THE BEST 19th
EXPERIENCE IN
SOUTH AFRICA

STELLENBOSCH GOLF CLUB RATED NO 1
AHEAD OF PINNACLE POINT. HERE ARE THE TOP 50

Published by : Stuart McLean - 15 February 2024

Stellenbosch Golf Club has been rated on the Top 100 Courses website as having the Best 19th Hole of South African golf clubs. It is a popular after-golf venue for tourists who love the setting on an upper floor of an attractive and modernised clubhouse, overlooking the 18th and with gorgeous views of the Jonkershoek mountains.

Pinnacle Point, a 21st-century development, was runner-up with its fabulous circular clubhouse on high cliffs above the Indian Ocean, while Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg placed third.

While having spectacular elevated views from their 19th Hole was a common denominator among the top 3 clubs, they were followed by two Johannesburg clubs, Parkview and Bryanston, where the course views are limited. However, they both have traditional old spacious pubs boasting a smart décor, excellent service, and an atmosphere which gathers in golfers before and after golf.

The Top 10 contains an interesting mix of old and modern clubhouses.

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The clubhouse at Stellenbosch Golf Club, and verandah of 19th Hole below.
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The dynamics of the 19th Hole have changed substantially in the new millennium in favour of those which offer more than the old-fashioned bar counter with adequate service, cold beers and packets of crisps and peanuts as the only snacks. Now many clubs have a pizza oven, and outdoor seating areas are a pre-requisite.

Stellenbosch and Pinnacle Point attract a broad clientele of members and visitors with the quality of their service, catering and spacious ambience, whereas 108-year-old Parkview retains its old school charms and is a cosy and comfortable retreat for members. Bryanston, being a country club, has both a stylish indoor bar area and sizeable terrace with umbrellas.

Stellenbosch GC, on the back of its popularity with foreign tourists visiting the Winelands, has transformed itself into a modern Western Cape club geared towards 5-star hospitality. There have been stylish architectural renovations to offer a more welcoming feel and draw in visitors.

Members and guests are also blissfully unaware of loadshedding as they enjoy the 19th and other facilities. In 2023, the club installed a Battery Emergency Supply System powered by 108 solar panels. After six months the projected annual saving on electricity costs amounted to R850 000, a 31 percent saving. The club introduced a waste recycling operation in 2022, and in 2023 had a reduction of 27 tons of solid waste to landfill sites, an annual saving of R106 016.

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Golfers enjoy the outside deck in the Pinnacle Point clubhouse.

Stellenbosch has a covered verandah in the front of the clubhouse, while Pinnacle Point and Champagne Sports have “decks.” The clubhouse pub at Champagne is tiny, and only fills up during the winter months. Otherwise everyone is outside lounging in comfortable chairs on the expansive deck high above the course, admiring majestic mountain peaks.

While golf clubs have embraced the outdoor element of their 19th Holes, it can be to the detriment of their main bar areas, as at Royal Johannesburg, where a sumptuous 19th often lies empty in summer. At the end of the last century it would have been packed.

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The thatch-roofed clubhouse at Champagne Sports Resort has mountain views.

Humewood is a club which reflects the changing times. Twenty years ago it was recognised by Golf Digest as having the best 19th. Members and visitors ritually gathered in the iconic upstairs 19th with its grand views over the links and Algoa Bay. Now, even on the windiest days, most golfers sit under umbrellas in an outside area close to the 18th green, and the upstairs bar can be deserted until prizegiving.

The traditional 19th Hole prizegiving is no longer the occasion it used to be, and more than a few pubs have lost their cheerfulness and mood as a result of golfers leaving early.  

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The outlook from the craft bar at Benoni Country Club.

Mbombela Golf Club, which essentially has no bar area, just a vast outside deck with an attractive view, so suitable for the warm Lowveld climate, received a high rating of No 24. Benoni CC (No 27) has a choice of two upstairs bars as the clubhouse has become more of a public entertainment centre rather than a private one. But the members bar survives along with a craft bar.

Simola has no outside area to its 19th, part of the hotel at this Knysna resort-estate, although golfers do relax afterwards at the halfway house. The stunning view from the 19th and the buzz in the pub earned it a place at No 11.

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Zimbali Country Club on the KZN North Coast.

Golfers are clearly happy with the quality of today’s 19th Hole experiences, as 37 clubs averaged 4-star ratings. A 3-star rating wouldn’t put a club in the Top 100. Among Top 10 courses, Humewood led the way at No 9, followed by The Links at Fancourt No 12, Leopard Creek No 16, and St Francis Links No 18. Rated outside the Top 50 though were the likes of Pearl Valley, Arabella, Glendower and Elements.

Interestingly, the major resorts didn’t feature that high. Fancourt was No 29 and Gary Player Country Club No 44.

Some pubs are museum pieces, reflective of an older era. It’s pleasing they are being preserved and not modernised. Royal Durban, whose course is no longer in the Top 100, still has one of the best character pubs, which hasn’t changed much over the years, and was rated No 7. Similarly, Schoeman Park in Bloemfontein, with a pub which appeals to an older generation, came in at No 37. Maccauvlei (No 47) is a blast from the past, with plenty of room around the bar counter, and on the dark side in terms of light. Yet it also has a an attractive outside area in front of the putting green. One of the best museum piece 19th Holes can be found at Kimberley GC, founded in 1890, although it doesn’t feature in the Best 50.

