Leopard Creek is the course all visiting golfers want to play in South Africa, and the DP World Tour’s players who are in the country to play the Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship this week will all agree with that.
The Gary Player designed layout is the top-ranked course in South Africa, and one of only three South African courses in the World Top 100. Part of its mystique is its exclusivity, but it is a very good golf course, and one that can be experienced by ‘Average Joe’ golfers through associate lodges in the area for a mere R6,300.
The holes at Leopard Creek have a wonderful flow to them, the design challenges varying all the time. What appears initially to be a relatively flat course suddenly presents surprise changes in elevation. Water is a hazard on eight holes, and the gently sloping greens are a visible strength of the course’s defence.
Three par-fives are on the back nine, and these are among Leopard Creek’s most memorable holes. In tournaments this is where bold play can be rewarding or costly. The 13th is justifiably one of the world’s best holes, its green sitting high above the bank of Crocodile River, offering a dramatic vista of the Kruger National Park.
The 15th has an inviting tee shot from on high, and then the approach to the green needs precision with water all along the right of the fairway and the green.
The final hole, the 18th, has embedded itself in South African golf lore with the televising of some dramatic finishes to the Alfred Dunhill Championship over the years. It’s one of the most daunting finishing holes in the game because of its island green. The hole swoops downhill, curving slightly from right to left, and every golfer who plays it faces the anxious hurdle of clearing the water and holding a green which might look wide and inviting, but has limited room from front to back. Many an approach shot has rolled over the back into the water.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The course record is 63 by Scott Jamieson and Ockie Strydom in 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship. Strydom had 29 on front nine. Amateur: 64 Ryan van Velzen, 2020 African Amateur.
- Leopard Creek’s nine-hole par-three course holes are inspired by eight famous courses, including Augusta National (2), the Old Course at St Andrews, Muirfield, North Berwick and Sawgrass. There’s a version of Leopard Creek’s 18th.
- South African sculptor Dylan Lewis was commissioned by Johann Rupert to create 18 bronzes for each hole of Leopard Creek Country Club. Completed in 1996, Lewis’ sculptures follow a leopard through its day from dawn to dusk.