SA’s 25 BEST
NINE-HOLE
COURSES

BOSCH HOEK TOP IN THE
RANKING OF THE 9-HOLE COURSES

Published by : Stuart McLean - 10 January 2024

1 Bosch Hoek Golf & Lodge

Near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
Score 51/60

Clubhouse 9 / Aesthetics 9 / Conditioning 9 /
Design Variety 9 / Innovation 6.5 / Challenge 8.5

Bosch Hoek is the only 9-holer ranked in SA’s Top 100. It enjoys magnificent Aesthetics in an English parkland setting. Once a private club it is now a destination in the scenic Midlands, offering accommodation in a luxury lodge close to the clubhouse. The original Bob Grimsdell design was given a makeover by Golf Data designer Sean Quinn in 2013, the club’s 50th anniversary. The two par 5s became more exciting and challenging holes. The Bosch Hoek dam has also been utilised as a feature of the layout.

View : Bosch Hoek – SA Top 100 Courses

The green of the downhill par-4 fourth / 13th at Bosch Hoek.

2 Kambaku

Komatipoort, Mpumalanga Lowveld
Score 49.5/60

Clubhouse 8 / Aesthetics 8 / Conditioning 8 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 9 / Challenge 8.5

On the Mozambique border, Kambaku lies downstream from Leopard Creek on the confluence of the Crocodile and Komati rivers overlooking the Kruger National Park. Opened in 2006 as a raw 9-holer built by local farmers, it has evolved into a superbly conditioned layout where golfers enjoy 14 different holes with 11 separate greens in an attractive bushveld environment. It has a spectacular new short par 4 with an island green on the Crocodile River, and four unique par 3s.

View : Kambaku – SA Top 100 Courses

The final hole green on the banks of the Crocodile River.

3 Mooinooi

Near Rustenburg, North West Province
Score 47.5/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 7.5 / Conditioning 9 /
Design Variety 8.5 / Innovation 6.5 / Challenge 8.5

The only 9-holer to have hosted a Sunshine Tour event, the Platinum Classic, for 18 years from 1996 to 2013. Louis Oosthuizen was champion in 2007. The course has matured into a parkland beauty, its fairways lined with tall trees. Strong test, with creatively designed greens complexes. The conditioning of Mooinooi’s greens this year was better than the Gary Player CC at nearby Sun City. The original course designer is unknown, and the course will be 50 years old in 2024.

View: Mooinooi – SA Top 100 Courses

The green of the par-4 third hole at Mooinooi.

4 Metropolitan

Cape Town, Western Cape
Score 47/60

Clubhouse 9 / Aesthetics 6.5 / Conditioning 8 /
Design Variety 7 / Innovation 9 / Challenge 7.5

Adjoining the Waterfront, Metropolitan is Cape Town’s second oldest club (1895). The original layout had 15 greens. That course was lost when South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Part of the land was needed for the Cape Town Stadium, which towers over the new layout. This modern design by Mark Muller has 14 greens, beautifully constructed modern structures with slick putting surfaces. Five holes have alternate greens, and the other four have two pins in place on the green. The original double-storey clubhouse has been retained.

View: Metropolitan – SA Top 100 Courses

Aerial view of Metropolitan clubhouse and 17th and 18th greens.

5 Cullinan

Near Pretoria, Gauteng North
Score 46/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 7.5 / Conditioning 7.5 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 7.5 / Challenge 8

Cullinan has long been recognised as an outstanding 9-holer, an old Gauteng club famous for its proximity to the Premier Mine where the Cullinan diamond, the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond (weighing 621 grams), was discovered in 1905. The interestingly designed and challenging course is in a tranquil parkland setting. The par-5 fourth hole has a unique set of tees built high on a hillside offering a magnificent view. Up there the hole is a dogleg right with one of the most thrilling of tee shots.

The home green and clubhouse at Cullinan.

6 Boschenmeer

Paarl, Cape Winelands
Score 45/60

Clubhouse 8 / Aesthetics 6.5 / Conditioning 7.5 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 6.5 / Challenge 8.5

Boschenmeer is the third nine at the 27-hole Paarl GC facility, which is part of a residential estate. It qualifies as a separate 9-holer in that its design, by Danie Obermeyer and David Frost in 2000, is distinctly different from the Paarl Old Course. There are numerous water hazards, and a hill in the middle from where you can see Table Mountain. The closing three holes are outstanding, No 7 a beautiful long par 4 through an avenue of pines, No 8 a risk-reward short 4, and No 9 a par 5 curving left around one of the lakes. It is also set up to play as a Par 3 layout.

View: Boschenmeer – SA Top 100 Courses

No 8/17 at Boschenmeer is a risk-reward short par 4.

7 Cathedral Peak

KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg
Score 44/60

Clubhouse 5.5 / Aesthetics 10 / Conditioning 5 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 7 / Challenge 8.5

In the heart of the Drakensberg, this isolated mountain course belonging to Cathedral Peak Hotel is one of the most scenic inland venues. With magnificent views and bracing mountain air it is a well-designed layout (1996) by the late Reg Taylor and his brother Roly which criss-crosses hillside ridges in a valley below the hotel. Different elevation levels make for fun tee shots. For a 9-holer the design variety and risk-reward quotient is diverse. Sadly, one of the least played courses in SA.

View: Cathedral Peak – SA Top 100 Courses

View from elevated tee of No 4 at Cathedral Peak.

