Clarens and Vulintaba are two newish estate courses that are enjoyable gems to play.
They are two of the more remote golf estates in South Africa, and two of the newest. Vulintaba and Clarens are also home to two of the most enjoyable courses to play, both providing fun experiences for golfers seeking a different kind of getaway. Even though they have been around for almost 10 years, they could still be described as genuinely undiscovered gems that haven’t yet come to the attention of travelling golfers. Neither of them have found a place in the Golf Digest Top 100, but have the potential to be included in the future. Clarens in the scenic Eastern Free State is a well-known arty destination for weekend breaks and weddings, about 3½ hours drive from Gauteng, where visitors usually outnumber the locals at busy times of the year – it has a sizeable Protea hotel near the main square to go with all the guest houses. Not many of those visitors come for golf, though, which is a shame considering the town has a modern 18-hole course within walking distance of all the other activities. While Clarens can be extremely busy, and where you can spend a week trying out all the coffee shops and restaurants, Vulintaba is where you go to escape the crowds.
If you had a helicopter, Vulintaba Country Estate is relatively close to Clarens, but the topography of the area doesn’t allow for short cuts by car. It took me more than three hours by various national roads to reach this isolated country estate in the Drakensberg, taking a convoluted route through the Free State towards the town of Newcastle in Northern KZN. There is a more direct route across a rugged mountain pass from Harrismith, but my rental car wasn’t going to survive that.
Once in Newcastle, Vulintaba is a further 20 kilometres along a lonely tar road, venturing into the foothills of the Berg, and the estate has a 69-room hotel which makes it a perfect overnight stay, being pretty much the midway point between Gauteng and Durban. From my hotel room you couldn’t find a more beautiful outlook, as the estate lies in a magnificent amphitheatre.
Vulintaba has only 9 holes, yet clever use of alternate tees makes playing 18 a must. The course plays differently on each loop.
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