Travel and Leisure
Prince's Grant on the Dolphin Coast
A cursory glance at some of South Africa’s place names seems to suggest a minor national obsession with royalty.
Chiefs, ubukhosi and other traditional leaders provide one set of descriptors – from the new King Shaka International Airport near Durban, to the Chief Maqoma heritage route in the Eastern Cape and 2010 FIFA World Cup venue the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
Then there are the designations that date back to the colonial era and the days before the country became a republic, alluding to successive generations of British monarchs: King William’s Town (that’s William IV), George (King George III, in case you were wondering), Queenstown (named after Victoria), Prince Albert (after her husband), Port Edward and Kind Edward School in Johannesburg (in honour of a visit in 1925 by the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII) ... well, you get the point.
Visitors could thus be forgiven for assuming that Prince’s Grant, a lush stretch of land along the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal, takes its name from some royal benediction or other. In fact, the story is altogether less regal. One George Wilson Prince acquired the land by “Deed of Grant” in 1856 as a sub-division of a much larger farm called Hyde Park. Later in the nineteenth century, indentured labourer-turned-property tycoon Babu Bodasing purchased the farm; it remained in the Bodasing family for many years, and they remain shareholders of Prince’s Grant Holdings (Pty) Ltd.
So what, exactly, is Prince’s Grant today?
If you’re asking that question, you clearly aren’t a golf enthusiast. The course at Prince’s Grant is consistently listed in South Africa’s top twenty in the annual ranking conducted by Golf Digest magazine – no mean feat, given the many world-renowned courses located across the country. It hosts the annual National Amateur Championship, the SAA Pro-Am as well as other SA PGA events.
Designed by Peter Matkovich, Prince’s Grant was opened in 1994 and has grown into one of the country’s most prestigious coastal golf estates. Attractive holiday houses have been constructed on about half of the 460 residential stands, and many of these are available for rent by golfing parties and other visitors. The Lodge at Prince’s Grant is a four star bed-and-breakfast with fifteen rooms looking out over the course.
As a holiday destination, Prince’s Grant also offers a pristine private beach, canoeing on the lagoon, health and beauty treatments, tennis and squash courts, swimming pools and conference facilities – but golf is without doubt the major drawcard.
Prince’s Grant is one of a handful of highly-rated clubs on the “Dolphin Coast” of northern KwaZulu-Natal, such as the Tom Weiskopf-designed Zimbali Country Club (soon to be joined by the new Fairmont Zimbali development, which will boast a Gary Player championship course), two courses at Mount Edgecombe, as well as Simbithi Country Club and Umhlali Golf Estate near Ballito.
Clubhouse and Lodge manager Dereck Hirson admits that it is difficult to position Prince’s Grant relative to these courses. On the one hand, they occasionally work together, combining their marketing capacity to bring golfers and other tourists to the area – after all, the Dolphin Coast is a little out of the way for many travellers – but, on the other hand, they are essentially competitors in a limited market. And golf tourism is as affected by local and global recessions as any other sector.
The course at Prince’s Grant is a challenge for scratch golfers, so it’s to be expected that high-handicappers (such as yours truly) will find it tough going. “Course management” is key; at just under 6000m off the club tees, it doesn’t require big drives, but it does demand accuracy. The rough can be unforgiving, and there are large tracts of out-of-bounds territory snug against the fairways. Take extra balls!
It’s also wise to pay attention to the playful monikers given to each hole. For example, listen to the advice implicit in the nickname for the par-four thirteenth hole, which makes a dog-leg up a blind rise: “Stay Right”. I didn’t, and paid a heavy price. Fortunately, I was warned to keep calm on the first hole, “Temper Tantrum”, and managed to retain my composure even after I fluffed my drive right in front of the clubhouse. The fourteenth, “Windy”, is just that – but, to be fair, so is much of the course. Upcountry golfers should remember the golden rule when playing near the sea: take a lower club than you usually would, or you’ll end up short every time.
Having said all of which, perhaps the best counsel to follow is the old saying about not letting a round of golf become “a good walk spoiled”. The course offers unrivalled vistas over the ocean and surrounding fields; the signature fifteenth hole, for instance, drops dramatically from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway hundreds of feet below. When the views are this spectacular, you shouldn’t worry too much about your score.