Established by the Kuwaiti Kharafi Holdings Company in 2005, this 18-hole golf course on the Oubaai residential estate in the Western Cape is the first signature course designed in South Africa by local golfing hero, Ernie Els.
The Big Easy has his South African home nearby at Herold’s Bay so he is well aware of the strategic importance of this new layout, competing as it does against some of the more modern golfing big hitters in the area such as Pezula and Simola.
Fairways at Oubaai are generally wide with large landing areas but don’t think this makes it an easy course to score on as strategically positioned fairway and greenside bunker complexes deftly increase the degree of playing difficulty.
The signature hole is the par three 17th, played downhill to what, in modern course design parlance, is termed an “infinity green” with the sparkling Indian Ocean as a backdrop. If conditions are kind, it should be relatively straight forward to avoid the four bunkers protecting the green to card a three here, but if the wind is up on such an exposed cliff top, who knows what score might be posted.
This was the best course I played on a golfing tour of George and surrounds. Ernie Els has crafted a course for all levels (although the carry from some tees to fairways were a bit dramatic, such as the par 3 sixth). There is a good mix of short and log par fours and threes, with plenty of bunkers to keep the mind focused. I loved the way many holes were sculptured around there fairway bunkers. The trick of the eye that made it seem like a narrow fairway, thus putting fear into the golfer, when in fact, with a little bit of thought, there were many wide expanses to find. Here is where Oubaai shines, because it is a course where the 18 handicap can always find a way to the green for a bogey, while the scratch golfer has to take on the hazards to make their score. I found the par threes to be all a challenge - there are five of them - but for sheer terror, the aforementioned 6th, is a knew trembler. Long enough at 190 meters, it requires a carry of some 160 meters over a deep ravine into which any ball hit will never be seen again. The view over the hills to the surrounding mountains is spectacular. I can only imagine Ernie standing at the area where the tee is now and thinking, "tee, green, nothing else to do".
However, the standout holes were definitely 17 and 18, the short par three with nothing behind it except the Indian Ocean, and a par five with the dramatic views from the tee, and a second shot required to fly over the cliffs to get a crack at a birdie. However, it is these two holes that also, perhaps, highlighted Oubaai's biggest weakness. The most dramatic land had been used for housing, not the course, and I found it sad that only two holes skirted the coast. But this is a nitpick. Oubaai is a fine challenge for all golfers, you don't need a dozen balls to get round, and you will want to play it again.
Oubaai really is a quite beautiful course. Not designed in the mould of a lot of resort courses, it makes the most of it's outstanding position overlooking the Indian Ocean. It provides a tough test for golfers with some lengthy carries off the tee, but is a well laid out and fair challenge.
The final three holes are what I felt were the stand out holes.
Compared to some more local courses, the green fees are steep, but I left feeling we'd received great value for money.
Tip: It's a long course to walk around so I'd strongly recommend a buggy unless you're feeling particularly energetic.