Over more than 100 years the golf course at Royal Cape has evolved into what it is today, a classic parkland course that provides a fine test of golf as well as a wonderful playing experience. The course is in superb year round condition with well grassed fairways, smooth greens and challenging bunkers.
Although the course is on flat terrain, the playing of Royal Cape is subject to three of nature’s beguiling offerings: a near constant wind to challenge you, sweeping mountain views to charm you and water features to ensnare you.
Tree lined with narrow fairways and subtle USGA spec built greens, Royal presents a traditional test of golf, although the numerous ponds and lakes teeming with bird life provide beauty and distraction along the way.
The first hole at Royal Cape provides a stern opening test. Although a straight par four it is also long and generally played into the prevailing south easterly wind.
It has trees lining both sides of the fairway, ready to punish a wayward drive.
The green is fairly accessible with just one bunker guarding the entrance. Any shot over the back of the green leaves a difficult chip and putt.
This dogleg right par four requires an exacting left to right tee shot, or for the bolder long hitters a looping draw around the large and looming pine tree. Fairway bunkers left and right should be avoided before one can approach the green, which is severely sloping from back to front, shielded by mid-sized trees on the front right and guarded by bunkers on the left and right.
This is the longest par four on the course but is generally played down wind. The longer and straighter the drive, the less the water comes into play. The pond to the right is well short of the green, but has a habit of attracting golf balls. The large green sweeps uphill from front to back providing a variety of pin placements that can make two-putting difficult.
A very pretty short par three that is played over water. Again, the wind can have quite a bearing on this hole which is often played in a cross wind. A well struck short or medium iron will find a green sloping form back to front and protected by three bunkers. The pin placement will also determine the difficulty of this hole.
Also known as Burma Road, this is the longest hole on the course. The tee shot over water will find a generously wide fairway but then the hole dog legs right around a copse of trees. The second shot must avoid a well placed fairway bunker to the left with water further left ready to swallow a more wayward shot. The green, although flatter than most others on the course, is slightly raised and approach shots will have to carry the full distance.
One of the more awkward holes on the course. A right-to-left tee shot is ideal and anything straight is likely to run out of fairway with trees on the right. Trees line the entire left hand side of the hole with out of bounds lurking further up not far from the green. It is protected by bunkers both left and front right. The green is flatter than most on the course but still has some subtle breaks.
Turning back towards the clubhouse, this par five provides some gentle respite as it is short and generally played down wind. However a clutter of trees to the right and some fairway bunkers near the landing area mean that long tee shots need to be straight as well. Greenside bunkers surround the putting surface which is multi-tiered and has a variety of pin placement options, ranging from relatively easy to treacherous.
This par three, facing westward has two tee boxes offering very different approaches to a two-tiered green that has small, yet menacing trees tucked to the left and two regularly visited bunkers both on the left and right. Requiring a longish iron from the tee, this hole is one of the few that is generally played in a cross wind and has often tripped up those on their way to a good score. The large, multi-levelled green is challenging, especially if you find yourself on the wrong tier.
This is one of the longer par fours and the drive is demanding. A ditch down the right – with trees and out of bounds further right - and a copse of trees on the left means both a slice and a pull will make reaching the green with the next shot very tough. The green, with its alluring mountain backdrop is relatively benign, guarded by just the one front bunker and a grassy backstop behind.
The most notable feature of the tenth hole is the cluster of pine trees on the right hand side, waiting to catch any slightly wayward teeshot. Over the years these trees have grown from being a slight menace to a perilous thicket now requiring an almost certain chip sideways to get back into play. The left side, although more forgiving also has a few awkward trees. This shortish par four has a narrow entrance to the well bunkered green that can be a difficult target to hit in the south easterly wind.
Straight and ever so gently downhill, this is theoretically the easiest hole on the course. However it is usually into the wind and, again, bunkers on the left and the signature humps and trees on the right make straight hitting the key to playing this hole. The green is vast and receptive with many pin placement variables making the 11th a friendly enough excursion.
On to the shortest par four on the course which is drivable for the very long hitters and relatively straightforward for the lesser mortals. However, nearer the green a grove of smallish trees on the left and a fairway bunker on the right will catch any wayward tee shots. The green, surrounded by four bunkers is particularly tricky if the pin is tucked away to the right behind the bunker. A steely nerve is often needed to avoid a three-putt.
This may be an innocuous looking short hole - a straight and flat par three with a green that is less undulating than most. However it is the first hole of Royal Cape’s own self dubbed ‘Amen Corner’ due to its length and exposure to the prevailing south easterly wind and demands a perfectly struck long iron or fairway metal tee-shot. When played downwind, this is a hard green to hold. The green has some subtle breaks making an up-and-down from behind the green anything but routine.
Rated by The Compleat Golfer as the best 14th hole in the country, par is gold on this long left to right dog leg par four, even for the low handicapper. The tee shot, played between two lakes quite wide of the fairway, needs to be long to get past a row of tall trees to the right and must avoid the big gaping fairway bunker on the corner of the dog leg. The lake, lurking to the right and jutting out slightly in front of the green makes the long approach shot intimidating and players are well advised to lay up short and left, especially into the normally strong headwind. The green slopes from left to right and pin placements provide different complexions to this tough yet attractive hole.
The last in the triumvirate of the “Amen Corner” holes is a challenging par three which is often played into the prevailing wind, but this time with a seemingly magnetic pond that stretches up the right hand side of the hole. The tee shot with a medium iron is from an elevated teeing area, providing players with a clear view of the hole. Two bunkers at the back will catch anything long and the green slopes hugely from back to front and left to right towards the water. Again wind and pin placements affect the difficulty of this hole.
This has matured into an impressive, serpentine par five that requires accuracy all the way. The tee shot is dominated by a clump of pine trees that loom on the left of the landing area. Although caution urges one to play to the right, anything too far right will end up in the large lake popular with the multitudinous birdlife on the course. The second shot must be well placed to avoid trees both left and right and the third shot is to a shallow green protected in the front by three deep bunkers.
This is a tough penultimate hole that requires a long and accurate shot off the tee. Trees line both the left and right of the fairway and reaching the green from within these is all but impossible. The approach shot is up and over a very slight hill to a receptive green which slopes from back to front and is bunkered on each side.
With a view of the clubhouse, the last hole bends slightly to the left with two fairway bunkers strategically placed on the right hand side of the fairway and a densely wooded area down the left. Although not a long hole, with a relatively undemanding tee shot, the green has a very narrow entrance bunkered on each side. Striding down the fairway it would be easy to be distracted by the mountain view that is a glorious backdrop to the finishing stretch.