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Leopard Creek

Malelane - Mpumalanga

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Club director: Johan Piek
Maintenance director: Derek Muggeridge
Chairman: Johann Rupert
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 81 out of 100
Conditioning16.5 / 20
Playability15.0 / 20
Aesthetics13.5 / 15
Design Variety11.6 / 15
Shot Values12.0 / 15
Memorability12.4 / 15

Course Summary

COURSE SUMMARY

Four tees / Par 72

Gold 6480 metres, CR75.6/149
White 6000 metres, CR73.2/144
Blue 5484 metres, CR70.5/135
Red 4996 metres, CR67.9/129
Women’s blue, CR76.1/148
Women’s red, CR73.3/138

Visitor Green Fee

R5000 inclusive of golf cart
and halfway house.
*Limited access through
approved lodges only.

Course designer

Gary Player 1996

Contact

013 791 2000
www.leopardcreek.com

Previous ranking

Unranked

Leopard Creek, one of only two South African courses in the World Top 100, symbolises the beauty and grandeur of African bushveld golf while at the same time evoking an exclusiveness comparable to Augusta National.

The property occupies a singularly unique site in golf, bordering the broad Crocodile River on the southern boundary of the vast Kruger National Park, and it is this remote location that has captivated television viewers around the globe while watching the annual hosting of the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour. There is as much interest in the wildlife shown on their screens as on the golf itself.

Leopard Creek is a private club, many of whose members enjoy the privilege of having lodges on the estate. The entrance is at the Malelane bridge into the Kruger Park, and anyone passing by hoping to catch a glimpse of the course will be disappointed. It is several kilometres from the entrance to the clubhouse through the bushveld. The clubhouse is one of the most impressive in South Africa, a striking double-storey thatch-roofed building blending in perfectly with the natural surroundings. It has views over the course on one side and the river on the other.

Unlike Augusta National, though, visitors are welcome, at a price. You firstly need to be a guest at one of several approved lodges in the area, and then the green fee itself is R5 000.

The course itself has recently undergone a major upgrade (by Golf Data) in terms of bunker design, greens complexes, and turf replacement which has both transformed the look and feel of the layout, and improved its playability for members. The par-3 12th was reconfigured, a different shaped green replacing the original Redan creation. The course was re-opened for play in May 2018 after being closed for eight months.

The biggest transformation was the wall-to-wall eradication of the thirsty kikuyu grass on the course and surrounds. It has been replaced by a more sustainable indigenous cynodon which not only requires less water and chemicals but thrives in the fierce heat of summer. It gives the course a greener look.

Kikuyu works well as a playing surface on fairways in the dry summer heat of Mediterranean climates like Gauteng and Sun City, but it never enjoyed the same compatibility in the humid conditions of the Mpumalanga Lowveld.

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.

The new grass on the greens is Champion G-12, the newest strain of a genetically engineered ultradwarf Bermuda. It was planted at Quail Hollow (North Carolina) for the 2017 US PGA Championship.

Three par 5s 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, as it is at Augusta in the Masters. 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 park.

TV coverage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship has made the par-5 18th a compelling hole to watch. 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.

Additional Course Facts

Course Record

64 Ryan van Velzen, 2020 African Amateur
64 Joachim B Hansen, 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship

Accommodation

Visitors wishing to book a tee time must be guests at an approved list of lodges in the area and within the Kruger National Park. The closest is Buhala Lodge, just 10 kilometres away, while others are as much as a three-hour drive. The full list is on the website.

Practice Facility

There is a sizeable warm-up range close to the first tee, and a large practice putting green. In addition, members have the use of a separate and secure state-of-the-art facility alongside the 9-hole Par 3 course – the National Junior Development Centre. One of its fun areas is the Himalayas putting green.

