Champagne Sports Resort
Central Drakensberg - KwaZulu-Natal
Golf Director: Trevor Livesey
Greenkeeper: Trevor Livesey
Club Captain: James Macquet
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 74.7 out of 100
Conditioning15.1 / 20
Playability15.0 / 20
Aesthetics13.0 / 15
Design Variety10.0 / 15
Shot Values11.0 / 15
Memorability10.6 / 15
Four tees / Par 72
Gold 6694 metres, CR75.2/147
White 6203 metres, CR72.3/141
Blue 5632 metres, CR69.2/129
Red 4757 metres, CR64.8/119
Women’s blue, CR75.7/146
Women’s red, CR70.2/133
Visitor green fee
R345 hotel and timeshare guests
Hugh Baiocchi 1997
036 468 8000
26 (2022) & 29 (2021)
The clubhouse at Champagne Sports Resort occupies one of the great locations in world golf. Perched on a hillside above the golf course it offers panoramic views of the mighty Drakensberg mountain range and the surrounding countryside. There’s an outside deck where golfers can relax and enjoy the beautiful setting throughout the year, and a fireplace inside for winter weather.
The parkland course is one of the most scenic in the country, and the only 18-hole course this close to the Central Drakensberg peaks, with bent grass greens.
For a holiday resort it’s a big, strong layout with one challenging hole after another, full of elevation changes and undulating terrain, and well-bunkered. It’s at its best in the summer months, when the conditioning is outstanding, while in winter the kikuyu fairways become brown and firm, making for longer drives and shorter approaches.
It’s a course that immediately gets a golfer’s attention playing the opening holes alongside the deep Sterkspruit river gorge that cuts through the property. The 430-metre second is a terrific par 4 playing steeply downhill with the gorge on the left.
No golf club in South Africa is as reliant on one man as Champagne Sports Resort. The day-to-day operations are the responsibility of greenkeeper-cum-golf director Trevor Livesey who has worked there for almost 30 years. He started as a youthful greenkeeper in the first year of course construction in 1994, then became the club pro, and has been there ever since. A former Natal provincial golfer who learned the game at Huletts CC (now Mount Edgecombe), and represented the SA Junior team, he is a PGA of SA professional and combines his greenkeeping duties with both that of golf director and teaching professional. Another feather in his cap is that he holds the course record of 63.
Additional Course Facts
63 by Trevor Livesey (twice)
Beautiful and spectacular holes abound at Champagne Sports Resort. Those brave enough can try out the championship gold tee on the first which stretches this par 5 to 605 metres. At one time it was the longest hole in South Africa. The tee shot has to carry the river flowing beneath the clubhouse. The fourth is a magnificent par 3 played from an elevated tee across a wide expanse of water to a narrow green. There’s a splendid trio of holes to finish, flowing downhill back to the clubhouse, starting with the 201m 16th, then back-to-back par 4s of 400 metres, with a stream bordering the left side. A water hazard guards the front of the elevated 18th green.
The resort hotel offers 152 bedrooms/suites with either mountain or garden views. It is one of the premier conference venues in South Africa, able to host 1000 delegates at one time. The resort offers a spa, gym, numerous leisure activities, kids and teens clubs, running and mountain bike trails.
Practice putting and chipping greens, and warm-up net, at clubhouse.
Did You Know
1/ Champagne Sports Resort first opened as a 9-hole course in 1996. This was the current front nine. Then came the second nine the following year and the building of the clubhouse. The project was driven by the resort owners, twin brothers Roger and Alain Macquet.
2/ Champagne Castle is one of the nearby peaks and the second highest in South Africa at 3377 metres. It was named by two 19th century mountaineers who were about to toast their feat of ascending the mountain with a glass of champagne when a guide dropped and broke the bottle.
3/ Course designer Hugh Baiocchi, the 1978 SA Open champion, was beginning a new career on the US Senior Tour in 1996/97 while Champagne was being built. His drawings were left in the hands of consulting architect, the late Alasdair McLeod, and Trevor Livesey, who were both on site and supervised the fairway contouring, shaping of greens, and location of bunkers.
4/ The 9-hole Monks Cowl course adjoins Champagne Sports Resort.
5/ There has never been a Sunshine Tour event here, or even a club championship as there are few members. However, Champagne Sports Resort has hosted the Nomads National tournament on three occasions, most recently in 2021.
