4

St Francis Links

St Francis Bay - Eastern Cape

Played this course? Review it now
CEO: Jeff Clause
Head PGA pro: Thinus Keller
Greenkeeper: Charl Blaauw
Chairman: Chris Kelway
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 80.9 out of 100
Conditioning16.0 / 20
Playability14.5 / 20
Aesthetics13.0 / 15
Design Variety13.1 / 15
Shot Values12.0 / 15
Memorability12.3 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 72

Gold 6553 metres, CR76.5/149
White 5945 metres, CR73.3/145
Blue 5353 metres, CR70.3/133
Red 4791 metres, CR67.3/122
Women’s blue, CR75.8/142
Women’s red, CR72.2/133

Visitor green fee

R895, walking allowed,
golf carts R400
R715 for referred guests
Multiple pay packages

Course designer

Jack Nicklaus Signature 2006

Contact

042 200 4500
www.stfrancislinks.com

Previous Ranking

5 (2021) & 6 (2020)

St Francis Links occupies one of the finest links sites, built in high rolling dunes overlooking St Francis Bay and the Indian Ocean. The dunes stretch for kilometres and you could have built as many links here as there are at St Andrews.

Jack Nicklaus excelled himself as a designer with his varied challenges, short and long, wide and narrow, uphill and down, each hole complemented by exquisite greens complexes with bent grass surfaces that hold their own mysteries. The course asks for brave shots and inventive ones. With cool season grasses it might not be a firm and fast-running links, yet it shouts links terrain of a magnificent quality from No 1 to 18.

The scene is set with a remarkable opener, requiring a drive over the edge of a bunker in a dune to a hidden fairway. Four different sets of tees make the course enjoyable for everyone, and forward tees are even the sensible choice for low-handicaps on a windy day. Some bunkers are deep and severe, yet the course has become more playable in recent years with fairways widened.

This is a True Links, although some purists might not appreciate the water hazards, unavoidable due to the Sand River running through the property. A large dam on the upper part of the course frames holes 13 to 15. It guards the left side of 13, shortest of the par 5s. And at the dramatic par-4 18th, played from a high tee, another prominent hazard left of the fairway makes for an intimidating tee shot.

Each hole is named, and some aptly describe what lies ahead. The par-3 fourth, Double Vision, has two separate greens, one on a lower level used most of the time, and another more difficult target higher on a dune. Eye of the Needle at No 8 is just that: you thread your tee shot through a gap to a narrow fairway. No 11 is simply called Eish! That’s what many golfers exclaim standing on the elevated tee when they first see this spectacular par 4 carved through the dunes.

The double-storey clubhouse occupies a scenic position above the 18th green. There’s a fine-dining restaurant, and is a popular venue for functions.

St Francis Links was named South Africa’s Best Golf Course at the 2021 World Golf Awards in Dubai.

The PGA Championship trophy has found a new home at St Francis Links through to 2023.
Additional Course Facts

Course Record

63, Steve Surry, 2021 SA PGA Championship
Surry had 7 birdies and a hole-in-one at the seventh in the first round

SA PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

St Francis Links is hosting this Sunshine Tour event for three years until 2023. The 2021 winner was Dean Burmester with a 17-under total of 271. It is the first time the PGA Championship has been played at a coastal venue.

Feature Holes

Of the 229 holes-in-one at St Francis Links, 114 have been at No 17, where Nicklaus designed a Redan-style green in the dunes playing between 190 and 125 metres. Golfers of all abilities have improved odds of a hole-in-one if they hit the green, which slopes towards the back, where the pin is always placed. It has become a fun hole where groups are entertained with sundowner shootouts. Several other holes stand out as equally unique creations. The opening par 4 over a dune; the risk-and-reward short par 4 at No 5 with its array of bunkers; the wide fairway and hidden green at 12. And then there are a quartet of demanding par 4s at Nos 9, 11, 15 and 18, each with its own individual character.

Accommodation

Luxury self-catering homes are available to rent through the estate’s website. The St Francis Lodge has 10 guest rooms close to the clubhouse. A new sectional title development by Mantis Group features two-bedroom en-suite units (with double garage) overlooking the 18th hole with ocean views.

Practice Facility

Spacious 280-metre range with grass bays separate from clubhouse, reached by golf cart. Extensive short-game area adjoins clubhouse.

Did You Know

1/ St Francis Links was where Par-3 golf began locally. CEO Jeff Clause had the bright idea of converting the course into 18 Par-3 holes – “The Ultimate Par 3” with its own scorecard – employing temporary tees 75 to 130 metres from each green. It makes for a quick round using carts, and is popular on windy days. There is even a club championship.

