Stellenbosch is one of the oldest clubs in South Africa, which celebrated its centenary in 2004, and it lies close to the Helderberg Mountains, in the heart of the nation’s wine region. We don’t know who designed the club’s original course but we do know it was doubled in size from a 9-hole layout to a full 18 holes by Ken Elkin in 1953.
The expanded course occupies fairly flat terrain with only a few gentle changes in elevation and water coming into play at only four holes: 2, 5, 12 and 18. Expect a tough start to a round here as the opening quartet of par fours all measure in excess of 400 yards from the back tees.
A really strong hole on the front nine is the par five 8th, which locals call “Snakes and Grapes” – a slice sends shots into the bush on the right and a hook results in a lost ball in the vineyards on the left. On the back nine, the demanding par five 14th requires shot-making skills of a high order, starting with a fade from the tee, followed by a draw for the second shot (or vice versa for the lefty).A number of top competitions have been held at Stellenbosch in recent years, including the South African Open in 1999 and – along with co-hosts De Zalze – the World Amateur Team Championships in 2006. The ladies from the home nation claimed the Espirito Santo Trophy for the first time when their team forced the holders, Sweden, into second place.
Stellenbosch is an old traditional park land course with tall trees framing the fairways, doglegs left and right and water areas to negotiate. Shots to the green can be a challenge for all levels of golfers. In that sense it is a risk and reward course, take too big risks at the wrong places and you will be punished. It’s a great walking course with a good flow, though in a few places it would have been a help for green fee players with a clearer signposting for the next tee. Be sure to get time to enjoy the after golf in the club house.