St Francis Links
No list of South Africa’s most beautiful golf courses would be complete without St Francis Links, one of the country’s few genuine links layouts.
It has been a little over a decade since St Francis Links introduced itself to the South African golfing public. Initially, the Jack Nicklaus-designed masterpiece presented as something of a mystery to a population of golfers who had grown up on steady diet of well-manicured parklands layouts.
In a country starved of genuine links layouts, the radical wild and woolly look, together with mounded fairways and rapid changes in elevation as the layout follows the grass-covered dunes – all accompanied by an ever-present wind – made it feel a little like unveiling a Picasso to a preschool art class.
For those who had experienced some of the world’s great links venues, such as those along the coasts of Scotland or Ireland, there was an immediate feeling of authenticity to St Francis Links that made it comfortably ready to join any list of the country’s finest layouts. For almost everyone else, it took only one trip around at this seaside beauty to be captured by its mystique.
Like most links layouts, St Francis Links hardly plays the same from one day to the next. For one thing, the course is exposed to the elements, so the strength and the direction of the wind have a tremendous effect on how each hole should be approached. For another, the vagaries of the golf ball bouncing off heavily mounded fairways makes it unlikely that a similarly struck ball will come to rest anywhere near where it ended the last time you played. Even if it did, it is likely that you will be faced with a different, uneven lie.
St Francis Links tests every level of golfer in any number of different ways. Nowhere is this truer than in the contouring of the greens that flow with the natural movement of the land and are complemented by classic links-style bunkering that serve as an irresistible reminder of the great links courses around the world.
Nicklaus knew from the outset that he had stumbled upon a very special piece of land and there is little doubt that this design is one of his all-time best. Under the astute guidance of golf director Jeff Clause, the experience of knocking a golf ball about this celebrated links is matched only by the quality of service offered by golf club.
If there is one criticism of St Francis Links, it is that the course is located far from any major centre. Yet this is a layout and a golfing experience that is worth every bit of extra effort required in getting there.
St Francis Links was the proud host of the Nomads Coastal National Order of Merit 2, from 27-28 June 2019 and the Nomads SA Boys Under-17 Championship, from 2-4 July 2019