2/ Voted Golf Digest Best New Course in 2007, and a constant presence in the Top 10 since then. Walking is allowed, yet many use carts.

3/ The estate has grown to 220 completed homes, out of a projected 540. St Francis Links has experienced an increase in property sales since Covid as young families move into the area.

4/ Numerous elite tournaments, pro and amateur, have been played here. The Sunshine Tour visits regularly.

5/ Jordan Duminy, 16, set a new amateur record of 65 (nine birdies) in winning the SA Under-17 title in 2019.

6/ The clubhouse is a popular wedding venue, the course hosts numerous charity days, raising more than a million rand annually, and a Park Run is held on the estate every Saturday morning.

7/ Dr Lynn Slogrove has won 42 club championship titles in the East Cape, at Humewood (23), St Francis Bay (13) and St Francis Links (6).

Club Champions

2021 Michael Buckham & Lynn Slogrove
2020 Michael Buckham (record 71-72=143)
& Rita du Plessis
2019 Boetie Zietsman & Lynn Slogrove

Course and Facilities Rating
Conditioning Ratings
Greens
Bunkers
Tees
Fairways
Presentation
Overall Conditioning
Facility Ratings
Pace of Play
Practice Range
Halfway House
Pro Shop
Service
Locker Room
19th Hole
Course Etiquette
Course Reviews
I well remember St Francis Links when it opened more than 15 years ago. Then, most golfers viewed playing there with trepidation. Tee times were easily obtainable. Since then this course and estate has experienced a 360 degree turnaround. It is now one of the most desirable local destinations, thanks to brilliant marketing and the gradual realisation among golfers that this is an extremely good value world-class venue in a beautiful environment. The Links was busy when I played on a Friday, firstly with a group of 56 from Richard Gill's Corporate Cup (who used to never venture outside the Garden Route), then with home owners for the weekly sundowner shotgun. Everyone wants to live on this estate because of its idyllic lifestyle. Houses are multiplying. Even the short cut path for walkers like myself through the bush from first green to second tee has been lost to property development. However, the houses don't impact the golfing experience. Set well back from the playing corridors, the architectural theme blends into the attractive general aesthetics. It is an estate where development and environment have found harmony together.
Stuart McLean
21 June 2022
Lovely to see how they allow the natural vegetation to be the champion. Great course design.
Pieter Odendaal
27 March 2022
View more reviews
Last Saturday our fourball played the links walking with push carts. What a great experience as you have more time to take in the exceptional views and amazing topography of a truly great layout in exceptional condition. There are numerous short cuts away from the golf cart paths. Good exercise and we played 18 comfortably in 4:20 including halfway. Walking enables you to get a better feel of each hole and appreciate the genius and foresight of carving a world class course out of a dune field.
Ashley Parker
05 February 2022
This is one of my 'Wow' courses in SA. The layout is challenging but rewarding to the shots each hole requires from all standards of golfer. Obviously the wind plays a significant factor in scoring and overall playability that will play mind games with you for 18 holes. A great design to witness and a wonderful experience not to be missed.
Neville Clarke
29 January 2022
With a hole-in one at the 17th on January 5 I became the first player to win the R100 000 up for grabs! The odds on having an ace here are better than anywhere else because the pin is nearly always in the back half of the green because of the severe downslope from front to back. With an elevated tee looking down on the green, most tee shots which find the right section of the green will funnel at speed towards the pin, and there have been well over a hundred aces here in the 15 years since the course opened. Every since the Hole-in-One Challenge was introduced here I have regularly wagered R100 on getting lucky. This time I hit a 9-iron from 184 metres and I was really chuffed when the ball disappeared. Mine was the first ace to take the maximum prize. St Francis Links is an awesome course in great nick the whole year through. 
Sandor Kovacs
06 January 2022
St Francis Links offers an interesting variety of tee boxes, and on this visit I pegged up on the back "pro" tee on 18 for the first time. An easterly was blowing, so this formidable par 4 was playing in a favourable right-to-left crosswind. It's 405 metres from this tee, but it's at such a high elevation from the very top of a hill that my playing partners only needed 9-iron for their approach shots after taking the tiger line over the edge of the water hazard (I played more conservatively). Playing from this tee is a blast (one of several exciting tee shots on this course), but I'm told that Jack Nicklaus wasn't in favour of using it because he disliked the fact that the main road past the estate entrance is in plain view.
Stuart McLean
28 October 2021
