Known in South Africa as the best land-based whale watching place in the world, the small fishing village of Hermanus at Walker Bay is also the location of a very good golf course that has – over a 100-year period – progressed from a rudimentary 9-hole layout to a modern day, top spec, 27-hole complex.
Hermanus Golf Club was formed in 1907 and its original 9-hole course doubled in size to a full 18 holes in 1937. Robert Grimsdell remodeled these in 1952 and that’s how things were on the golf course for the next 50 years, with housing constructed in stages around the perimeter of the property.
All that changed in 2004 when Fernkloof Estate, the residential arm of the golf club, embarked on a plan to build over 300 properties in and around an adjacent parcel of land, with respected architect Peter Matkovich weaving an additional 9 holes into the design (as well as upgrading the original 18-hole layout). The original and best layout consists of holes 1-18 and is now called the East course. Holes 19-27 and 1-9 are known as the North course, and holes 10-18 and 19-27 form the South course.
Matkovich has introduced new water features and incorporated a number of rocky outcrops into the new routing, as well as adding definition with some clever mounding. These developments, along with new greens, lengthened tees and improved bunkering, have allowed Hermanus to move with the times, allowing it to face the future with real confidence.
So the course has been completely overhauled and, in the words of the club, “the charming and gentle layout of the past has been replaced with modern, classically designed, holes” – and all in good time for the club centenary in 2007.
Hermanus is a busy 27 hole members club laid out between the Klein River Mountains and the ocean in the pretty seaside town of the same name. You only encounter rare glimpses of the sea but the golf course certainly doesn't disappoint. Regarded as the stronger combination, we played the East course consisting of holes 1-18. Well designed throughout, my expectations were comfortably exceeded for a course ranked 54th in the country. Easy to walk and beautifully conditioned, the routing has plenty of variety including a strong quartet of par-3's, the excellent 13th with water to the right being my personal favourite.
Many of the best holes flow through corridors of tall pines whilst others move across attractively bunkered open ground. Generally speaking, there's more than enough width to the fairways to keep most players happy which is just as well as we were advised not to look for balls in the undergrowth due to the presence of poisonous snakes. Happily, we only encountered roaming Springbok during our round.
The mountain slopes above the course were eerily covered in ash last month after being badly hit by wildfires earlier in the year. Incredibly all of the houses lining the course were left untouched, unlike so many others just along the coast road that hadn't been so lucky. I'd love to return and include the other nine hole loop some day. One to search out if you get the chance. Brian W