Ernie Els’s favourite restaurants – on and off the golf course

Ernie Els is one of South Africa’s most famous exports, best known for making the famously frustrating game of golf look easy.

But the Big Easy is more than just a gifted sportsman – he’s also a champion of autism awareness, the founder of Els for Autism, and is currently working towards the opening of The Els Centre of Excellence in Florida (his new home state), a ground-breaking education, research and support centre for those in the autism spectrum and their families. He owns award-winning Ernie Els wines; The Big Easy restaurant, which has been a Stellenbosch hit since opening in 2008; and The Els Club in Dubai. And Ernie reveals that he and his team are planning to roll out The Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill in handpicked locations around the world. We asked Ernie to share his recommendations for food and restaurants on and off the golf course.

First restaurant stops when you’re back in SA?

The Big Easy restaurant in Stellenbosch is somewhere we always try to visit whenever we’re in the area, which is sadly not as often as we’d like. The Butcher Shop & Grill in Johannesburg is another of my favourites that springs to mind when I’m in town for the SA Open.

The Butcher Shop & Grill. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Butcher Shop & Grill. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Your favourite spot for a relaxed, weeknight dinner?

Whenever we’re on vacation in South Africa we go to Salina’s, a great little restaurant just off Wilderness Beach on the Cape’s beautiful Garden Route. The whole family loves it there.

What makes a good 19th-hole restaurant?

Great food, a great wine list, family and friends. A nice view is a bonus. Oubaai Golf Club is a special place, very homely and friendly with great staff, as is Fancourt, which is a unique golf resort.

Where do you like to celebrate a special occasion?

I eat out so much when I’m on the road that, to be honest, I really like having friends around to the house rather than going out. We’ll get a braai going, open a few nice bottles of red, and just have a real chilled-out evening with lots of laughs.

Steak or sushi?

I’m more of a red-meat kind of guy.

Favourite healthy meal?

I’d probably go for something like a chicken Caesar salad – but please hold the anchovies!

Go-to sweet treat? (Are sportsmen allowed dessert?)

Sportsmen are definitely allowed dessert, but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Favourite spot for brunch?

The Bear’s Club (in Florida) has an amazing restaurant, and is the perfect spot for brunch with the family or with a few of my buddies before a game of golf.

High-carb or low-carb?

Carbs are obviously good before a game of golf, but in the evening I tend to keep it more on the low-carb side.

Thanks for the support in 2013. Looking forward to this New Year with Adams Golf. Cheers.

A photo posted by Ernie Els (@ernieelsgolf) on


Snacks when on the course?

Usually a chicken sandwich, maybe some fruit, and plenty of water. And biltong before a game, for a treat!

Favourite restaurant for a great view?

The terrace at the Ernie Els Winery is a great spot for lunch. Or the clubhouse at Leopard Creek Golf Club, owned by my great friend Johann Rupert. That view is pretty hard to beat.

What’s the next big challenge in your golfing career?

Winning more tournaments and majors. That’s my focus. I’m in great shape physically, enjoying my golf, and I feel like I have the game and the experience to secure a few more big wins yet.

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