Published by : Stuart McLean - 06 December 2023

Homeowners at the Oubaai golf estate in the Garden Route have reacted joyously to the recent sale of the Oubaai golf course and hotel complex to an Abu Dhabi businessman. For the past two years Oubaai has been in worrying decline due to allegedly neglectful practices by the previous owner, Kharafi Holdings, based in Kuwait.

The par-4 16th of the Ernie Els design.

There were fears that the attractive Ernie Els design on the Indian Ocean coastline might even have to close, such was the dire financial implications that led to it being run on a basic shoestring budget. The maintenance contractors, Turfworx, were owed millions in past services and were not being regularly paid, and the management company, Mark Wiltshire Golf, withdrew their services a year ago for the same reason.

However, it was kept open with the support of individual homeowners and Danny Maritz of Turfworx, who ensured all 18 holes remained in a playable condition despite a lack of irrigation pumps. Closing the course would have had far-reaching consequences. As it is, the bunkers are in need of an upgrade involving drainage, new sand and sculpting faces. Oubaai’s ranking in the Top 100 fell from No 44 in 2021 to No 68 at the beginning of 2023.

“The new owner is Khalfan Al Kaabi, who also last year acquired ownership of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which has hosted numerous DP World Tour events, plus the recent World Amateur Team Championships,” said Mark Wiltshire, who first met with Al Kaabi two years ago, and has assisted with the sale process. “He was in George for the sale and transfer of property in October, and made another visit earlier in November to engage with homeowners and talk about his vision for Oubaai.”

Par-5 18th and Oubaai clubhouse in earlier years, with 16th on the left.

The Garden Route is regarded as South Africa’s premier golf destination, and Oubaai, opened in 2005, was a significant attraction for international tourists, because of its Ernie Els signature course, and having a smart resort hotel. The region itself, with a growing annual influx of new residents, is seeing a need for tee times from east to west. Courses are busy, remembering that Fancourt is not open to day visitors.

“Getting Oubaai back to its previous condition will not be an easy flick of the switch,” said Wiltshire. “The course has deteriorated, and it will be a hard road back. Fortunately we now have an owner with the vision to make it happen, and we look forward to creating a great new experience for golfers.”

Ernie Els is due to visit in December, and clearly has his own vision for Oubaai’s future.

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