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Umdoni Park

Pennington - KZN South Coast - KwaZulu-Natal

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General manager: Rynardt Crous
Greenkeeper: Ian Lawrie
Club captain: Gordon Ross
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 65.2 out of 100
Conditioning12.5 / 20
Playability12.4 / 20
Aesthetics13.0 / 15
Design Variety10.0 / 15
Shot Values8.0 / 15
Memorability9.3 / 15

Course Summary

Two tees / Par 72

White 5592 metres, CR 69.8/133
Blue 4989 metres, CR 66.9/121
Women’s blue, CR73.0/127

Visitor green fee

R335, and R195 on Sunday PM and Monday
Combo special: R600 for two with golf cart on certain days
Stay & Play at Botha House, call for prices

Course designer

W H Horne, 1921 (9);
Sid Brews, 1930 (18)

Contact

039 975 1320
www.umdonipark.com

Previous Ranking

76 (2021) & 79 (2020)

Umdoni Park celebrated its centenary in 2020 (due to Covid the centenary dinner had to be postponed until May 2022), and for much of the last 100 years it has been a largely unknown golf course, hidden away on a private estate an hour’s drive south of Durban.

It’s a fun, shortish layout in a scenic and tranquil location overlooking the Indian Ocean. Arnold Palmer once described Tralee in Ireland as “Created by God, designed by Arnold Palmer,” and the same could be said of Umdoni, where two former SA Open champions, W H Horne and Sid Brews, played a part in laying out the holes.

Modern greens built in the 1990s by former greenkeeper Don Knight transformed it into a Top 100 course, and its reputation as a wonderful getaway destination has grown in the new millennium. The rolling terrain on which it was built makes for a unique and quirky collection of holes.

You reach the clubhouse through the village of Pennington, then take a private road past Botha House, the ocean-facing historic guest house named after General Louis Botha, first prime minister of the Union of South Africa. After his death in 1919 the house was bequeathed to the nation and many of our leaders of the past century have stayed there.

The course presents golfers with some of the finest outlooks of any coastal venue, as it climbs steeply in places away from the clubhouse. The front nine stays within view of the sea – long hitters will enjoy the prospect of driving short par 4s – while the back nine ventures into dense coastal forest.

The finish is a grand one. The challenging par-4 17th climbs uphill to an elevated green, and a walk from there through the forest takes you to the highest point of the property and the tee of the par-5 18th, a stage presenting the most panoramic of views.

Umdoni Park is one of only four Top 100 courses where the starting hole on each nine, Nos 1 and 10, with tee boxes closest to the clubhouse, is a par 5. It is the only coastal course to have this unusual feature. The other three courses are all in Gauteng – Benoni CC, Modderfontein and Wanderers. However, there are two other courses, Blair Atholl (Gauteng) and Olivewood (Eastern Cape) where Nos 1 and 10 are both par 5s, but the tenth hole is nowhere near the clubhouse and is not used as a starting hole.

Additional Course Facts

Course Record

62 by Leorin Pillay, 2015 monthly medal

Feature Holes

The back nine is 350 metres longer than the front and has some of the best holes, packed with character. These include the magnificent par-5 13th; the dramatic par-3 16th which plummets steeply downhill; and the 110-metre Majuba (No 12) with the green high in the forest above the tee. There are few flat holes at Umdoni Park. You are either climbing up to greens, or descending to them.

Accommodation

Botha House is a magnificent double-storey historic home, recently refurbished, inside the property and overlooking the ocean. There are nine en-suite rooms and a self-catering 2-bedroom family cottage with elegant finishes. There is also a self-catering cottage and annex in the forest close to the 12th green which can accommodate groups of up to 16 golfers.

Practice Facility

Two putting greens. Hitting area for short irons but golfers must use own golf balls.

Did You Know

1/ Umdoni Park has the most old-fashioned clubhouse of any Top 100 course, and the 1920s building retains the beautiful architecture of its period. A peek inside gives a good idea of golf club life in an earlier era. There’s a board where the names of golfers are slotted into the tee times for the day. The club has 500 members.

2/ The clubhouse restaurant is a popular lunch and dinner venue with the public, particularly the outside deck overlooking the ocean. Open daily from 8am to 3.30, and on three evenings. Booking is essential.

3/ Park runs are held in the Umdoni forest at 8am every Saturday & Sunday. There are nature walks for bird lovers. The estate covers 200 hectares.

4/ Being a hilly course, not easy to walk, Umdoni has a big fleet of golf carts.

