Being Africa’s travel specialist, we frequently receive enquiries from golfers looking for the once-in-a-lifetime golfing experience in South Africa. Well this is a difficult question considering there are so many golf courses each with their unique characters, and here’s our pick among all the extremely well-crafted golf courses in SA:
1. Leopard Creek Country Club
Leopard Creek has been rated one of the best courses in South Africa from time to time. It has been hosting the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship since 2011.
Since Leopard Creek is situated on the border of the world-famous Kruger National Park, designer Gary Player takes advantage of the natural environment, which is home to “BIG 5” and over 200 species of birds. Players are protected from the wildlife by means of innovative architectural and landscaping techniques, although water hazards might include the odd hippopotamus or crocodile!
The 505 meter par-five 13th is is a standout hole and plays along the contours of the Crocodile River. The green hangs out over the edge of the river, but is 32 meters above it and provides amazing views of the Kruger National Park on the other side. Course highlight includes the par-five 18th with its island green and the par-four 9th, a downhill hole surrounded by water and challenging bunkers. The course is a short ride from the luxurious Jock Safari Lodge and you could enjoy a relaxing and beautiful dinner under the starry night sitting next to the boma campfire.
2. The Links in Fancourt
The Links is the golfing hallmark of the Fancourt estate and has been described by designer Gary Player as his greatest feat. Featuring an undulating, windswept terrain and dune-style landscape, the course is the collaborative handiwork of Gary, Phil Jacobs and Fancourt’s owner, Dr Hasso Plattner.
Transformed from an airfield into a piece of environmental and golfing heritage, The Links is currently voted number one in the country by Golf Digest South Africa, and as number 43 in Golf Digest US edition’s list of the world’s 100 greatest golf courses. It has hosted some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, including the Presidents Cup (2003), the SA Open (2005) and the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions European Tour.
A detailed stroke saver takes golfers through the course, providing distance measurements and images that assist players with navigating the course’s extensive rises and falls. The whole property also incorporates much green measures to conserve water and energy and to compensate ecological value. The Links is a private Club, but limited tee times are available for guests staying at Fancourt Hotel or Manor House.
3. Gary Player Country Club
Host to the Nedbank Challenge since 1981, the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City features two holes that have ranked in Golf Online’s list of the 500 best holes in golf: the 520 meter par-five ninth, and the 402 meter par- four eighteenth.
The course is one of the longest in South Africa and certainly one of the toughest. It places a premium on accurate approaches, with plenty of bunkers and water hazards sprinkled around the layout to test even the best. While the fairways are mostly wide, any wayward shots are gobbled up by very punishing rough.
Water plays a big and spectacular role on both the 9th and 18th holes, with the green on the 9th being an island, while the 18th, a dog leg hole, features a dam over which one drives to the elevated green.