sat for our approach. Even a decent wedge was deflected. It is a poor finish to a quality course.
The rest of the course was a pleasure to play- challenging, demanding, strategic, beautifully maintained, and picturesque.
Even the easiest ranked hole on the course, the par 5 fifth hole (called Wetland) was challenging It requires two accurate shots down the fairway, avoiding traps, and a water carry approach to a board fronted green The putting surface is severely contoured and has a pin hard against the water... Phew!
Other memorable holes at The Links include the sharply down hill par 3 second hole (called Lang Drop), the dogleg par 4 fifteenth hole (Roon the Bend) with water in play all along the left side, and the crazy par 3 seventeenth hole with no real options if you miss the green. Appropriately this hole is named Prayer
If you get the chance to stay at Fancourt, make sure you prebook to play The Links. It is a wonderful golf course, and an experience you will not forget.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Fancourt Links is rated the number one course in South Africa and with good justification. I was fortunate enough to play it yesterday when it was in excellent condition the greens would’ve been running at well over 10 on the stint meter which made them greens tricky indeed.
The course starts with a relatively short path par 4 but still a tricky hole. The second you look down from an elevated T at the longest par-3 on the course with a view of the whole course in front of you and Outaniqua mountains in the background.. A definite picture opportunity but then the course continues in this vein throughout, trying to pick the signature hole is very difficult as there are at least seven or eight holes which are outstanding. The other thing is that unlike most golf courses there just is not a weak hole on the course.
The only thing that I am surprised is that FANCOURT Links is not well inside the top 50 of your world list as this is certainly the best course that I have applied
Fancourt Links fully justifies its status as the finest routing in South Africa. Gary Player’s design is truly exceptional and tests every aspect of the golfing repertoire.
Whilst the land is very well drained and an aerated clay/sand mix, nevertheless it has all the feel of a true links with pitch & runs and run offs aplenty.
Also, similar to Royal County Down, each hole is intimate and within its own frame, giving the golfer very little sense of others on the course. This adds enormously to the experience.
A course of the highest calibre.
I played The Links at Fancourt over the New Year period which is SA summer time. I was very fortunate as the night before i played there had been a torrential down pour of rain which meant the course had slowed up so both the fairway run offs and the greens weren't as severe as they could be. I was lucky as it made the course playable on the day i was there and it was a hugely fun experience. When the course is baked and the greens at full pace you could see there were plenty of holes which could really damage your scorecard.
The course itself is fantastic and the place has an incredibly unique feel to it. Unlike anything i have played before or since. If i had to compare it to a British course its possibly most similar to Lytham St Anne's in so far as its not about beautiful landscapes but just a fascinating test of your strategic golf. Lytham is closer to a true links course however but there are a lot of great links features to this course and for me the crazy nature of it all seems to somehow work.
There's also been a real effort in the design to work with indigenous plants to encourage wildlife and support the local ecology, something i think more golf courses should try to do personally and the signs all around saying watch out for the animals is a nice touch.
The whole experience at Fancourt is 5* but the links they've taken to another level and provided a truly memorable experience.
Your unlikely to be battling the wind like at most traditional links courses but that is something you should be thankful for, I can only imagine how difficult this place would be if the wind was blowing on a hot day.
This is the best course I've played anywhere in the world. Its very very tough, as the President's Cup and SA Open showed up some of the world's best players. The condition of the course is always exceptional...fairways are better than most UK greens, the greens are very sloppy and very fast. The rough is severe and penal, and its safe to say, there are no easy or let up holes. The first time I played, with both myself and my partner as single figure players, we shot close to 100, without playing that badly. If you're a high handicapper, I would avoid this course, or you'll probably die of frustration or run out of balls. Every hole is a great test, and you will use every club in the bag to get round here. Perfection in a golf course, but just too tough to score on for any standard of player. The clubhouse and pro shop offer 5 star treatment, and this should be on every golfers Bucket List of courses to play