Club Champions

2020 No championships
2019 Erwee Botha & Biance van Dyk

ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP

First played in December 2004 as part of the European Tour and won by Charl Schwartzel, who developed a special affection for Leopard Creek with an exceptional run of performances. He’s won the Leopard trophy four times – further victories came in 2012, 2013 and 2015 – and been a runner-up on another four occasions. He posted the lowest 72-hole total of 24-under 264 in 2012 when he won by 12 shots, having 25 birdies and an eagle. Other SA champions have been Ernie Els (2005), Richard Sterne (2008), Garth Mulroy (2011), Branden Grace (2014) and Brandon Stone (2016). There have been three Spanish champions in Alvaro Quiros (2006), Pablo Martin (2009 and 2010) and Pablo Larrazabal (2019).

NATIONAL JUNIOR DEVELOPMENT CENTRE

Established in 2015 to host junior golf development, this is one of the most comprehensive golf practice facilities in the world, built on a 30-hectare tract of land purchased from Riverside Farm which includes the original farmhouse – now a dormitory building to accommodate SAGDB & GolfRSA squads. The contribution fee to access the facility for the day is R1 110 per golfer, and bookings can be made at www.nationaljuniordevelopmentcentre.com

There are 3 coaches, headed up by Edwin Compton, Mpumalanga regional manager for the SA Golf Development Board.

Did You Know

1/ Leopard Creek’s 9-hole Par 3 course holes are inspired by 8 famous courses around the world, including Augusta National (2), the Old Course at St Andrews, and Sawgrass. There’s a version of Leopard Creek’s 18th. It’s great fun and open to visitors (see National Junior Development Centre).

2/ The club has a strict dress code for all golfers on and off the course, which can be found on the club website. Only traditional clothing and peaks or hats, while socks must be predominantly white. Shirts have to be tucked in, and caps worn forward. No bold commercial advertising is allowed.

3/ Thomas Aiken has the lowest competitive score, 61 in third round of 2008 Alfred Dunhill. He was out in 30 and back in 31 with nine birdies and an eagle three at 18. Branden Grace had 62 in first round of 2014 Alfred Dunhill (31-31 with 10 birdies) which he won.

4/ When Richard Sterne won the 2008 Alfred Dunhill he played the 18th in 24 shots during the four rounds, having an 8 in round 2 and a 7 in round 3.

5/ Leopard Creek inaugurated the 72-hole African Amateur in February 2016 and have hosted it four times. Winners: Martin Vorster (2020), Euan Walker (2019), Liam Johnston (2017), Albert Venter (2016). The lowest winning score was 274 by Venter.

6/ The first professional tournament at Leopard Creek was the 2001 Tour Championship (won by Darren Fichardt) for 75 Sunshine Tour players, the final event of the season in February. Nicholas Lawrence won in 2002, Hennie Otto in 2003, and Andrew McLardy in 2004.

7/ Leopard Creek was ranked No 69 in the World’s Greatest 100 Courses by Golf Digest in their 2020 rankings (this excludes courses in the United States). It had previously been No 65 (2018), No 88 (2016) and No 84 (2014).

8/ Membership is available by application approval through the Country Club and purchase of shares in the Share Block.

9/ Member Rurik Gobel has won the club championship 13 times since 1997.

Course and Facilities Rating
Conditioning Ratings
Greens
Bunkers
Tees
Fairways
Presentation
Overall Conditioning
Facility Ratings
Pace of Play
Practice Range
Halfway House
Pro Shop
Service
Locker Room
19th Hole
Course Etiquette
Course Reviews
From the moment you arrive at the entrance gate you know you are in for a special day. The world-class clubhouse is situated alongside the Crocodile River overlooking the Kruger National Park on one side, and the ninth and 18th greens on the other. A superb warmup area is situated close to the clubhouse. The course is as challenging as it is beautiful. The greens have difficult slopes and I recommend purchasing the excellent course guide from the pro shop with details of each green. There is no GPS system on the carts, but the pro shop will provide a rangefinder on request. Be sure to take in the stunning view of the Kruger Park on the signature 13th green. Leopard Creek is a contender for the best course in the country.
Craig Gunther
15 February 2021
Summer heat makes Leopard Creek very challenging. Greens are sublime.
Phillip Mulder
14 February 2021
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This has to be the best golf course in the country. Being able to keep a course this green and so impeccable in the sweltering African sun takes a lot of effort and love. The way such a technically brilliant course is incorporated into the middle of the bushveld is a beautiful experience that I am fortunate enough to have played.
Jonathan Klee
12 February 2021
Leopard Creek is incomparable among South Africa's best courses in providing a wonderful golfing amphitheatre overlooked by the clubhouse. A great feature of the bushveld property is the way in which the ninth and 18th greens have been built close together -- separated only by the water hazard in which they sit -- giving those in the clubhouse a close-up view of both the finishing holes without having to move from their seats. These two holes, which begin high on a hillside and pose so much danger between tee and green, are to my mind the ones which transform Leopard Creek from being a very good course to a great one.
Stuart McLean
21 January 2021

