On my list of things to do in South Africa was a little Cape Town golf. I’m a big fan of the golf course. For me, it provides a perfect escape, a chance to reflect, and a bit of a challenge. Of course, it also adds more than its fair share of frustrations. On my second full day in the city, I headed out to Steenberg Golf Club and Winery to see what the Cape Town golf scene was all about.
After arriving at the beautiful Steenberg Golf course, I was set up with some clubs a scorecard, and the other necessary bits and pieces that compose a round of golf. I ask who I’ll be playing with and the pro shop staff laughs. It turns out that I’m one of only two other people playing the course this afternoon, I’ll be playing alone. Perfect, now I can cheat as much as I want.
Between the corporate types and the retirees, the golf courses back in Canada always seem packed to the teeth. I always seem to find myself looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m not holding anyone up. That’s certainly not the case here in Cape Town. I don’t see another person on the course all day, and can take as many practice chunks out of the fairway as I want. It’s refreshing.
The course is set in the Constantia region of Cape Town and is settled into the back of Table Mountain. The setting is perfect, the weather is not. Heavy winds knock me around and provide an excuse for my wayward first-hole tee-shot. Rain threatens, but seems to hold itself at bay allowing me the reprieve of a dry round.
My golf game is ugly at first. I make countless excuses: I haven’t played in a year, I’m not used to the clubs, and I’m not drunk enough. The course is not to blame. Aside from some bits of water off the fairway accumulated during a shower from a couple days ago, it’s in perfect shape. The fairways are firm and the soil is soft enough to slice through, the greens are hard, but not so tough you feel like you’re playing on cement, and the rough, well, it’s rough.
The conditions of the course don’t help my score. I’ve arrived at the 10th tee box already 12 over par. What’s worse, for the first 9 holes, I’ve basically been short a club on each of my shots. Have I really lost 10-15% of my strength? Time after time, I make my shot at the green only for the ball to come up short. Finally, I give in and adjust my club selection rather than swinging so hard I come right out of my shoes.
On the 13th tee, I hit a drive that slices so badly I end up playing it from the 12th fairway. It travelled 150 years forward, then 50 to the left, followed by some 50 more backwards. I’m playing boomerang golf.
My following shot is hooked so bad, I end up in the right rough. I’m playing army golf now, it’s all: Right, Left! Right, Left!
The course gets more beautiful with each hole. From a par three that sits vicariously on a bit of an island, to a long par 5 that starts in a field of growing grapes and ends alongside a small pond, each hole offers something different.
By the 16th hole I’ve come to the realization that the course is marked in meters and not yards, which accounts for my power loss from earlier. I also realize I’ve been swinging the clubs without even the slightest bend in my knees. I par 16, birdie 17, and par 18. I end with a perfectly ugly digit on my score card: 100 strokes.
There is nothing worse than ending a round of golf on a high note, though. It makes you look at your score in frustration. It makes you want to start again. Golf isn’t a sport for perfectionists, you’d kill yourself trying to become anywhere near perfect.
I’m settled by a tasting of wines at the winery attached to the golf courses. I sip chardonnays and shiraz made from grapes grown on the property, and reflect on the Cape Town experience I’ve had thus far.
I’m not sure there’s a city on the planet more suited for me. Golf, wine, mountains, beaches, and great food all wrapped into one. It’s only been 3 days, and already I’m worried about the time 4 days from now when I’ll have to leave. But somehow, I get the feeling I’ll be back; and maybe for good.