COURSE REVIEW | Scenic golf in mountainous Mpumalanga

By Stuart McLean – SA’s Top 100 Courses

Highland Gate is one of South Africa’s newest courses, a spectacular one too which fully embraces the beautiful landscape of our country. It occupies a unique setting in a scenic mountain valley in the Drakensberg escarpment of Mpumalanga. The Ernie Els signature design provides adrenalin-pumping high altitude golf away from the beaten track.

The rye grass fairways remain green all year round, and the contrast in winter with the dry brown natural veld grasses is a feature of the course’s Aesthetics.
It’s a destination that for a long time looked as if it might never happen. With the golf estate industry in decline eight years ago, this residential development did not look promising. It was in the remote highveld, 18 kilometres from Dullstroom, at the end of a bumpy farm road that could only be described as torturous in any vehicle barring a bakkie. But then came along Ernie Els and his team to design and build a fabulous course, followed by Century Property Developments buying Highland Gate, building a superb tar access road, and relaunching it in 2015 as a getaway destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It is 2½ hours on good roads from both O R Tambo Airport and Pretoria.
Highland Gate has glorious views, bracing mountain air, and a golf course that is fun to play with generously wide fairways. With one exception though. The par-5 14th, one of Ernie’s signature holes, is the tightest driving hole on the course, with a stream running down the right side of the hole, and thick veld grass guarding the left side. It’s an expansive and creative design, with continuous changes in elevation, providing a rich variety of holes to enjoy. The first nine returns to the clubhouse, and ends with a special downhill par 4 which doglegs left around a large dam.
The topography means that nearly all golfers use carts. Most of the course is walkable, but there is a long climb on the back nine from the 14th green up to the par-3 15th tee, and then again to the 16th tee.

COURSE FACTS

COURSE RECORD: 66 by Wallie Coetsee, Kyle Pilgrim, 2017 Vodacom Origins.

FEATURE HOLES: One of the best vistas on the course comes early in the round, at the beautiful par-4 fourth, 404 metres from the club tees. Mountain views abound as you tee off high above a green fairway which doglegs to the left. The back nine has some great risk-and-reward holes, starting with the par-5 11th where the fairway plunges steeply downhill to a narrow green fronted by a stream. The green of the 298m par-4 12th is in reach for most golfers, being played from a tee high on a ridge, but trouble lurks around the green.

PRACTICE FACILITY

Excellent wide and spacious uphill range close to first tee.

 

ACCOMMODATION

Highland Gate Lodge and Greenside Manor inside the estate, plus houses to rent. See Highland Gate website. Other options in Dullstroom, 18 kilometres away.

 

DID YOU KNOW 

Course designer Ernie Els first visited the site in 2005 and he loves the location. “It reminds me of Gleneagles in the Scottish Highlands. The expansive views seem to go on forever.”
There are three flyfishing dams on the Highland Gate estate. Charming Dullstroom, the highest town in South Africa at 2100 metres, is known as South Africa’s premier flyfishing destination, with a good selection of well-stocked dams and natural flyfishing on the Waterfalls River.
The double-storey clubhouse overlooking the par-5 18th green and its water hazard has the Flycatcher Restaurant. There’s a lounge and TV bar.
The 700-hectare estate, of which only 30 percent will be developed, offers a variety of mountain bike trails, plus hiking, bird watching and trout fishing.

 

COURSE SUMMARY

Four tees / Par 72

  • Green 6710 metres, CR73.9/146
  • White 6123 metres, CR70.5/139
  • Blue 5897 metres, CR69.3/135
  • Red 4930 metres, CR63.7/119
  • Women’s blue, CR75.7/147
  • Women’s red, CR69.8/134

 

FEES

Visitor green fee:

  • R550 Tuesday – Friday
  • R700 Friday – Sunday
  • Golf cart included

 

Course designer
Ernie Els (2011)

SA’s TOP 100 COURSES RANKING
16

Contact
Tel: 087 287 4652/3 | Website: www.highlandgate.co.za

About Simone Anderson

Simone Anderson is the owner and founder of the JUNIOR GOLFER SA magazine as well as Simone Anderson Design and Layout Solutions.