Leopard Creek is one of a few courses in South Africa that always provides a memorable experience. Playing the week after the Dunhill Championship, as I did, makes one appreciate the skill of professional golfers. The greens are excellent with exceptional consistency in roll and speed. There is no weakness in the layout with each hole presenting its own challenge. Missing greens on the wrong side makes an up-and-down difficult. The 16th is one of the most challenging of par 3s and the 18th one of the best finishing holes in the country.

Jaco Ackermann
20 December 2020
Leopard Creek is a step above the rest. The course has 18 unique, memorable holes testing all aspects of your game. It is one of the ultimate experiences, next to the Kruger Park. The course is aesthetically pleasing and you do feel like you are the only fourball. My feature hole was the spectacular par-5 13th, and the improvements made to the par-3 16th are great.
Philip Malan
10 December 2020
The recent work done at Leopard Creek has improved the overall course with the Zoysia fairways being an upgrade. In addition the new bunkers frame the holes better than previously. The good holes at Leopard Creek are brilliant both visually as well as to play, but there are a few forgettable ones. Overall it remains one of the best in SA and a fantastic experience.
Doron Neuhaus
20 November 2020
After some winter / early spring preparation Leopard Creek is coming back to its former brilliance. It is a unique layout with quality holes and great shot value, the course is penal on errors of thought or execution. The "new grasses" and changes have made it a more enjoyable and playable course for the average golfer whilst now becoming a serious challenge for the low handicap and professional.
Ponky Firer
19 November 2020
Leopard Creek is a bucket list course. The changes made to it in 2017 are starting to bring the course back to a point where it will hold its own in the World Top 100. The presentation is world class with memorability, playability and the all-round experience ranking with some of the best. The greens are settling and should soon provide the final touches to this South African icon.
Jon James
13 November 2020
You will not find a more spectacular setting for golf. The thatch-roof clubhouse is fitting for a bushveld course and has beautiful views over the ninth and 18th holes. Johann Rupert must be complimented for envisioning and creating this masterpiece. The new cynodon grass, which is not as green as kikuyu, blends in better with the surrounding flora. It is a tough grass and not easy to play from. The greens look slower but in fact are quite fast. The bunkers are well-placed and penal, especially if you short-side yourself. I like the changes to the course. The greens at Nos 12 and 16 are more receptive with the option of more pin placements. The new tee-box arrangement on 16 is a great improvement. The new green at 17 makes the hole more playable and allows the new tee at nine a magnificent view over the two closing holes. Leopard Creek must be a strong contender for the No 1 spot when the new rankings are announced.
Frans Booysen
11 November 2020
Having changed the grasses on both the fairways and greens to produce a Seminole-like (Florida USA) course with running fairways and hard fast greens it is a pity that the greens are still not where they should be. They are just not rolling as expected and a course of this pedigree should have world-class greens for most of the year. The course has been significantly improved with the changes though, especially the iconic par-3 16th that must rank as one of the great short holes in the world. Varied tee boxes change the challenge and the new green complex is more amenable to hitting long irons or rescues when the wind and tee box dictate this. Leopard Creek is a bucket list course and when the greens improve to where one expects them to be it will be challenging The Links at Fancourt for the No 1 spot in the rankings.
Ponky Firer
04 October 2020
You can never compliment this course too much. Design variety and aesthetics comparable to the best in the world. Immaculate conditioning and an absolute privilege to play here.
Sandor Kovacs
28 April 2020
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