The Harbour Town Estate is home to what must be considered to be one of South Africa’s finest ‘pitch-and-putt’ golf courses – a unique development where visitors will surely be reminded that bigger is not necessarily better.
A little more than an hour’s drive south-west of Johannesburg, Harbour Town Marina Residential Estate on the Vaal Dam is an enchanting development that offers a lot more than merely a secure lifestyle. As first impressions go, Harbour Town comes up trumps – this is a development that has been carefully planned and extremely well executed. The three-metre boundary wall topped with an eight-strand electric fence has been neatly constructed and is clearly effective, but within the estate one discovers a different world. As far as Gauteng locations go, on the north-eastern peninsula of the dam, it doesn’t get better than this.
The estate covers an area of 50 hectares, and, with only 221 home sites, there is room to breathe. A major attraction is the vast expanse of water – the Vaal Dam covers some 352 square kilometres, with more than 800 kilometres of shoreline, and this
estate occupies one of the most attractive areas on the shore of this ‘inland sea’. For anyone with a yacht, powerboat or jet-ski, or lovers
of water sports such as kayaking, canoeing or paddle-skiing, this is certainly the place to be. The deep-water harbour, built 35 years ago
by Walter Goldblatt, is said to be oneof the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and measures almost a kilometre by 600 metres, and can berth almost 1 000 boats. The estate has 600 metres of its own private waterfront in the harbour. Well-constructed boat lockers are available to residents, as are permanent jetties.
But if you happen to be a golfer, Harbour Town’s nine-hole course is a treat. Calling this layout a ‘pitch-and-putt’ facility hardly does it justice – this course may be short, but it still offers the feel of a ‘proper’ test of golf and since each hole has two or three tee-boxes it can been played to a full 18 holes. Built to USGA specifications, right down to the use of silicate sand in the bunkers, the course is an exceptional example of artistic shaping and, while it is clear that a considerable amount of earth was moved during construction, it has a pleasing, natural feel to it. Best of all is the way in which the indigenous veld grasses have been planted in between the cynodon fairways, and the bent grass greens are as good as could be found on any of our premier courses. The more proficient players might assume that armed with a few wedges and a trusty putter, they would simply be able to knock their ball on the greens and hole a few putts, but there is a lot more to playing this quaint layout. For starters, the changes in elevation mean that carrying the ball specific distances, even if only in the 60- to 150-metre range, is not as easy as it may seem.
And once hitting the undulating but receptive targets, the spin on the ball must be controlled, or some wicked putts or awkward bunker shots will be faced. The collection areas around the greens do allow for players to attempt fancy lob-shots, standard chipshots or putts, but getting around here in ‘level threes’ is no easy task. In fact, with some imaginative positioning of the pins, level par would be impossible for most players. There is no better place for golfers to sharpen their wedge play and their short games, yet even the novice is sure to have fun negotiating the mounds and hollows and learning the art of matching speed and direction on the greens. But whether trying to master this test or simply walking the course, one appreciates the care that has gone into the landscaping of the estate. The fact that only endemic species of flora have been planted results in a most pleasing aesthetic, and this vegetation also attracts some of the less common bird species. The water features in particular, which are not really in play, have the advantage of not appearing to be contrived, and are home to flocks of water fowl. The course was designed by Rob O’Friel, a man that clearly has a keen and sympathetic eye, and he has used the terrain to best effect.
Walking the course, one is also struck by the sensible positioning of the home sites, which offer superb views of the course and harbour without encroaching on the playing area. The architectural themes of the homes, Mediterranean style, beach style, Vermont/Cape Cod or contemporary Scandinavian, fit perfectly with the surroundings. The average stand size is 1 150sqm (freehold title) and, in terms of value for money (starting at R320 000), the properties here are hard to beat. It is little wonder that when this development was launched some four years ago the market responded most favourably. And, even in the current economic climate, when most investors are lying low, the interest in Harbour Town has remained high. The developer, Fire Ring Trading 15 Pty Ltd, has certainly ticked all the boxes, and director Mike Russell, who was part of the original team that developed Dainfern, Steenberg and Atlantic Beach, has spared no effort in establishing what must be considered a genuine blue-chip estate.
The Vaal is one of our most underutilised recreational areas, and Harbour Town is the first large-scale estate to be opened in 30 years. It’s not difficult to imagine this area experiencing a boom in coming years, but Harbour Town has stolen a march on the following pack.
From Complete Golfer Magazine Article 2009
From the N12 (Witbank), take the R59 (Alberton South off-ramp.) Heading towards Vereeniging, take the Johan Le Roux off-ramp. Turn left, proceed to the T-junction and turn right. Turn left at the Engen garage. At the next T-junction turn right. At the R54 turn towards Villiers, proceed approximately 28km and turn right at the Harbour Town signpost. Full map and directions available on website.
Marina/golf developed by Fire Ring Trading 15 Pty Ltd, 221 stands, freehold title.
Designed by Rob O’Friel, nine holes, par threes. Cynoden tees and fairways, bent grass greens. Built by Top Turf.
Head office: 083 251 3269 Mike Russell