Club Champions

2021 Calvin Donnelly & Sharon Schutte
2020 No championship
2019 Luke Cubitt & Sharon Schutte

Note: Ron Thompson won 17 men’s titles between 1968 and 1989. Three members of the Pillay family won 23 titles from 1991 to 2017.

Course and Facilities Rating
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Course Etiquette
Course Reviews

Umdoni Park late last year made a decision to pave the ancient dirt road from the entrance gate to the clubhouse. There is a hilly section and on wet days vehicles often became stuck on the slippery surface and had to be towed to level ground. This paved road proved a blessing when the big rains arrived in KZN in April and again this month. The golf course and clubhouse (which does a roaring trade with golfing and non-golfing visitors) might have been closed for weeks without vehicle access. The course is still wet in places but was undamaged even after more than 600mm of rain. It remains one of the quirkiest layouts I've played due to the hilly terrain, and that's part of Umdoni's immense charm and popularity. A great pity though that almost no one walks the course these days, even such a beautiful nature hike as this through the forest and across the seaside slopes. When did SA golfers become so unenergetic? Bouncing around in a golf cart for 18 holes (cart paths are limited) is not what I'd call fun or healthy for your back.

Stuart McLean
28 May 2022
Umdoni's charm lies in the many interesting holes you find there. Very different from the conventional holes we experience at most courses. The undulating nature of the land is the reason. There's only one hole on the property that could be described as flat, and that's the dogleg par-4 14th, which is well inland furthest from the ocean.
Leon Bevan
13 January 2022
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Golfers arriving at Umdoni are currently having to take a circuitous route with their cars across the golf course, as the lengthy dirt road from the entrance to the clubhouse is being paved. This will certainly enhance the Umdoni experience once done. That experience includes staying over at the magnificent Botha House colonial style B&B, enjoying its ocean views, and walking or riding the many kilometres of trails in the vast Umdoni forest. I never tire of that. It's a place where you essentially come to relax, and appreciate an old-fashioned world, in the quirky scenic course, the special look and feel of the 100-year-old clubhouse and the comfortable grandeur of the accommodation.
Stuart McLean
16 November 2021
An absolute gem! Not sure how it is ranked so low, because I'd much rather play Umdoni Park than the majority of courses in the Western Cape. Maybe the conditioning? But it's still in good nick. Greens played firm and fast and true, requiring shots to run up to the green in some cases. The course is short, but accuracy is paramount, especially on the back nine. I played when the wind was mild but can imagine it being a beast in a strong wind! All the elevation changes keep you constantly on your toes. The sight lines off the tee are exceptional. Reminded me of Royal Port Alfred GC and East London GC.
Jean-Luc Regaud
01 October 2021
Easy and friendly booking and check in. Short course but relatively tight fairways. Lots of elevation giving the course great character. Walkable, but be prepared to test your fitness! Amazing views of the ocean from many holes. Greens in good condition. One of the most enjoyable courses in KZN. We played on a relatively still morning. Have heard it can be a massive challenge when the wind picks up.
Avinash Kalkapersad
15 June 2021
Not long ago golfers used to walk a course like Umdoni Park. Golfers were a hardier breed back then. I played on a busy day with a big group (the Troubleshooters from Durban) taking up most of the afternoon tee times, and not one person was walking. Few do these days, and Umdoni's cart fleet grows every year. I can understand why there is no appetite for walking because Umdoni has some severe hills. The course would make a fine mountain bike trail. It's a quirky course, not dissimilar to Royal Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, and the unique holes and beautiful scenery is the main attraction. It's worth the green fee alone just to tee up on the fabulous 18th, where your drive from the high tee seems to hang in the air forever.
Stuart McLean
08 May 2021
Played in the Saturday afternoon field and enjoyed the good vibe at this popular members club both before and after the round. It's an old fashioned course, and the only other vaguely similar in South Africa is Royal Port Alfred. Umdoni Park has more scenic views over the coastline. It also has some of the steepest uphill holes in the country, notably the par-4 ninth, where the short-iron approach is equivalent to trying to land the ball on the top-storey of a block of flats! On several greens you cannot see the bottom of the flag. But there are fabulous holes too that enrapture those who play here and keep bringing them back. The clubhouse restaurant provides superb fare at a good price, perfect for after the round.
Stuart McLean
20 November 2020
Umdoni is a pleasure to play! Several unforgettable holes, are the course tests your game! The greens are in a good condition. On the back nine in the forest it feels as if you are the only fourball on the course. I recommend the clubhouse catering as a great way to finish your round.
Philip Malan
28 September 2020
Elevation changes throughout the course make for spectacular and challenging holes with breathtaking scenery and sea views.
Trevor King
08 March 2020
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