Near Dullstroom - Mpumalanga
Estate manager: Graeme Viljoen
Golf director: Ian Geringer
Greenkeeper: Rudi Mahne (STM)
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 75.9 out of 100
Conditioning15.6 / 20
Playability15.8 / 20
Aesthetics12.2 / 15
Design Variety10.9 / 15
Shot Values10.6 / 15
Memorability10.8 / 15
Four tees / Par 72
Green 6710 metres, CR73.9/146
White 6123 metres, CR70.5/139
Blue 5897 metres, CR69.3/135
Red 4930 metres, CR63.7/119
Women’s blue, CR75.7/147
Women’s red, CR69.8/134
Visitor green fee
Golf cart included
Ernie Els 2011
16 (2021) & 15 (2020)
Highland Gate is one of South Africa’s newest courses, a spectacular one too which fully embraces the beautiful landscape of our country. It occupies a unique setting in a scenic mountain valley in the Drakensberg escarpment of Mpumalanga. The Ernie Els signature design provides adrenalin-pumping high altitude golf away from the beaten track.
At a height of some 2000 metres above sea level it is thought to be the highest Top 100 course in South Africa. Nearby Dullstroom is regarded as the highest town at 2076 metres.
It’s a destination that for a long time looked as if it might never happen. With the golf estate industry in decline in 2010, this residential development did not look promising. It was in the remote highveld, 18 kilometres from Dullstroom, at the end of a bumpy farm road that could only be described as torturous in any vehicle barring a bakkie. But then came along Ernie Els and his team to design and build a fabulous course, followed by Century Property Developments buying Highland Gate, building a superb tar access road, and relaunching it in 2015 as a getaway destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It is 2½ hours on good roads from both O R Tambo Airport and Pretoria.
Highland Gate has glorious views, bracing mountain air, and a golf course that is fun to play with generously wide fairways. With one exception though. The par-5 14th, one of Ernie’s signature holes, is the tightest driving hole on the course, with a stream running down the right side of the hole, and thick veld grass guarding the left side. It’s an expansive and creative design, with continuous changes in elevation, providing a rich variety of holes to enjoy. The first nine returns to the clubhouse, and ends with a special downhill par 4 which doglegs left around a large dam.
The topography means that nearly all golfers use carts. Most of the course is walkable, but there is a long climb on the back nine from the 14th green up to the par-3 15th tee, and then again to the 16th tee.
Additional Course Facts
66 by Wallie Coetsee, Kyle Pilgrim, 2017 Vodacom Origins
One of the best vistas on the course comes early in the round, at the beautiful par-4 fourth, 404 metres from the club tees. Mountain views abound as you tee off high above a green fairway which doglegs to the left. The back nine has some great risk-and-reward holes, starting with the par-5 11th where the fairway plunges steeply downhill to a narrow green fronted by a stream. The green of the 298m par-4 12th is in reach for most golfers, being played from a tee high on a ridge, but trouble lurks around the green.
Excellent wide and spacious uphill range close to first tee.
Highland Gate Lodge and Greenside Manor inside the estate, plus houses to rent. See Highland Gate website. Other options in Dullstroom, 18 kilometres away.
Did You Know
1/ Course designer Ernie Els first visited the site in 2005 and he loves the location. “It reminds me of Gleneagles in the Scottish Highlands. The expansive views seem to go on forever.”
2/ There are three flyfishing dams on the Highland Gate estate. Charming Dullstroom, the highest town in South Africa at 2100 metres, is known as South Africa’s premier flyfishing destination, with a good selection of well-stocked dams and natural flyfishing on the Waterfalls River.
3/ The double-storey clubhouse overlooking the par-5 18th green and its water hazard has the Flycatcher Restaurant. There’s a lounge and TV bar.
4/ The 700-hectare estate, of which only 30 percent will be developed, offers a variety of mountain bike trails, plus hiking, bird watching and trout fishing.
Men's club champion
2020 Henco Marais
2019 Marcel Scholtz
Course and Facilities Rating
Played this course on a misty morning. Felt like I was playing in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The course is a thing of beauty, the fairways, greens and tee boxes immaculate. The surrounding natural beauty adds to an absolutely breathtaking experience.
07 May 2022
We loved this course so much we bought property there. Highland Gate is a wonderful place with wonderful people.
03 April 2022
Highland Gate enjoys some of the best climatic conditions in Africa. Yes, this area in the Drakensberg is prone to thunderstorms and misty weather which can wipe out your day's golf, but the daytime temperatures here in summer and winter are sublime. It's a few degrees cooler than Gauteng. And hardly a breeze to be felt. At least that has been my experience. With a one-tee start the perfect time to tee off is between 9 and 11 in summer and winter. Late starters can get caught by the sun disappearing in late afternoon and temperatures falling. The estate has experienced some ridiculous rainstorms this summer, as have many other parts of the country. One recent intense storm produced a flash flood that engulfed the tunnel for golfers between the eighth green and ninth tee. As a result the course is soft in places but there's still a good bounce on the cool season grass fairways with tee shots. The short rough is like treacle though. Disappointing to see bunkers being left unraked, with deep footprints in the soft sand. Too many golfers seem to have assumed since Covid that it's not their job anymore.
