South Africa Try to Tame the Turn at Arabella’s “Amen Corner”
Nestled deep in the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the unique Arabella Hotel & Spa boasts the top golf course in the Western Cape; it’s also rated number five in South Africa by Golf Digest. I had the pleasure of playing with Michael Munro who works in sales at resort. In a previous career, Munro worked as a game ranger so he gave me a bit of an education about the local flora and fauna as we played. In fact, South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane, treated us with a flyover on the first fairway.
Designed by highly acclaimed South African golf course architect, Peter Matkovich in 1999, Arabella meanders naturally over the lay of the land between the Kogelberg Mountain Range and Bot River Lagoon. You need to hit your Titleist straight or you’ll lose it the profusion of wild fynbos shrubbery that lines the fairways.
For many years Arabella hosted the Nelson Mandela Invitational so you’ll be playing in the footsteps of such professionals and celebrities as Jack Nicklaus, Samuel L. Jackson, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Ronan Keating, Lee Westwood, Tim Clark and Gary Player.
Ernie Els claims number eight, a downhill beauty with the green lying in front of the lagoon, to be his favourite par-five in South Africa.
The famed Arabella Turn (Matkovich’s version of Augusta’s Amen Corner) comprises holes three, four and five. At the third you’ll see a plaque with a message from the designer announcing that if you par the Turn on gross score you are entitled to a complimentary round of golf at Arabella. I would like to say I’m getting a free round but these are three tough holes and I’m told they don’t give out a lot of vouchers. Number three, the hardest at Arabella is fraught with bunkers and a water hazard; number four is surrounded by greenside bunkers; the par-three number five has very efficient ball snatching bunkers surrounding the green. Wind, always a factor at Arabella, tends to swirl around the pin. Number nine is all about risk and reward. Long hitters might be tempted to go for the green on this short par-four but the lagoon will swallow anything hit left.
Arabella has a mandatory 15-minute halftime break. It’s customary to order your sandwich or salad at the first tee so it’s waiting for you at the clubhouse.
The 18th presents a challenging finish because the longest bunker in South Africa runs the entire length of the right side of the fairway; beyond it is the lagoon. Not a place to slice.
After your round, sample some South African wines from the nearby vineyards or book a massage at the award-winning spa and detox with some rooibos tea.
By Anita Draycott