The wild side of South African golf

ONLY IN AFRICA: An elephant presents a trophy to a professional golfer in a Vodacom Origins of Golf Sunshine Tour event at Zebula Country Club. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

An elephant presents a trophy to a professional golfer in a Vodacom Origins of Golf Sunshine Tour event at Zebula Country Club. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

From monkeys “hijacking” tapes from a TV crew during the Telkom PGA Championship at Woodhill Country Club to a spitting cobra striking a cameraman during the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club, golf in South Africa is often wild and wonderful. But when it comes to the real wild side of the game here, nothing beats the experience of playing these three thrilling courses, all of which border the famed Kruger National Park.

  1. Leopard Creek, Mpumalanga

Located on the banks of the Crocodile River on the Malelane border of the park, one of South Africa’s top-ranked golf courses is a natural wonder in every sense. The 13th hole ends with the green overlooking the river and the vast expanse of the park. You can regularly spot animals here. The course itself also has antelope and giraffe roaming the fairways. Harry the Hippo makes his home in one of the water hazards, along with a few crocodiles. And there is a resident female leopard on the estate. There’s also a python, known as Speed Bump, that loves the warm tar of the roads in the estate.

Crocodiles are often found in water hazards at the spectacular Leopard Creek. Image courtesy Sunshine Tour.

Crocodiles are often found in water hazards at the spectacular Leopard Creek. Image courtesy Sunshine Tour.

  1. Hans Merensky Country Club, Mpumalanga

The Hans Merensky Country Club borders the park near the town of Phalaborwa. Golfers have witnessed lion kills on the greens in front of them, while elephant and hyena have also been known to wander onto the course. The water hazards have signs advising you not to try to retrieve your golf ball even if you can see it. “It’s not worth it,” they rightly advise, warning of the crocodiles and hippo lurking there.

  1. Skukuza Golf Club, Mpumalanga

When you have to sign an indemnity form before teeing off, you know how wild things can get on this golf course. Built in the 1970s for the Skukuza staff, this 18-hole layout certainly has the spirit of Africa in it and animals from the park regularly find their way onto the course.

The ninth hole is played over Lake Panic, which is an apt name for a water hazard that is home to some sizeable crocodiles.

The par-three 13th hole at the Lost City Golf Club has a crocodile pit at the front of the green. Image courtesy Sunshine Tour.

The par-three 13th hole at the Lost City Golf Club has a crocodile pit at the front of the green. Image courtesy Sunshine Tour.

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