I’m not a golfer and don’t know much about life on a residential golf estate, but I do know a nice spot when I see one. 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 Usuthu River in Swaziland.
I, with no investment wherewithal, was more impressed with the friendly and jacked up staff, from the ladies at reception staff, Sifiso Kunene and the other waitrons and Robert Shiba the resident golf pro- a lovely fellow with quite some passion for the game and his job (I gleaned a lot when I gave him a lift to town). Nkonyeni is some way off the main drag, the MR8, 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 tranquility, 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 really don’t have to be a golfer to appreciate the place- or how well maintained the course is. There are also squash and tennis courts available, 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 very tasteful villas are set in indigenous bush. Owners, when submitting plans for approval, also have to submit what trees they intend to remove as they may not be removed willy nilly- and there has to be replanting to compensate 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- one being the ups and downs, another being 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. The clubhouse is where most 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 little elevated chalets are basic but comfy and secluded amid indigenous trees above the river, nicely spaced- ie private- with aircon, 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 and 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 00268 7602 4880 and visit www.nkonyeni.co.za