All the latest news and stories from the world of golf, Ernie Els Design, Ernie Els Wines, and across Ernie’s philanthropic interests.
1. Golf Challenge Grand Finale caps another stellar year of fun and fundraising
The 2023 Golf Challenge, the 13th instalment of one of the world’s largest charity-driven, amateur golf tournaments played every year at top-rated courses across the US and Canada, has smashed through the $3 million mark in funds raised for Els for Autism. Since the event’s inception in 2011, over 21,000 rounds of golf have been played and the fundraising total now stands at a staggering $37 million. Every dollar and cent raised benefits the Els for Autism Foundation, which is committed to better understanding the aspirations of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and helping them to fulfil their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives.
This month, as is customary, all Golf Challenge winners, sponsors and top fundraisers gathered at the Grand Finale, a two-day extravaganza of golf and entertainment. The event, which is attended by Ernie and Liezl, this year took place in the opulent surroundings of The Breakers in Palm Beach and included golf on the resort’s exquisite Ocean Course, Florida’s oldest layout.
“This is always one of the highlights of the year for Liezl and me,” says Ernie. “It’s a pleasure for us and the team at Els for Autism to spend time with everyone who earns their place at the Grand Finale and to have some fun together. Liezl and I have spoken about this before; we’re humbled by their commitment and efforts to raise money for our foundation. They have our sincere gratitude and respect. They’re literally helping change peoples’ lives, making a positive impact for individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorder. And the results of their fundraising efforts are evident every day in the wonderful work being done at The Els Center of Excellence.”
To sign up for updates and news from Els for Autism, including how to participate in the 2024 Golf Challenge, please visit the website.
2. A Champions Tour season in numbers
Ernie played a total of 23 events on the 2023 PGA TOUR Champions schedule. Some of the statistical highlights of his season are as follows…
1 win at the Hoag Classic
2 runner-up finishes
15 top-10s (T-1st with Steve Stricker)
$2,166,383 in official prize money (4th)
3rd on the Charles Schwab Cup rankings
Ernie was placed second on Tour in scoring average with 69.09 for his 74 rounds played.
He shot a season’s low round of 63, 8-under par, in the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Arizona.
Other selected highlights of Ernie’s year are reflected in the following performance stats…
Driving Distance: 292.4 yards (5th)
Greens in Regulation: 73.97% (4th)
Scrambling: 68.60% (3rd)
Putting Average: 1.738 (7th)
Putts per Round: 28.97 (13th)
Par-3 Scoring Average: 2.92 (1st)
Par-4 Scoring Average: 3.95 (4th)
Par-5 Scoring Average: 4.56 (7th)
Consecutive Sand Saves: 13 (1st)
Total Birdies: 307 (10th)
3. Best of Wine Tourism Award for Ernie Els Wines
We are thrilled to announce that Ernie Els Wines has been victorious in the recent 2024 Best of Wine Tourism Awards in the category of ‘architecture and landscaping’. This international competition celebrates innovation and excellence in wine tourism throughout the world’s greatest wine regions, including South Africa.
“Many congratulations to the whole team who work so hard to make our winery such a special place to visit,” commented Ernie. “Great job everyone! I look forward to seeing you all soon and raising a glass to celebrate this latest accolade.”
The Ernie Els Wines team’s commitment to excellence goes beyond the creation of exceptional wines; it is woven into every aspect of the winery and was the driving force behind the extensive renovations in 2020. Collaborating with Stellenbosch-based interior design studio, Rumour Has It, the team approached the transformation of its iconic building with the understanding that, much like the meticulous crafting of fine wines, creating remarkable experiences requires attention to detail and a profound appreciation for the subtleties that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In pursuit of this vision, the team collaborated with a diverse community of local artisans and skilled craftsmen, embracing a mix of talent and drawing inspiration from the surrounding region. Together, they created a breathtaking masterpiece that authentically captures the essence of the Helderberg – a sanctuary teeming with vibrant flora, diverse fauna, proud winemaking heritage and, of course, excellent Cabernet Sauvignon!
“The essence of all art and design is to create things with luminous spirituality in them that actually take your breath away,” commented Hans von Staff-Reitzenstein, proprietor of Ernie Els Wines. “Our winery is a masterpiece and a landmark on the Helderberg Mountain – for me, it’s a slice of paradise!”
For more information on Ernie Els Wines, visit the website.
4. Ernie Els-designed Albany all set to host an eighth Hero World Challenge
This stunning ocean-front layout (pictured above) was visited numerous times by course designer Ernie Els during the design and construction phases. “We’re thrilled with this golf course both from an aesthetic and strategic standpoint. The dunes look very natural and some of the out-of-play areas feature native grasses and plant materials, so it is the type of course that looks like it belongs in its environment. That’s one of our core design philosophies.”
Albany has been the home of the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods since 2015, missing only one year (2020) due to Covid. Posting on Instagram, Ernie added, “I’m so proud that Albany will again welcome some of the world’s best golfers. It’s actually one of six courses in our portfolio to have now hosted a tour event. From the earliest site visits to this beautiful location, we knew Albany would be something very special. And from the feedback we’ve had in recent years, it’s evident that the players enjoy playing this golf course just as much as we did designing it.”
The golf course is a links-style championship golf course featuring five par-5s, five par-3s and eight par-4s. “We quickly developed a vision of a links-style layout,” says Ernie. “We felt those types of playing conditions and shot values would suit its proximity to the ocean, where the wind would make the course play different from one day to the next.
“To my mind, the most memorable holes are the ones that are most links-like, where the greens are cut, almost pushed back, into the surrounding dunes. Hole No.2 stands out; it’s a par-3 cut into a dune and is quite reminiscent of the 13th at Muirfield in Scotland, one of my favourite courses. Then there’s the 7th, a short par-4 that plays right-to-left off a dune with fairway bunkers that are strategically placed in such a way that when the wind is out of the southeast you can carry them and perhaps reach the green. The 14th is another standout hole. The fairway moves from left to right through a dune and depending on the wind direction you can be very aggressive with your tee shot or lay back. I like the balance of risk and reward; I think it works really well.
“Another standout hole is the 15th, which features the highest dune on the golf course. The green is semi-hidden from view, but again the more aggressive you are off the tee the more you see of it for your second shot. That’s one of the many really strong themes at Albany. The way we’ve angled some of the holes means golfers have to play semi-blind shots over dunes and into tucked-away greens.”
For more information on Ernie Els Design and its portfolio of courses, click on the dropdown menu at the top of this page.
5. New golf pro shop vocational lab powered by ClubsHelp
With the generous support of ClubsHelp Foundation, Els for Autism® is proud to introduce a new Golf Pro Shop vocational lab inside the newly opened Stoops Family Adult Services Building at The Els Center of Excellence®. Its purpose is creating opportunities for individuals with autism to explore careers in the golf industry.
“Through this collaboration, ClubsHelp will support and amplify the skills and talents of these individuals, using our network of clubs across the country to create employment opportunities,” said Rob Goulet, President of the ClubsHelp Foundation. “The Els for Autism staff has the experience and knowledge to train clubs on recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees with autism. And we’ll work through human resources professionals at clubs to communicate the advantages of employing people with autism.”
In other news at Els for Autism, to mark the 21st birthday year of Ernie and Liezl’s son Ben, the team has launched a ’21 Days of Giving’ initiative leading up to the annual Giving Tuesday program on November 28. The goal is to raise $21,000 to support the programs and services offered at Els for Autism.
For more information on Els for Autism, including ways to donate, please visit the website.