As someone who always has a tune in his head, it must be said that I can occasionally associate golf courses with pieces of music. For example, Wentworth West Course would always have “Land of Hope and Glory” echoing through the trees, Sawgrass and Scottsdale are loudly accompanied by The Star Spangled Banner, and the skirl of the bagpipes forever haunts The Old Course at St Andrews. On a recent jaunt along The Garden Route, we dropped in at Pinnacle Point, and on witnessing this incredible course for the first time, I was deafened by the “Dies Irae” from Verdi’s Requiem and “Woo Hoo” by Blur both at the same time.
Pinnacle Point is an outrageous, awesome, spectacular course.
When it opened in November 2006, the US publication Golf Travel & Leisure selected Pinnacle Point as one of the top ten new courses in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Darren Clarke, at the opening ceremony, said “Pinnacle Point is Pebble Beach on steroids.” You could be forgiven for thinking that, since Mr Clarke had a hand in the design, he would be expected to heap such praise on the course. But if anything, his description was modest. Larry Gould, esteemed golf writer and someone whose opinion I value and trust, recently insisted (somewhat enigmatically, but then again, he is an enigma) “If you’re playing golf on the Garden Route, you MUST play Pinnacle Point. You cannot drive past.” When we arrived, the starter told us “You have to play Pinnacle Point at least twice. The first time you take in the views, the second time you play golf.” Now call me an old cynic, but I took all of this to be unashamed marketing hyperbole, muttering “yeah, yeah, yeah” under my breath, but soon realised that they were both 100% correct.
The “Wow” factor.
In 1984, there was a coffee-table book compiled by Tom Hepburn and Selwyn Jacobson entitled The World’s Toughest Golf Holes: greens perched on mountain tops; at the bottom of thickly wooded ravines; on, under and through dramatic clifftops; generally in some of the most inaccessible and ridiculous places. Every hole was virtually impossible to play, but none of the images were real, and each one made you say “wow, look at that”. Pinnacle Point is the incarnation of that book. It is, quite simply, a phenomenal golf course. It’s bonkers in places, but it’s always playable. From the tee, each drive looks formidable, but once you reach the fairways, and looking back from the greens, there are generous landing areas, and you wonder why you were so terrified on the tee.
There is very little evidence of large-scale earthmoving having been employed in the creation of Pinnacle Point. Peter Matkovich and his design team could have simply unrolled many of the holes onto the 1,000 acre clifftop site and let them settle onto, into and around every hump, bump and hollow that the natural contours have provided. And that’s before you get to the holes that cling for dear life to the edge of the Indian Ocean.
These holes are something else. Having climbed the hill for the first 3 holes, played across the top for the 4th and abseiled back down again on the crazy par-5 fifth, you play the 6th hole, which is a drive across the fynbos-saturated jaws of Hell and an approach to a green that seems to be wedged firmly into Angelina Jolie’s cleavage (an inviting shot, but you’ll be lucky to get there on the first attempt), then you weave down the hill to the par-3 seventh tee.
Go on, I dare you not to be impressed.
Very little can prepare you for seeing this hole for the first time: the tee boxes carved into the shelter of the hillside,the green precariously balanced on the rocky promontory, and nothing in-between except a rather big drop into the ocean. The last thing you want to do is focus on your tee shot, given the spectacular setting, but focus you’d better…It’s a shot that you’ll want to play all day.
Of the other 6 holes that play along the edge of the cliff, three of them also have carries across the Indian Ocean (which is the only water hazard on the course), but even if you’re not a long hitter, fear not, the course is eminently playable with a variety of tee options.
Every good course should have three tough closing holes, and Pinnacle Point is no exception. The 17th, a long par-3 to a raised green (the only par-3 that isn’t on the cliff edge) is bracketed by two challenging par-5s, the 18th tee being a defining “camera moment” – the entire hole is laid out in front of, far below and far away from you across another gaping maw, hugging the edge of the cliff as it curls round to the clubhouse. Walk off here with a five, a dozen photos and a smile, and you’ll have earned that ice cold beer on the balcony with 360 degree views of the course and the ocean..
Walk off 17 with a par, and enjoy your next shot…
Pinnacle Point is a residential golf estate, but you won’t be playing through avenues of cluster-style town houses. In my opinion, and particularly on the front 9, the sporadic grand design homes dotted among the fynbos actually add to the experience, and serve as a marketing tool – on more than one occasion we found ourselves saying
[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”“]Wow, imagine living THERE!” There are more properties bordering the start of the back nine, slightly diluting the wild exposure of the previous holes, but again doesn’t spoil the experience. As the Director of Golf announced at the opening function, “You’ll have to be pretty talented to hit a house on this estate.”[/blockquote]
Originally, Pinnacle Point operated a “stay-and-play” exclusivity policy, which has since been lifted, and the course is yours to play for only R550 (which includes buggy hire). And because of the size of the site and the hole routing, you feel as if you’re the only ones playing. Director of Golf, Nic Grundtvig, has a team who knows just what you need, especially first-time visitors such as we were, and they make sure that your experience at Pinnacle Point is as enjoyable as the views.
On your first visit to Pinnacle Point you can be forgiven for not playing to your handicap. And if you tell me that you weren’t distracted by the views and the incredible course layout, then I’d really like to visit the course that impressed you more.
Pinnacle Point Golf Resort, Mossel Bay, Western Cape
length: Men 6465 m Ladies 5276 m par: 72
phone: 044 693 3438