White 5592 metres, CR70.3/133
Blue 4989 metres, CR 66.8/120
Red 3828 metres, CR62.7/95
Women white CR76.9/141
Women’s blue CR73.1/129
Women’s red CR65.7/112
R255 Monday & Sunday PM
R390 rest of the week
Combo Special: R700 for two including cart on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sunday PM.
Specials not valid on public holidays and school holidays
Stay & Play at Botha House, call 039 975 1227 for rates
Golf cart R370
W H Horne, 1921 (9);
Sid Brews, 1930 (18)
039 975 1320
82 (2022) & 76 (2021)
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.
62 by Leorin Pillay, 2015 monthly medal
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.
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.
Two putting greens. Hitting area for short irons but golfers must use own golf balls.
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 seven days a week. Booking is essential.
3/ There are nature walks for bird lovers in the tranquil Umdoni forest, cycling and running trails for the more energetic. The estate covers more than 200 hectares.
4/ Being a hilly course, not easy to walk, Umdoni has a big fleet of golf carts.
2023 Leo Pillay & Bernie de Klerk
2022 Jack Cubitt & Sharon Schutte
2021 Kelvin Donnelly & Sharon Schutte
2020 Leo Pillay
2019 Luke Cubitt & Sharon Schutte
Note: Ron Thompson won 17 men’s titles from 1968 to 1989. Three members of the Pillay family won 25 titles from 1991 to 2023.
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.
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