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Leopard Creek Country Club

Internationally recognized as a world-class golf course, Leopard Creek, designed by Gary Player, is located strategically on the border of the Kruger National Park near Malelane. The course typifies the essence of African golf at its best with indigenous bushveld bordering the pristine fairways and greens. The course has hosted many PGA professional tournaments including the well known South African Sunshine Tour.

Although initially conceived by Gary Player, after opening on the advice of one of its members and property owners, Jack Nicklaus, the course was radically overhauled a few years after. Where Player typically had its greens, tees, and bunkers developed, Nicklaus suggested that they be lowered to look more natural. Apart from flat waterside greens on the front nine par threes, which are a lovely feature, his changes are remarkable and a significant improvement in the layout. t The club also erased a wall behind the 13th green around the same time to open the points of view of the Crocodile River and the enormity of Kruger, which was a real stroke of genius as it allowed golfers to watch the wildlife while they were waiting to putt out.

Home to the annual Alfred Dunhill Golf Tournament, this wonderful layout has numerous animals strolling on the fairways. It’s common to hear a buffalo snort or see a giraffe near the fence on your drive, while the pitch shot might need a hit over a lake full of crocodiles and hippos. The clubhouse, filled with golfing memorabilia, is one of the best in all of Africa: an extraordinary piece of architecture with a thatch roof.

While innovative architectural and landscaping techniques have made sure that Leopard Creek is naturally protected from animals, the course is still renowned as a heady cocktail of golf and safari. Wildlife apart, visual distractions also come in the form of the lakes and small streams diverted through the development which make for panoramic vistas and interesting golf strategies. Golfing hazards are taken to a whole other level in the presence of families of hippos in the water and the magnificent crocodiles in the river. As for the holes, Jack Nicklaus is especially proud of the par-five 18th with its island green, and the par-four 9th with its peninsula green jutting out of the same body of water.

This is one of South Africa’s bucket list golf courses and one that you should absolutely play if staying in the Eastern Cape.

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