Course looking immaculate from tee to green. On a quiet day it was an opportunity to walk rather than ride. It's an excellent and interesting walk, not what you would call tiring in the absence of wind, but it did take three of us nearly five hours to play 18 without a halfway stop. Admittedly we weren't in a hurry, taking our time. A pleasant surprise was playing the par-3 fourth, called Double Vision, to the seldom-used upper green, which made a rare change. Having two different greens on a hole is a clever innovation, rare to find. The only other course I know in South Africa with this feature is Metropolitan in Cape Town, but that's only because it is a 9-holer.
Stuart McLean
21 May 2021
If you haven't yet had a hole-in-one, then the 17th at the Links provides golfers with their best opportunity, as a good tee shot runs down a slope towards a pin at the back of the green. Many go close, a few lucky ones drop. Now it's part of the Hole in 1 Challenge where you can win as much as R100 000 for that perfect shot.
Thomas Souness
21 May 2021
St Francis Links provides an unbelievable golf experience from the time you drive through the entrance gate to when you leave after an unforgettable drink in the estate's iconic clubhouse. The course itself has become more player-friendly in recent years.
Ashley Parker
22 April 2021
This majestic course is an absolute ‘must play’ for anyone visiting the Eastern Cape. Always presented in excellent condition, the fairways are a joy to behold and the greens tricky enough to grab the attention of the most experienced player. Every hole has its own character and visual appeal. Unlike other estate courses the surrounding houses add to, rather than detract from, the Links’ natural beauty. The clubhouse is magnificent, the staff welcoming and professional, and the whole experience highly memorable. The Links thoroughly deserves its reputation and top ranking.
David Mack
09 April 2021
St Francis Links has so many different aspects to it, so many varied challenges, so many ways to play it. You have to contend with the wind, scary bunkers, coastal bush, elevation changes, undulating greens and water hazards. You can never get into a comfort zone, as you do with most conventional courses. These attributes all make this layout such a special golfing venue for South Africans at a green fee that's a fraction of what you would pay for a similar experience anywhere else in the world.
Thomas Souness
20 January 2021
Most visually appealing course, using the land well as it flows through the dunes and brings water into play. The front nine is more compelling than the back. This isn't to say the back nine isn't good, just slightly less memorable. It's a course golfers will appreciate more with each subsequent round.
Chris Wood
17 January 2021
Stunning course offers an enjoyable day's golf and an awesome allround experience. The staff are friendly, views amazing, and the quality from tee to green is world class.
Reece Whitfield
12 January 2021
St Francis Links provides a stern test of golf, particularly off the back tees. We played the course on a sublime Eastern Cape day, with little breeze. The presentation, setup and conditioning of the course was world class. The St Francis Links experience is something special: a tribute to the management team.
Jon James
12 October 2020
The Rolls Royce of golfing experiences in South Africa. Leadership from the top, committed and engaged staff, and a wonderfully presented course.
David Frost
10 September 2020
The best Jack Nicklaus course I have played. A great test, especially of the short game with undulating greens and true links bunkers ready to punish a poor approach. One of the few courses where you need to have a strategy for every shot.
Simpson
03 June 2020
My personal No 2 course in the country. Excellent facilities, welcoming staff and a course to back all the hype. Several blind shots but generous fairways and greens.
Sandor Kovacs
28 April 2020
I rate this the best layout I have experienced. Requires accuracy and thinking. Incredible greens provide a challenge and defence to the course.
Edan Allen
28 April 2020
At last I played the Links without the wind which made the experience more enjoyable. You still need accurate tee shots and great putting skill. Toughest pin placings in SA with a wide variety of options.
Leon Bevan
08 April 2020
To have fun at St Francis Links the trick is to choose the right tee box. Some of my most enjoyable rounds in the wind have been off the front tees, or playing the Par 3 course where you only hit approach shots into the greens. It gives you an entirely different perspective of a fabulous layout, and you learn to play a variety of shots.
Stuart McLean
23 February 2020

Always fun to play and in pristine condition. Every hole is distinct, many risk-and-reward holes and, with a choice of 4 tee boxes, it is accessible for all handicaps and conditions. They offer electric bicycles in addition to golf carts, which are great fun to whizz around this beautiful course.

Amy Laird
23 February 2020
Submit Your Review & Ratings

HAVE YOU PLAYED St Francis Links RECENTLY?

If you've played this course recently, why not tell us all about it? Follow the link to our review section, complete our grading criteria and give us some details on your experience. If selected, your review will appear amongst the course’s collection of player reviews.

Course Location
Other Top 100 Courses in the Area
  • Humewood
    Port Elizabeth
    RANKED 7
  • Wedgewood
    Port Elizabeth
    RANKED 86
  • St Francis Bay
    St Francis Bay
    RANKED 84