The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.
WHEN you first head down the scenic South Coast to Umdoni Park, you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve taken a wrong turn, just before the end.

Beyond Scottsburgh and Pennington, through a residential area, lies an enduring gem of a coastal course.

While there are a plethora of estate courses on the “other” side of Durban, the South Coast remains a paradise for charming tracks that are playable - but ready to bite when the wind gets up.

The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.

Umdoni is no different, and the day I went to finally tick it off the bucket list had all four seasons rolled into one. Rain greeted us and came back before the round was done, but the sun also danced off the blue horizon, reminding us of just how close we were to some of KwaZulu-Natal’s best beaches.

For those who prefer the azure of the sea to the green of the fairways, there are whales and sardines to be spotted during their annual sojourns to warmer waters.

The South Coast is famous for the sardine run and there are all manner of festivals - and even golf tournaments - that revolve around the much-anticipated occasion. But those of us who prefer to stay on land have plenty of fun trying to convince little white balls to behave - and stay well clear of the water. The course certainly has its pitfalls, with some devilishly tight tee shots, and very few flat shots.

Accommodation at Umdoni varies and includes baronial Botha House, which can house up to 12 guests, with commanding sea views from the de luxe suites.

Botha House was originally built for General Louis Botha as a beach retreat for his wife, Annie. Today this gracious homestead stands proudly above the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing on the Umdoni Point rocks below.

The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.

Its architecture is unmistakably Cape Dutch, its interior elegantly colonial - think columned entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, country house paraphernalia, fireplaces, oil landscapes and portraits - and it is a sublimely relaxing retreat.

Sumptuous breakfasts as well as delicious home-made dinners (on request) are served in the grand dining room or on the sun-filled terrace which, even in winter, is a warm welcoming spot.

For those after something more rustic, there is also the Trust Cottage, located in a little haven on the golf course, where golf groups can pack in and enjoy self-catering lodging, with private braai facilities and let their hair down.

If you don’t feel like cooking, there is a gourmet restaurant open seven days a week from 8am to 3.30pm and Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, with arguably the best views on the coast.

The views from the first hole, and, below, the 18th hole with Botha House.

Within the community, there is a real emphasis to get the people up and about, and there are trail runs, park runs and cycling tracks, water sports, horse-riding along the beach, and a plethora of wildlife and natural vegetation to intrigue you. With more than 220 species of birds, guests can enjoy forest hikes as well as bird watching.

But, at the heart of it all, is a gem of a golf course. Umdoni Park has a thriving, engaging membership and the clubhouse on Saturdays is no place for shrinking violets. There are fun draws, rugby on the go, hearty meals, and all the camaraderie that is missing from so many courses these days.

If for nothing else, you will want to play Umdoni for the intoxicating reward that awaits you on the par-five 18th tee box, when you look down the inviting fairway, and beyond to the sea. It ranks as one of the most memorable finishing holes in the country.

I, for one, certainly plan to take it on again. That view alone is worth the drive to the South Coast.

Call 039 975 1615 and visit www.umdonipark.com

SUNDAY TRIBUNE