22 March 2022
Highland Gate is a collection of signature holes with breathtaking views from every tee box. This is matched by the quality and condition of the course. The fairways are forgiving, the layout smart use of the natural landscape, and the holes well designed for all levels of golf. It's a true risk/reward course. A unique challenge for any golf tour that will keep things interesting right up till the par-5 18th! The facilities are world class and the 19th a fitting place to look back and reflect on all the "what ifs" and missed birdie opportunities. One of my favourite courses I could play over and over again!
22 December 2021
The layout is magnificent and wide fairways make it very playable. The design eases you into your round with scoring opportunities early on. Condition and presentation is great.
Lihan van der Merwe
16 December 2021
One of the gems of Mpumalanga. Challenging narrow fairways. Rough with no mercy, so expect to lose a few balls. Breathtaking views of the Mpumalanga highlands. Fairways in great condition. Enjoyable short par-4 12th, with its hole-in-one potential.
13 February 2021
This course is built next to the gateway of heaven. Absolutely stunning and a must play on any bucket list.
12 February 2021
Highland Gate is in consistently good condition from my experiences over the years, and the course is a joy to play. There was a big group there the day I played, so obtaining golf carts were a challenge, but the staff made a plan. The only weak hole I find is the par-3 17th, which doesn't match the other short holes.
16 January 2021
One of the best courses I have played, with spectacular views. Greens a bit slow but they rolled great.
01 January 2021
A great getaway venue for groups who can stay on the estate at one of the houses in the Highland Gate rental pool. Golfers will appreciate the excellent, well-conditioned rolling nature of the course, and get to choose tee box variations that offer a challenge to all handicaps.
29 December 2020
A great course that provides a challenge for all levels of golfers. The undulating nature of the course ensures each shot must be properly thought through before playing. The design generally rewards good shots and punishes bad ones. In my opinion, the weakest hole in terms of design is the 11th. This par 5 provides no bail-out option, whilst the green complex is not receptive to a long "downhill stance" shot. The landing area for the tee shot on 14 should be widened to ensure playability for the average golfer.
19 December 2020
Incredible scenery to match the condition of the course. Special destination.
10 December 2020
Highland Gate is in a relatively remote part of Mpumalanga, a three-hour drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria, so you know how popular this course has become when you visit in midweek and find it teeming with golfers. There were 100 in the field on the Thursday I arrived to play in the first week of December, and 140 on the Friday when I departed. It's easy to work out why golfers, particularly larger groups, are flocking to this scenic destination in such numbers. The Ernie Els course is beautiful to look at, offers a spectacular setting, and importantly is highly playable despite the many elevation changes. I opted for the blue tees, slightly shorter than the white, and had my lowest round of the year. The fairways, barring one or two, are not difficult to find off the tee, and the cool season grass is a pleasure to play from. The greens run at a superb pace and are not tricked up. The clubhouse has excellent facilities and there's plentiful overnight accommodation at houses on the estate. What's not to like.
07 December 2020
I love the design of the course and love playing the course. It is challenging and fun. I do think lockdown has had an unavoidable impact on the conditioning. My rating is based on the last time I played where I felt the conditioning was not at the normal high level. Despite that I loved the round.
19 November 2020
Highland Gate continues to mature as the finest Ernie Els design in South Africa. The elevation changes, shot variety and memorability make for a tremendous day out. The conditioning and presentation are up with the best in the country at present. The course draws you in and provides the full experience befitting a Top 20 layout.
11 November 2020
Every time I play Highland Gate I get the feeling of being somewhere special. The name already suggests one might be in the Scottish Highlands and, with a bit of rain and mist added to the experience, voila! The contrast between the snaking green fairways and indigenous grass is spectacular. The fairways are generous, typical of an Ernie Els design, and the secret is to avoid the fairway bunkers. It is a second-shot course and placing the ball on the right portion of the green is paramount to good scoring. The tees, fairways and greens are in great condition. I have not seen better greenside bunkers. The sand is amazing, and I almost looked forward to playing out of them. Unfortunately, the par-5 14th fairway is too tight for the average golfer. I would shorten it to a par 4 to change the landing area off the tee. It is encouraging to see that in these difficult times they are working hard to improve the condition of an already spectacular course.
10 November 2020
Best course I have played. The fairways are always green, the greens are well kept and the staff friendly. Beyond that the general estate is just beautiful. Highly recommend.
05 November 2020
Wow, a course with great views. Bunkers the best I have played this year, greens very true and a joy to putt on. A great layout that tests all the clubs in your bag. A special experience, and I can't wait to get back and play it again! Good to see continued work on the course to keep improving the experience. Pace of play very good.
05 November 2020
Playing Highland Gate, you think you are in the Highlands of Scotland. A gem of a course that was much needed in this area between Gauteng and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga. Spectacular vistas and superb conditioning. I was most impressed with the course marshall Ferdi Kukard, whose job cannot be easy keeping golfers happy and maintaining a good pace of play. People like Ferdi make a difference to the enjoyment of golfers when it comes to the total golf experience.
17 September 2020
One of the best courses around and you have to put it on your bucket list. The conditioning is second to none, and spectacular scenery makes it majestic.
28 April 2020
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