Course and Facilities Rating
Champagne Sports is a course I never tire of playing, and I would classify it as one of the 10 best bucket-list venues in South Africa. Remotely situated, like most bucket-listers, with nothing else to play in the Drakensberg neighbourhood. Beautiful holes, challenging holes, stunning aesthetics, and greens which I rate highly in both their design and conditioning. Pure bent greens with no poa thanks to a special "muti" from South Korea discovered years ago by greenkeeper Trevor Livesey. Fabulous destination for a midweek golf tour most of the year, because the course is relatively quiet from Monday to Friday. CSR is a constant test of a golfer's ability with driver off the tee. Find the fairway and you will likely score well. The par 5s are strong, although the riskiest (No 15) is the shortest (464). A lengthy flat green sits in a hollow adjoining a water hazard. The trees and plants around it conjure up an image befitting Augusta National.
31 March 2023
I wasn't impressed by the layout and feel Champagne Sports is overrated on my experience. No doubt there are some fabulous holes (both nines open and close with great holes), however others I found lacking. Perhaps the routing could have been better. We were often going back and forth along the same line. What did leave a sour note -- we teed off at 7.30 on a Tuesday -- was that the greens were uncut (and subsequently full of dew) and bunkers unraked during our round. There is no excuse for not cutting the greens. I'd heard rave reviews about the conditioning but for me this was not the case. The fairways were not the purest of kikuyu. This is a championship course and it was testing. However, branches need to be trimmed back on tee shots as I had to hit low shots to avoid them. I'd like another round to change my perception.
13 March 2023
The current conditioning and presentation is excellent following some decent rainfall. The greens are running true and the tees, fairways and bunkers all in good shape. The design variety of all 18 holes at Champagne Sports remains a highlight and this is a memorable and delightful resort course to play even with plenty of visitors during the summer holidays. From risk-reward par 4s (driveable holes like the third and 10th) to the long stroke 1 par 4 eighth, the course presents opportunity and challenges aplenty. The tree-lined fairways demand accuracy off the tee and errant driving is often punished. I particularly enjoy the fourth (par 3 signature hole), the par-5 15th and par-4 18th. The service is of a high standard and the views from the clubhouse patio among the best in South African golf.
06 January 2022
After a few rounds at Champagne Sports the past year I have to conclude it's one of those rare courses where I cannot name a weak hole. Every one of them has strong design features. And the balance of the layout is just about perfect. Good tee shots are required throughout the round, and if you're driving straight and long you can score low because the par 5s are within range for two. And there are three par 4s where the green can be driven, one surprisingly being the fabulous downhill dogleg second (409 metres from the club tees) where a big drive on the tiger line can run down the hill to the putting surface (Mark Anders take a bow). Another downhiller through a chute of trees is the ninth. There have been two holes-in-one on the 304-metre 10th, which is among my favourite short par 4s.
21 November 2021
The Central Drakensberg course is dry after a spell of hot weather and lack of rain, yet it remains a pleasure to play with the fairways firm and the ball running off the tee shots. It makes a challenging course (extremely well bunkered) that much easier on which to score. The greens, as usual, are magnificent. The maintenance staff have been busy thinning out trees in places where needed (there are nearly 800 framing the holes on this parkland layout), opening up the views. The resort recently hosted the Nomads Nationals, and there were many participants who expressed a wish to return as soon as possible for another.
21 November 2021
This is a special time of year to be playing golf in the KZN Drakensberg and no better place to unwind for a long weekend break than this wonderful resort. Many of the trees at Champagne Sports are changing colour as autumn arrives, so the course is looking particularly beautiful. The air is crisper. There was a thunderstorm during the night before my round, followed by heavy rain. But the course drains well and was eminently playable other than water in some bunkers. The Drakensberg region, like most of South Africa, has had vast quantities of rain this summer, and Champagne Sports has benefitted from it in terms of conditioning. The greens are superb as always.
30 April 2021
The Drakensberg rains over December and January, together with the knowledge of (greenkeeper) Trevor Livesey, has left this course in excellent condition.
14 February 2021
A firm favourite of mine. The fairways are tight with established trees playing a huge role, water is an occasional factor, and length is required off the tee most of the time. Great par 3s are the standout, but I enjoy all the holes equally.
16 January 2021
Big greens, big bunkers, big landscape. Everything is on a large scale at Champagne Sports Resort, one of South Africa's lesser known top courses due to its remoteness in the Central Drakensberg. With so many tree-lined fairways, doglegs, and cleverly positioned bunkers it's more championship layout than gentle resort experience, yet there is a friendly side to it that the average golfer will enjoy as much as the low-handicap. The vast greens are impressive, both in their magnificent design and quality of surface. Pin positions abound and the greens complexes offer plenty of entertainment. No impossible putts, just fun for chipping and putting. The clubhouse setting is spectacular, hard to beat for the views and outdoor ambience.
29 November 2020
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