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Kimberley Golf Club has a beautifully maintained traditional bar.

A unique 19th is that at Wild Coast (No 21), on the top floor of the small clubhouse, looking down on the 18th. Plenty of windows so light streams through. It has a balcony on three sides, and there’s a bell to be rung for anyone whose tee shot fails to clear the dam. Long hitters going for the green have to aim just left of the clubhouse.

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The top-floor 19th hole at Wild Coast sits above the treeline.

Royal Cape, our oldest golf club, has an interesting period pub overlooking the 18th green, but it is not the main 19th Hole and is only used for special functions.

The 19th Hole at Steenberg (No 6) in Cape Town was rated the best at a residential estate. While it’s a single-storey building, the 19th is perfectly situated opposite the 18th green and has a harmonious flow between the indoor and outdoor elements. Ebotse and Woodhill in Gauteng were two other highly rated residential estates in this category.

Zimbali (No 19) on the KZN North Coast, and De Zalze in the Cape Winelands (No 20), have vastly improved 19th Holes following the remodelling of their respective clubhouses.

Krugersdorp is unusual in essentially having separate summer and winter 19th Holes. There’s a lapa area for summer, and on cold winter days everyone heads upstairs to the old bar and a roaring fire in the centre.

Durban Country Club has had three different 19th Holes in the past 25 years. It has again moved downstairs. The new 19th is smart and has an old-school look to it, but it’s relatively small and was rated No 48. Another old club which gave up on its original upstairs 19th is East London GC. They now have a modern and less formal facility next to the locker room which works especially well for members and retains a view of the 18th.

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The new 19th at Durban Country Club includes fine memorabilia.

TOP 50 19th HOLES

TOP 10

1 Stellenbosch, 2 Pinnacle Point, 3 Champagne Sports Resort,
4 Parkview, 5 Bryanston, 6 Steenberg, 7 Royal Durban,
8 Houghton, 9 Humewood, 10 Ebotse Links

SECOND 10

11 Simola, 12 The Links at Fancourt, 13 Royal Johannesburg,
14 Woodhill, 15 Somerset West, 16 Leopard Creek, 17 Knysna,
18 St Francis Links, 19 Zimbali, 20 De Zalze

THIRD 10

21 Wild Coast, 22 Country Club Johannesburg, 23 George,
24 Mbombela, 25 Umdoni Park, 26 Milnerton, 27 Benoni CC,
28 Kloof, 29 Southbroom, 30 Fancourt

FOURTH 10

31 East London, 32 Blair Atholl, 33 Pretoria CC, 34 Randpark,
35 Prince’s Grant, 36 Modderfontein, 37 Schoeman Park,
38 The Club at Steyn City, 39 The Belmont, 40 Gowrie Farm

FIFTH 10

41 Lost City, 42 Port Elizabeth, 43 Erinvale, 44 Gary Player, 45 Ruimsig, 46 Kambaku, 47 Maccauvlei, 48 Durban CC, 49 Glenvista, 50 Metropolitan

TOP 25 IN GAUTENG

1 Parkview, 2 Bryanston, 3 Houghton, 4 Ebotse Links, 5 Royal Johannesburg,
6 Woodhill, 7 Country Club Johannesburg, 9 Blair Atholl, 9 Pretoria CC,
10 Randpark, 11 Modderfontein, 12 Benoni CC, 13 The Club at Steyn City,
14 Ruimsig, 15 Maccauvlei, 16 Glenvista, 17 Emfuleni, 18 Magalies Park,
19 Dainfern, 20 Eagle Canyon, 21 ERPM, 22 Wanderers, 23 Serengeti,
24 Centurion, 25 Kyalami

TOP 25 IN WESTERN CAPE

1 Stellenbosch, 2 Pinnacle Point, 3 Steenberg, 4 Simola,
5 The Links at Fancourt, 6 Somerset West, 7 Knysna,
8 De Zalze, 9 George, 10 Milnerton, 11 Fancourt, 12 Erinvale,
13 Metropolitan, 14 Durbanville, 15 Hermanus, 16 Pearl Valley,
17 Mossel Bay, 18 Goose Valley, 19 Clovelly, 20 Paarl, 21 Strand,
22 Oubaai, 23 Bellville, 24 Royal Cape, 25 Westlake

TOP 25 IN EASTERN CAPE

1 Humewood, 2 St Francis Links, 3 East London, 4 The Belmont,
5 Port Elizabeth, 6 St Francis Bay, 7 Royal Port Alfred,
8 Olivewood, 9 Katberg, 10 West Bank

TOP 15 IN KWA-ZULU NATAL

1 Champagne Sports Resort, 2 Royal Durban, 3 Zimbali, 4 Wild Coast,
5 Umdoni Park, 6 Kloof, 7 Southbroom, 8 Prince’s Grant, 9 Gowrie Farm,
10 Durban CC, 11 Bosch Hoek, 12 Mount Edgecombe, 13 San Lameer,
14 Umhlali, 15 Cotswold Downs

TOP 10 OLD FASHIONED

1 Parkview, 2 Royal Durban, 3 Humewood, 4 Kloof, 5 Prince’s Grant, 6 Schoeman Park, 7 Maccauvlei, 8 Katberg, 9 Kimberley, 10 Goldfields West.

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