For the golf enthusiast, South Africa is a wonderful destination – and that’s an understatement. The country boasts an ideal climate for spending time out on the fairways under the bright African sun, and golfers here are blessed for choice.
If you enjoy the challenge of a coastal course, there is a stunning selection available; if you prefer playing at altitude, where the ball flies that much further, the selection is just as good. Probably the most famous golf course in South Africa is the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City, home to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, that offers the biggest first prize of any tournament in the world.
Rated the best course in South Africa, Leopard Creek is situated on the border of the world-famous Kruger National Park, so it’s not unusual to come across wildlife when you play a round there.
Players are protected from the wildlife by means of innovative architectural and landscaping techniques – although water hazards might include the odd hippopotamus or crocodile!
Gary Player‘s design takes advantage of the natural environment, which is home to Africa’s “big five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo – and over 200 species of birds that make their homes in the surrounding trees, some of which are over 100 years old.
The 505 metre 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 metres above it and provides amazing views of the Kruger National Park on the other side.
Course designer Gary Player especially likes the par-five 18th with its island green and the par-four 9th, a downhill hole surrounded by water and challenging bunkers.
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The Links at Fancourt
Located in the picturesque southern Cape, The Links at Fancourt hosted a memorable 2003 Presidents Cup clash between the USA and the International Team, which ended in a thrilling tie, as well as the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf in 2005.
Never mind playing it, simply looking at it, the Links provides a dramatic, beautiful picture. Gary Player himself has often referred to it as his greatest design feat.
His design team spent months studying the classic links courses of Scotland and Ireland and then, taking the best those courses had to offer, constructed the Links on what was once an airfield with with over 700 000 cubic metres of earth being moved to create it.
Perhaps the most eye-catching hole is the over 200-metre long par-three second. It is surrounded by a dramatic, undulating landscape, allowing little room for error and features a bunker precisely where one might find some relief just off the green. Hook your shot and you’re in water.
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Gary Player Country Club
Host to the Nedbank Challenge since 1981, the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City in North West province features two holes that have ranked in Golf Online’s list of the 500 best holes in golf: the 520 metre par-five ninth, and the 402 metre 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. The Gary Player Country Club is part of Sun City, a marvelous entertainment complex that includes the Lost City and Lost City Golf Course, also designed by Gary Player.
Arabella Golf Course
Bordering the largest natural lagoon in South Africa and overlooked by the Kogelberg mountain range , with the 9th, 17th, and 18th running parallel to the water, Arabella Country Club provides both a wonderful golf challenge and an eye-catching landscape.
The course was designed by Pete Matkovich, who has designed over 20 of the country’s leading courses. It was named the best new course in South Africa in 1999 by Golf Digest, and it has kept up the high standard ever since.
The beautiful 8th hole, at over 500 metres is a real tester. It has a right to left sloping fairway and the approach is well protected by bunkers on both the left and right. Some regard it as Arabella’s signature hole.
The 18th is regarded as one of the best finishing holes in South Africa. A testing par-five, it features a very long bunker down the right. Slice your shot beyond it and you could find the lagoon. Your best bet is to aim a little left. What makes the hole great is it challenges one to go for it and and end one’s round in glory.
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Pearl Valley Golf Estates
Designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, Pearl Valley was named “best new golf course of the year” by Golf Digest Magazine in 2005. It went on to host the South African Open from 2007 to 2009.
The course, which is surrounded by mountains and vineyards, in true Nicklaus style features 81 white sand bunkers, including a monster bunker on the 14th, which despite the visual challenge it poses is actually the course’s stroke 18 hole. Water features and immactulately maintained fairways and greens provide an appealing contrast to the white sand of the bunkers.
Wind plays a big role in the challenge the course provides. On a calm day it can be inviting, but on a windy it can be a monster. The scenic 13th hole, a par-three, is the signature hole on the course. Water cuts in on the right, along the length of the fairway, while a greenside bunker awaits those whose approach is right of the green. Holding one’s nerve is one of the keys to playing the hole.
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