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.