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Zimbali

Ballito, KZN North Coast - KwaZulu-Natal

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General manager: Sheldon Stroebel
Golf director: Willem Lindeque
Greenkeeper: James Herbert (Golf Data)
Club captain: Doug Campbell
Chairman: Malcolm Fick
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 74.6 out of 100
Conditioning14.9 / 20
Playability14.8 / 20
Aesthetics12.2 / 15
Design Variety11.1 / 15
Shot Values10.3 / 15
Memorability11.3 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 72

Yellow 6467 metres, CR75.0/130
White 6052 metres, CR72.2/129
Blue 5575 metres, CR69.4/129
Red 4974 metres, CR67.5/117
Women’s blue, CR76.0/136
Women’s red, CR73.4/127

Visitor green fee

Zimbali is an exclusive members facility.
Visitors can only play if invited by a member or are residing on the estate.
Hotel guest R1120.
Includes golf cart

Course designer

Tom Weiskopf 1998

Contact

032 538 1041
www.zimbalicc.co.za

Previous Ranking

25 (2021) & 18 (2020)

The KZN North Coast, or Dolphin Coast, has seen incredible growth over the last 20 years, and the Zimbali Coastal Resort development in Ballito anticipated that population boom. The resort has a large residential component, two hotels, and a world-class golf course.

Zimbali moved to being an exclusive members facility in December 2020. Visitors can only play the course if invited and together with a member, or staying on the estate in one of the short-term rental properties or the Zimbali Lodge or Capital Hotel (formerly the Fairmont).

American course designer Tom Weiskopf was presented with a considerable challenge when he first saw the terrain on which he was asked to build Zimbali in the mid-1990s. “I had never before worked with land where so much elevation had to be taken into account,” he said. Fortunately his brief was to integrate a cart-only layout, which at the time was a first in South Africa, into the property.

Zimbali rolls and tumbles among hills on the Indian Ocean shoreline. There are only two flat holes on the entire layout, the fourth and sixth which adjoin each other at the lower end of the course. Three of the par-3s are played from elevated tees, which makes for tricky club selection. Weiskopf used a clever and unusual design ploy to build the par-3 14th. Being a cart course, he was able to take golfers up a steep path into a gap in the forest, and then have them play back to the green.

Zimbali has two distinctively different nines, the first on open land with ocean views and wide fairways, while the back nine ventures into the beautiful indigenous coastal forest from the 13th to 18th, with a highly attractive series of holes to finish.

The course has had significant upgrades in recent years which have made it more playable, notably at the stroke one, par-4 15th where a severely sloping hidden green has been levelled and opened up to be seen from each side of the fairway.

Additional Course Facts

Course Record

64 by Jared Harvey in 2017 Vodacom Origins.

Feature Holes

The second is a glorious short par 4 from a high set of tees with a large dam guarding the left side of the hole; No 13 is a tight downhill par 4 with forest on both sides of the fairway; while the 442-metre 18th is one of South Africa’s great finishing holes, and a favourite of Weiskopf’s. A dogleg left from an elevated tee with cross bunkers guarding the left side off the tee, with the approach to a raised green.

Accommodation

There are two luxury hotels within the resort, the Zimbali Lodge close by the golf clubhouse and overlooking the course, and the larger 154-room Capital Zimbali Hotel on the Indian Ocean shoreline.

Practice Facility

Range is a fair distance from clubhouse in the residential estate. The teaching professionals are Blanche Lamprecht and Amy Henning.

Club Champions

2022 Steve Phytides & Kayla Saunders
2021 Steve Phytides & Jemima Ullyett
2020 Kevin Ullyett & Jemima Ullyett*
2019 Shane Douglas & Thea Sadler
*Father and daughter champions

Did You Know

1/ The renovated African-themed clubhouse occupies a unique forest setting. The indigenous forest was left undisturbed and trees grow through the raised decks which provide sea views. The entrance features the remains of a ruined farmhouse framed around a wild fig tree. The 18th green sits below the shady clubhouse, now visible from the outside deck. The first and tenth tees are accessed via a bridge over the main estate road. There is a halfway house at the par-3 ninth green, and golfers only return to the clubhouse at No 18.

