KWAZULU-NATAL, South Africa -- The entire Zimbali Estate, home of the extravagant Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and Zimbali Country Club, was built north of Durbin with conservation in mind.
Zimbali means "valley of flowers" in the Zulu language. The 6,524-meter golf course was designed by Tom Weiskopf in 1998 to live in harmony with its natural surroundings overlooking the Indian Ocean along the Dolphin Coast.
The first 11 holes climb rolling terrain before the back nine tightens things up in an indigenous forest. The layout is missing the thrilling short par 4 that has become Weiskopf's trademark, but there are plenty of quality holes.
Many of the best tee boxes sit perched high on hillsides. The elevated fifth tee, the start of a long par 3, stares off into the ocean. Two par 5s, the downhill third and uphill 17th holes, provide birdie opportunities, ranking as the two easiest holes on the course. A new tee built in the low wetlands on the flat but tricky par-4 15th hole creates a much clearer view of the hazard that lurks ahead.
Zimbali has attracted two world-class events in recent years: the 2011 Gary Player Invitational, a celebrity pro-am that raises money for underprivileged children, and the 2013 Volvo World Challenge, an amateur tournament that attracts more than 70,000 golfers from around the world attempting to qualify.
Zimbali's colonial-style clubhouse is uniquely designed around an aging fig tree and framed by the remains of a ruined farmhouse. Raised decks provide more views of the course and coast. This is the perfect spot to unwind during an exotic South Africa golf vacation.