Less than ten kilometers from the city of George, Oubaai is an up-market golf estate built on an elevated headland high above the South African coastline. Although its final three holes jut out toward the sea, most of the golf is inland of the wonderful clubhouse and bordered by a deep river valley and surrounded by the Outeniqua Mountain Range.
Oubaai’s design team included champion golfer Ernie Els who thankfully had a strong input, particularly on the green shaping which is the strength of the layout. A fan of Melbourne’s Sandbelt, Els conceived of greens with a similarly simple approach. Small to medium in size they are firm and slick yet not overly contoured and generally tilted in context with the preceding fairway. Several nice short par fours with strategic bunkering and a terrific par three across a deep ravine are part of a very solid outward half, and although the course loses its way a little from the 11th, the views on the finishing few holes do help rescue the back nine. One of the biggest question marks over Oubaai is how future housing will affect the course. While most homes will be on the low side of the property and built into valleys, an awful lot are planned for inside the layout and could damage the visual enjoyment of a round here.
Oubaai is the first course that Els designed in his homeland, and one suspects also the first that he was actively involved in during the design process. With clever green sites, attractive chipping areas and several fine holes, this is a pretty handy modern course and a very good design start for the popular South African.