2/ American course designer Tom Weiskopf, the 1973 Open champion, died in August 2022, aged 79. He designed 70 courses worldwide, including Loch Lomond in Scotland, and Double Eagle Club in Ohio which is in the USA Top 100.

3/ On the par-5 17th Weiskopf initially hid a bunker over a slope in the fairway (since removed). “I call that the What Bunker,” he said. “When I first played the Old Course at St Andrews I would hit a shot into what looked a safe part of the fairway, and the caddie would tell me I was in a bunker. My reaction was always ‘What Bunker?’”

4/ When Zimbali first opened for play the main coastal road between Ballito and Umhlanga ran through the middle of the course. That is now a quiet residential road, and a new section of the M4 bypasses Zimbali.

5/ Zimbali has Royal Blue cynodon grass tees and fairways, with paspalum greens.

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
Golfers who employ the "Texas Wedge" around the greens will particularly enjoy playing at Zimbali, a special experience as it is. The course's fairways are among the best you will find in South Africa, a beautiful coverage of pure Royal Blue cynodon grass which makes a nice change from the kikuyu fairways we're used to. What's brilliant about the Royal Blue, which thrives in tropical conditions, is that it resembles a carpet, so that you can take out your putter well short of the greens and put a superb roll on the ball. It clings to the surface and doesn't get the unexpected hops and bounces you find on many kikuyu surfaces. Also great for bump-and-run shots with a short iron. Another feature at Zimbali which will delight club golfers is that there's effectively no rough alongside the fairways. It's more of a second cut slightly thicker in texture than that on the fairways, and you thus have no trouble spotting your ball. It makes for a wider target area off the tee.
Stuart McLean
31 May 2022
Given the recent floods in KZN I was not sure what to expect when arriving to play Zimbali. The presentation and condition of the course blew me away. The greens were superb, true and quick. Bunkers, fairways and tees were immaculate. The layout, with its well thought out bunker complexes, combined with the wind factor, makes for a true test. A gem of a course.
David Frost
10 May 2022
View more reviews
Zimbali used to be open for visitors, but now like Fancourt access to the golf course is reserved for members and estate residents or hotel guests. When I first contacted the pro shop to book a tee time it was explained to me they would be happy to assist if I was residing within the golf estate, but could not play as a day visitor. On a recent trip I booked an Airbnb within Zimbali, and secured a time at "hotel member" rates. The clubhouse staff were incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. It was well worth all this effort to play the course because it is superbly designed in terms of playability and stunningly beautiful. The greens are among the best in KZN, and the general conditioning was excellent.
Craig Gunther
14 February 2022
Zimbali is in fantastic condition. The greens are running beautifully with a consistent true roll. The risk-reward par 5s, the third, sixth, 12th and 17th, are particularly enjoyable and provide good scoring opportunities. With the clubhouse upgrades progressing well it is likely that Zimbali will challenge for the title of Top Course in KZN.
Jon James
24 August 2021
Zimbali has now been a private club for the last six months, with no day visitors allowed unless it's part of a special golf day. Zimbali Lodge guests can get tee times, and it is a wow factor golf experience worth making. I didn't get to play the course, but a drive around had me salivating over the magnificent conditioning, as good as I've seen it. The tees and fairways resembled green carpets. The clubhouse is undergoing a major refurbishment, due to be complete by the end of 2021.
Stuart McLean
09 May 2021
A Tom Weiskopf designed course, this is always worth a visit. Layout challenging, with great use of water, elevation changes and the tropical Natal vegetation to create a great golf experience. Condition good.
Ivan Palframan
20 February 2020
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