Why Fancourt is My Favourite Golfing Experience
PETER MCCARTHY & MARK HAWLEY
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Pete, we’re on the countdown to Go Golfing’s 25th birthday celebration. Just two weeks to go and you’ve been sharing some of the fun and interesting stories that have helped shape Go Golfing.
What have you got in store for us this week?
Yes Mark, it has been fun sharing the stories, the highlights, the fun, and the drama.
My story this week is about the unrivalled experience we give golfers on our tours to South Africa. Over the past 25 years, we have forged some wonderful relationships and partnerships all over the world. These relationships have allowed us to give our clients some really special experiences.
The Go Golfing groups have played some really amazing courses.
Name some, start with Australia.
Well as you know we’ve got access to all the Royal courses in every state. Melbourne’s sandbelt – Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Metro, Victoria. We’ve also got groups onto the Capital golf club owned by Star Casino.
In Sydney, our groups have played at The Australian which is my favourite in this country, as well as The Lakes and NSW. In South Australia, we play at Royal Adelaide, The Grange, Kooyonga and Glenelg. In WA, it’s the same deal – only the best for our Go Golfing friends.
Here in our own backyard on the Gold Coast – The Pines at Sanctuary Cove, and now The Grand, which is a beautiful country setting at Gilston, 20 minutes from Broadbeach, and is the highest equity membership with annual fees set you back a tick over $11,000 a year.
All cracking courses.
What are the standouts internationally?
France – Morfontaine #1 course in all of France (private/exclusive), Le Golf Nationale which hosted the last Ryder Cup.
Mark, we’ve fostered fabulous connections and partners who can get us on the best courses everywhere we go in the world. Whether that be in Spain and Portugal, USA, Canadian Rockies, France, Italy, South America, all over Asia – the courses we play in Japan are some of the most exclusive.
It feels great being able to add the best, the most private courses to the itineraries which of course include those bucket list attractions and lesser-known, but amazing cultural experiences that we love.
We’ve met some awesome guys from India at our Centara World Masters in Thailand and these guys have not just got us onto the most private courses in India, we now have a challenge between our tour group and their members – our day finishes with dinner with them after golf and they shout us drinks all night. It’s special.
What’s the best golf course you’ve played?
That’s not a fair question.
What I will say is that my best ever and favourite golfing experience every year is in South Africa. It’s The Links at Fancourt. South Africa is actually our #1 international destination. We’ve had tours to SA for 18 years now and I think it’s about 1,300 golfers we’ve hosted there.
Most of our itineraries included a game at Fancourt, but never at The Links. It’s the Gary Player course and he’s a regular there. Access to member guests is strictly limited.
I’m sure I’ve seen your Facebook posts with our group playing there.
Yep, our November Luxury South African tour plays there. We have an annual challenge – Go Golfing vs. the members at The Links at Fancourt. It’s my favourite golf experience every year.
Wow, you travel a lot and play the best courses. That’s high praise.
If it’s so exclusive, how did a challenge against the members come about?
Serendipitously. A touch of luck and a big stroke of fortune.
It was 2016 and our tour group to South Africa that year was bigger than normal – about 40 of us. A real fun bunch and we laughed a lot. There are 3 courses at Fancourt, and this day we were playing the Montagu course.
The 18th green is surrounded by water, kind of an island green. As the last groups are coming in, we’re getting a little rowdy on the balcony which is a great spot to watch golfers hitting into the 18th.
Everyone’s chiming in with whether they think the ball will splash short, or dunk it long or stay on the green – that doesn’t happen very often. With each ball drowned, our cheers were getting louder and louder.
Eventually another golfer, not in our group, came over and approached me. I thought for sure he was going to have a crack at us about the raucous noise. I was braced for impact.
His lead-in question to me was “Are you guys from Australia”. Typically if I’m being a little naughty I say no, I’m from NZ. Before I could say New Zealand, one of the group chimed in with “Yep”
His next question was “Have you heard of a company called Go Golfing?”
Still thinking we were in trouble, I got in quick this time “Yeah, I’ve heard of them.”
He then said. I’ve done a few trips with them, they’re really good. I put my hand out and said “Peter McCarthy, Go Golfing.” The guy was Will Crocker and he was with his wife Anita. They live in Scotland, at St Andrews for 6 months and have a home in Fancourt to escape Scotland’s winter.
That was a stroke of good luck.
You betcha. He saw how much fun we were having and was keen to join in with us. We kept in touch and he suggested the challenge between our group and The Links members. I didn’t think it would be possible, but Will is a very successful businessman, the kind that makes the impossible, possible.
Anyway, he came up with the goods. It’s amazing, this challenge – it’s an all-day affair.
You arrive and there’s a full-on leaderboard with all our player names on it. It is hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck stuff. As we’re staying for dinner, we’ve all got clothes for dinner and the lockers are personalized with our names on.
Your caddy then takes you to the driving range, where there’s a hitting bay with your name on it and a perfect pyramid of golf balls waiting to be whacked. The caddy studies your swing, ball flight and distances. These guys are good and pride themselves on being able to give you the right club.
On the first tee, there’s a decanter of whisky – a wee drum before you tee off to settle the nerves. There’s a counter full of The Links logo tee markers, divot repairers and we all grab a pocket full. There are fruit, muesli bars and snacks – so now the other pocket is full.
The banter rivalry between the Links members and our group is great fun. Last year they attached sandpaper to our scorecards, referencing the Aussie cricket team’s ball-tampering incident earlier that year in South Africa.
The course is spectacular and it is in mint condition. The undulation, the vistas, it’s unfathomable that this parcel of land was once an airport.
You stop for a sit-down lunch in your 4 at the 9th hole. It’s eye fillet cooked as you like and a generous selection of salads and sides. After that, they brink out a silver tray, with every ice cream you’ve ever seen.
The course is amazing, the caddies are the best I’ve experienced, and the post-golf dinner – well it is as good as it gets.
So did Go Golfing beat the Links members?
Well, After losing in 2017 and 2018, we inflated our handicaps last year by about 2 shots per player.
So you won?
Nope, the top 10 scores counted for each team and we lost by 8 points. Pretty sure if we add 3 shots to our handicaps next year, we just might win.
Let me tell you, I’ve had the victory speech planned for 4 years now.
Wow, so that amazing experience on The Links at Fancourt, with the members, came about through our group making a racket on the deck at Fancourt.
Yep, I’m no wall-flower and we’ll always push the envelope when it comes to giving our clients the very best experience. “Bringing golfers together for the best times of their lives” it’s not a tagline Mark, it’s ingrained in everything we do, it’s in our DNA.
So in two weeks, it’s the 25th anniversary of Go Golfing. It’s arrived. You must be proud.
Yeah, it’s been a hell of a ride and we couldn’t have achieved what we have, the awards, the loyal clients, the events and tours. We couldn’t do it without the amazing team we have here at Go Golfing.
So what have you got planned for next week?
Next week I will be sharing a story about one of our China tours that finished in Hong Kong.
Without spoiling too much let me just it was the biggest challenge this business has ever encountered… well before coronavirus at least.
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