There are 3 courses at Fancourt Resort, all designed by Gary Player.
Located along Sth Africa's Garden Route, the Fancourt Estate has existed for more than a hundred years, before it was transformed into a golf resort.
In 1990 this began with the opening of the Montague course, which was followed in 1997 by the Outeniqua course and finally the Links at Fancourt in 2000.
Fancourt is a full service resort with a number of dining options, sporting facilities,various types of accommodation, and homes, and of course it is also popular as a conference centre.
The Montague course
The first of the Player efforts at Fancourt is beautifully presented, having been significantly renovated in the last decade.
I am not a fan of kikuyu playing surfaces, but they are green and lush, and well maintained.
There a number of pleasant parkland holes winding through the estate on this course mixed with a spread of more interesting holes with water features.
The sharply downhill par 3 2nd was a strong hole, but it was the par 5, 4th hole which really got our attention with the green projecting into the lake.
Having hit the green successfully I did the think the severe green was a bit overdone.
The par 4 6th with water down the left off the tee, and bunkers right, with an approach over the water as well was also a strong hole, and the water again came into play on the pretty par 3, 8th, and the par 5, 9th.
The back nine continued the fun with a mix of unremarkable parkland holes with the occasional water hole that demanded your concentration. The big finish is a water carry approach to the very picturesque 18th hole in front of the clubhouse
Although I would not rate Montague as a great course, and I don't like kikuyu, this is a course worth playing. We had good weather, and the entire group enjoyed the day.
You will find plenty of challenges, and come home with a heap of photos to remember the day.
On a still day the water reflection pics are very good.
No golfing trip should miss Fancourt, and if you come to Fancourt, Montague is a must play.
The Outeniqua Course
Also designed by Gary Player the Outeniqua course is his second effort at Fancourt, and to be fair, probably did not get the most suitable terrain.
Again a kikuyu course, and very much a parkland style, Outeniqua struggles to establish its own identity.
Don't get me wrong there are some good holes here - I liked the short dogleg par 4, 6th hole, and the downhill par 3 that followed with its creekside setting, and elevated tee - but I found the par 5 8th with severe right to left slope kicking everything into the left rough, and blind 2nd shot a little less compelling...
But the par 5, 17th with its almost island green, and the uphill 18th are good holes.
However overall I came away thinking that Outeniqua was pleasant, but not outstanding, and not in the class of Montague or The Links.
The Links at Fancourt
When Dr Hasso Plattner bought Fancourt resort in the early 90's, his expansion plans included the addition of a links course to be built on an adjacent airstrip.
That strip had no natural features and a heavy clay base.
Again using the design services of Gary Player and compatriot Phil Jacobs, Plattner brought in 700,000 of cubic metres of sand and soil to build his own massive dunescape.
In 2000 the Links at Fancourt opened for play, and has drawn acclaim world wide since. It has hosted tournaments such as the famous tied Presidents Cup in 2003, the Volvo Champions, and Womens World Cup.
Let me say straight up- this is not a 'true' links course - it is more of a hybrid parkland/links combination. The fairways are lush, and whilst they are rolling, perhaps they do so less than your everyday links course does...
Water hazards abound, and the greens are not so hard and fast as you would expect on a links course.
Nevertheless I loved the course, and regard it as the best in South Africa.
The man-made dunes have a great look and feel about them, and the combination of the dunes with long grasses waving in the wind with some picture perfect water holes, and the backdrop of the spectacular Outeniqua mountains makes for a compelling setting.
It is a tough test of golf, too!
It plays long at 6930 metres from the back pegs, is extremely tight in places, and penal if you miss.
Deep pot bunkers and long grass await as the best options if you miss...
Interestingly the revetted pot bunkers had faces lined with sod wrapped in some sort of material, and treated- it looked and played very well.
The par 4 3rd hole played 398 metres off our forward tees ( 429 off the black )- if you can avoid the myriad of pot bunkers and long rough off the tee, you are faced with a long approach to the green.
But that green is very shallow and surrounded by trouble!
It has a stone wall fronting the green which requires a carry over the burn running across in front.
Sounds tough, right?
It is a spectacular golf hole, but challenging as a par 4 for all but the very best.
I thought the uphill 18th hole, a par 5, was underwhelming, as it felt like a connecting hole to get back up the substantial hill to the clubhouse.
There is a significant carry to get to the fairway above you- but look back and the carry off the black tee is enormous!!!
The green is overworked, and has a large pimple in the middle where the flag sat for our approach.
Even a decent wedge was deflected.
A bit overdone in my opinion....
The rest of the course was a pleasure to play - challenging, demanding strategic advances, beautifully maintained, and picturesque.
Even the easiest hole on the course, the par 5 fifth hole required you to advance with two decent hits down the fairway, avoiding traps along the way, to leave yourself with a water carry to a board fronted green... with sharp contouring and pin upfront hard against the water...Phew!
There are a host of memorable holes at The Links, including the sharply down hill par 3 2nd hole, the gorgeous dogleg par 4 15th hole with water in play all along the left side, and the crazy par 17th hole with no real options if you miss the green.
If you get the chance to stay at Fancourt, make sure you prebook to play The Links.
It is a wonderful golf course, and an experience you will not forget.
The Travelling Golfer