Fairways & Beyond

read our player's review

First impressions count and I last played De Zalze Golf Club some 12 years ago. Things were a little different then. The course was pretty crisp, the trees were pretty small and there was a fruit grove in between the 14th and 15th fairways. But my first impressions were that the course was really amazing and when the wind gets up, yes it can in Stellenbosch (recently the wind was measured at averaging 145km/h and gusting at 303km/h at the adjacent Stellenbosch Airfield – see screenshot – ed), it was a real test of your game.

From the moment I arrived, I realised more than just the fauna had grown up. De Zalze had certainly matured – quite majestically. The clubhouse and its facilities are world class and are right up there with all the top courses in the country.

A lot of work has been done on the clubhouse, and it sparkles – great change rooms, a well-stocked golf shop, which includes the check-in desk, an updated halfway house and superb dining options. The sun-baked patio is also a favourite after a round or for the incredible views at sunset. It would be remiss of me not to mention the quality staff – from the time you hit the estate’s gates – something golf clubs seem to get wrong, this is actually the very first impression you get of any venue. Friendly, smiling, informed and engaging – there wasn’t one person on the estate who didn’t fit this description. I was on the course early to get a few pictures and even the grounds folk were obliging and friendly.

Q&A with Abrie swanepoel

Shayne Dowling chatted to De Zalze Golf Club’s Director of Golf regarding the course’s history and some of its details.


But we were there for the golf, so let’s talk about the course. This has to include the practice or warm-up facilities. All too often, the practice green is completely different to the actual greens – this was not the case at De Zalze, there was a chipping area close to the 1st tee box and the range was a gentle stroll away. I know it’s difficult, but my only comment would be that there are no obvious grass bays to hit a few balls from – I find that the synthetic bays tend to give a fall sense of your swing shape… but I digress.

Let me say that all the fairways and green complexes are in superb condition. Manicuring around the entire course is top class. The gardens and common areas round off what is quite clearly an important aspect of the estate course. As an amateur, the course plays extremely fairly, there are some really challenging holes with risk-and-reward options and the degree of difficulty is influenced quite significantly by your tee choice and, of course, wind/weather conditions.

While there are several bunkers – fairway and around the greens on the course – they are not punitive and are well maintained, allowing for good shots to be rewarded should you land in any. The tee boxes are flat and well kept; this is such an important feature that is often overlooked by clubs. The direction and flow of the course is clear and easily followed.

Gallery below

The signature holes are undoubtedly the most memorable, with big hitters able to chance their accuracy from both tee boxes, and there are ample choices for all to reach the fairway while playing to your game.

The 13th with its sweeping fairway hugging the dam and the tee boxes placed as “islands” fully tests how well you know your game – I suspect a number of us overestimate our actual distance ability, with a lot of balls finding the water. Taking the water out of the equation is an option, which also means you will in all likelihood have a longer club into a green protected by bunkers on the land side and water on the other. A really great test of golf.

The 18th is another beauty, climbing up to the top tee box (yellow markers), which allows a spectacular view of the hole and the clubhouse, not to mention the calling of a cold bevy on a hot Stellenbosch day. From the top, your tee shot demands accuracy as the fairway appears small and has a large tree on your obvious landing area, and then there is the Blaauwklippen River which also comes into play, running right through the hole. From the lower tee boxes (still raised above the fairway but closer), you are tempted to take on the river – it is still a long drive and really not the clever play. Landing either left or right of the massive oak tree will give you a clear shot at the tiered green, which is quite large and a manageable target.

All the greens are bentgrass and while well established, if you are not used to playing this strain it takes a little consideration; the influence of the grain is noticeable so allow for it. We had a card-length placing available to us on the kikuyu fairways but they’re in such good nick that if you find the mowed area you really don’t need to place.

Like any course, the more you play it the more you get to know its nuances, landing areas and idiosyncrasies – De Zalze is definitely a course worth visiting and if you are able to, frequent.


Profile: Steyn Momberg

Handicap index: 15.6

Home club:
King David Mowbray GC

A passionate golfer and family man, who plays as often as his career and family commitments let him. As the director of a global sports event company, Steyn has been lucky enough to have played and worked on courses all around Southern Africa and abroad.

Profile: Hayley Davis

Handicap index: 2.3

Home club: Royal Cape

Hayley is a WP Provincial golfer and hockey player. She sits on the WP executive committee, where she has had the privilege of playing in and managing various interprovincial teams. She is a dedicated and talented sportswoman who also happens to be the art director of THE GOLF MAG.

What was your reception like at De Zalze?
SM: World class, and being met at my car by the friendly staff was really impressive.
HD: Very friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic staff.

Did you use the change-room facilities and if so, what were your impressions?
HD: Beautifully clean and spacious facilities.

Your overall impression of the buildings and premises?
Fantastic facilities, and they blend in seamlessly with the general aesthetics of the estate.
HD: The estate is very tidy with well-manicured pathways, gardens and surrounds. A magnificent clubhouse that overlooks the finishing holes of the course and lets you admire the view of the surrounding vineyards while sipping on a cold beverage of your choice.

How did you find the clubhouse and on-course staff?
It’s always a pleasure to play at De Zalze with its consistent quality. The course and its staff find a balance between a being world-class facility without losing its local charm and feel.
HD: Very friendly staff, happy to help wherever needed. Our starter was insightful, offering us local knowledge and many laughs along the way.

What were the practice facilities like?
Very good and easily accessible.
HD: They have a variety of stations available to help you warm up and practise all kinds of shots you might experience on the course. Well-manicured, easy access to these facilities (near the clubhouse) and quality range balls are readily available.

How were the tee boxes?
HD: Well maintained and pretty level – easy to get a firm and stable grip with the ground.

How were the fairways and the greens?
The fairways were great, very well kept with no carry-over divots. The greens were in top condition with the speed “average” but enjoyable.
HD: Well kept, with detail defining the rough and fairway, you really have to go looking for any bad spots. The rough was pretty consistent throughout the course. I found the greens slightly slower than expected, but consistent with the practice green. Be aware of the grain and the impact it has the closer you get to the cup.

Your overall impression of the course as an amateur?
It’s always a great test for an amateur. Some difficult, but always fair, holes.
HD: It’s a great course with various tee-box options available for all different levels of golfer. It requires some strategic thinking on where to place your ball to be able to attack the pins. And the views are spectacular!

Any comments or suggestions you may want to share?
Although there are many courses in the Cape Winelands, De Zalze projects the best Winelands feel of them all. Combines a consistent quality of the course and facilities, while complementing the surrounding wine farms and area. This will always be my No 1 destination I recommend to friend and foreigners.
HD: The halfway house and bar are great and fast with quality service all around. The course is in exellent condition. What a view from the 19th hole!

shayne dowling/supplied