My travel partner, too, was impressed enough to look into investment opportunities at Nkonyeni Golf Estate, set on a long, undulating and fairly open slope that bottoms out at the Usutu River in Swaziland.
With no investment wherewithal, I was more impressed with the friendly and jacked-up staff, from the women at reception, Sifiso Kunene and the other waitrons, and resident golf pro Robert Shiba – a lovely fellow with passion for the game and his job – who works under the well-known newly-appointed golf director Frans Strauss.
Nkonyeni is some way down the MR9, and about 25km from Manzini. Currently, the estate has one sprawling Championship Golf course, designed by Phil Jacobs and further constructed by Robert Richardson, but will soon become one of only two estates – the other being Fancourt in the Cape – with two courses. Louis Oosthuizen is lending his expertise to the development of the new links course, with both sharing the 18th hole in front of the impressive thatched steeple of the clubhouse.
Some locals think Nkonyeni a daft spot, being out in the sticks, but I reckon they are missing the point – the tranquillity, serenity and forever views. Then again, I know someone from Mbabane who regularly makes Sunday visits (quite a drive) and she and her family are not golfers.
Golfers and their families, even midweek and out of season, were there in numbers.
You don’t have to be a golfer to appreciate the place, or how well maintained the course is. There are squash and tennis courts, a small spa, a pool at the clubhouse and one at the small recreation centre.
While Nkonyeni is a residential estate, there is a rental pool consisting of a lodge, fairly basic two-sleeper chalets and a number of luxurious villas. The tasteful villas are set in indigenous bush.
Owners, when submitting plans for approval, also have to declare what trees they intend to remove as they may not be eliminated willy-nilly and there has to be replanting once construction is completed. The result is that, looking from a tee-off square, one sees only rooftops among the trees besides assistant greenkeepers in the form of kudu, nyala, impala and zebra.
The course is challenging in several respects the ups and downs, and the climate. It is not recommended to walk the course in the Swaziland heat. A golf cart is the way to go and a great way to take in the beautiful layout.
The course ends very comfortably across a bridge over the river in front of the sunset-facing clubhouse. This is where most people gravitate and has a beauty spa where my partner had her best foot massage ever. Alongside is a rather challenging adventure golf course, as well as a kids’ playground.
Inside is a capacious open plan design under a tremendously high thatched roof. It’s a very relaxing spot – the waitrons equally relaxed, with a few good stories to tell, in-between watching evening light shows. I have never seen such a wondrous lightning display.
I found the menu surprisingly inexpensive and nicely varied with generous portions. The chicken sous vide, for example, is listed as a light meal but rather filling.
Most folk turn in early, as did we. We sampled two of the accommodation options.
The small elevated chalets are basic but comfy and secluded amid indigenous trees above the river, nicely spaced – private – with air con, TV, bar fridge, tea/coffee, a covered deck with wicker armchairs and nice big shower area.
The villas are sumptuous. Each has a private pool; some have Jacuzzis, and they are spread far and wide across the estate.
There is a petrol station and small Spar supermarket conveniently close by if you need supplies, so you don’t have to schlep everything from home.
If you have had enough of lazing about it’s an easy drive to Malkerns and Ezulwini Valley where most of the tourist attractions are, and there is a good market in Manzini. But why bother when you can arrange guided game drives, cycling and walking trails in the 400-hectare private reserve that is part of Nkonyeni? As a return visitor said, “my wife calls it my happy place”.
Call 0026876024880 or visit www.nkonyeni.co.za