LEOPARD Creek, on the southern border of the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa, is the quintessential African golfing experience. Here you will play golf far removed from city life, in remote bushveld surroundings, a golf course separated only by the flowing Crocodile River from the wild and empty expanse of the park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves. There are animal encounters to be had on the fairways if you’re lucky, and a memorable Gary Player design (with input from Jack Nicklaus) to challenge you.
Leopard Creek is considered one of the three best courses in South Africa – along with the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City and The Links at Fancourt – and it certainly lives up to its billing both in terms of impressive holes and superb conditioning. It is a private club, owned by South African businessman Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont. He built it for himself and his friends 20 years ago, and beautiful homes are hidden away in the bush alongside the holes or on the river. Rupert sponsors two European tour events, including the Alfred Dunhill Championship played at Leopard Creek in December each year. Close to the border with Mozambique, the temperatures then tend to be climbing upwards, and the best time to visit is during the winter and spring season, from April through to October, when the days are still warm without the humidity of summer.
Leopard Creek has glorious water features. The par-5 13th green is built in a spectacular setting on the edge of the Crocodile River, while the island green on the par-5 18th makes this one of the most fearsome holes on the European Tour, equally as scary as the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass. A unique aspect of Leopard Creek, to be found on every tee, are the Dylan Lewis sculptures of a male leopard, following its various poses, from rest at the first hole, to more dramatic scenes later in the round.
The nearest airport is Kruger Mpumalanga near the city of Nelspruit, which connects with O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. From there it’s less than an hour’s drive east to Leopard Creek at the town of Malelane.
HOW TO PLAY
Leopard Creek is a private club for members and their guests, but access is allowed to visitors staying in any of 16 associate lodges in the vicinity of the Kruger National Park. The list of lodges is on the club website, leopardcreek.co.za.