8 Kruger Park Lodge

Hazyview, Mpumalanga Lowveld
Score 43/60

Clubhouse 5 / Aesthetics 7 / Conditioning 7 /
Design Variety 8.5 / Innovation 7.5 / Challenge 8

This Gary Player Design from the early 1990s has several memorable and challenging holes on undulating terrain. Big greens, water hazards, creatively shaped bunkers are all evidence of a proper professional design by Phil Jacobs. One oddity, however, comes in the shape of a tiny island green on the par-4 ninth. This wasn’t in the original design. There is another green further along the hole, used for the 18th.

The par-4 fourth green at Kruger Park Lodge.

9 Kilbarchan

Near Newcastle, Northern KwaZulu-Natal
Score 42/60

Clubhouse 6.5 / Aesthetics 7.5 / Conditioning 6.5 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 6.5 / Challenge 7

Relatively unknown layout 13 kilometres south of Newcastle just off the N11, close to an old colliery. A former mine manager commissioned a design by Bob Grimsdell and Brian Wilkes. It opened in 1979 and is reasonably long
at 6 375 metres. Hilly with a mix of challenging and interesting holes, including an excellent closing par 5 with a large dam in play on the second shot. The first part of the fairway ends where the dam begins, and golfers then play across a corner of the dam to another fairway. The seventh is an outstanding short 4 from an elevated tee to a green guarded by a stream.

The opening green at Kilbarchan, a Grimsdell design.

10 Malelane

Malelane, Mpumalanga Lowveld
Score 41.5/60

Clubhouse 6 / Aesthetics 8 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 6 / Challenge 7.5

Malelane is a bushveld beauty, its fairways lined with magnificent mature trees of varied species. The road to the Malelane Gate and Leopard Creek bisects the course. On the left are three holes and the clubhouse; the other six holes, each outstanding, with a couple of doglegs, are hidden away on the right. A stream runs through the middle of the course. There’s a camp site at the clubhouse.

Green of par-5 fourth hole at Malelane.

11 Volksrust

Volksrust, Mpumalanga Highveld
Score 41.2/60

Clubhouse 5.5 / Aesthetics 7.2 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 8 / Innovation 7 / Challenge 7.5

One of the longer 9-holers at 6 399 metres, Volkrust features well-designed holes on gently undulating and tree-lined terrain. It was the home course of Sunshine Tour star Nico van Rensburg. The club and course originated in the early 1900s, and an ancient giant tree which resembles a redwood is a striking feature in the middle of the fairway on the downhill par-4 second hole. From the back tee, golfers must either fly their drives over the top of the tree or find a way around it.

12 Graaff-Reinet

Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape
Score 40.5/60

Clubhouse 6 / Aesthetics 8 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 7.5 / Innovation 5.5 / Challenge 7.5

One of South Africa’s oldest clubs, established in 1897. A founding member was Douglas Proudfoot, who was SA Amateur champion in the 1890s. The club has hosted the three-day Proudfoot Trophy every March-April since 1997. The current course is the third in the town, built in the early 1990s, and is a beautiful Karoo bushveld layout situated on a bend of the Sundays River, overlooked by Spandauskop. A dry area of the country but the course is well grassed.

Graaff-Reinet has a challenging bushveld layout.

13 Kleinmond

Kleinmond, Western Cape Overberg
Score 40.2/60

Clubhouse 7.2 / Aesthetics 7 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 6 / Innovation 6.5 / Challenge 7.5

A busy club close to Arabella resort with a 10-hole course set against the mountainside and having ocean views. That extra hole is the opening par 3 which is only played once. Established in 1991-92, and a distinguished fourball at the opening comprised Ernie Els, John Bland and FW de Klerk. No 8 and 9 are unusual finishing holes, a dangerous par 5/4 and the second a sharp dogleg left short par 4 where long hitters can aim directly at the green.

The opening tee at Kleinmond, a short par 3.

14 Lime Acres

Lime Acres, Northern Cape
Score 39.8/60

Clubhouse 5.5 / Aesthetics 7 / Conditioning 6.3 /
Design Variety 7 / Innovation 5.5 / Challenge 8.5

Sir Harry Oppenheimer opened the course in 1968 (Anglo-American developed the Finsch diamond mine here), and it’s rumoured that Gary Player flew in earlier that year with Sir Harry to suggest a basic layout. It’s highly likely, as Lime Acres is the longest 9-holer in South Africa at 6 506 metres. It’s one of our remotest courses too, quiet, and unknown outside the Northern Cape, a two-hour drive from Kimberley. Lime Acres is a mining village. The mine is now owned by Petra Diamonds. It is a testing layout, well-grassed and having good putting surfaces.

15 Skukuza

Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga Lowveld
Score 39.5/60

Clubhouse 8.5 / Aesthetics 7.5 / Conditioning 4.5 /
Design Variety 7 / Innovation 5 / Challenge 7

The most talked-about 9-holer in SA, the only one within the Kruger Park, due to the wildlife sightings on fairways and greens. Hippos are submerged close to the first tee in Lake Panic. The greens were upgraded at the end of 2022, and a new clubhouse built with a restaurant that attracts daily visitors. The course was established in the early 1970s, exclusively for park staff, and only opened to the public in 1999. Large bushveld trees are a feature, and it ends with a par 3 closer over Lake Panic.

View: EXCITING NEW LOOK TO SKUKUZA – SA Top 100 Courses

The closing hole at Skukuza in the Kruger Park, a challenging par 3 over Lake Panic.

16 Zwartkop

Centurion, Gauteng North
Score 39.3/60

Clubhouse 8.5 / Aesthetics 5 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 7.5 / Innovation 4.8 / Challenge 7.5

A famous club, owned by the Hayes family, which hosted the 1955 SA Open among many other tournaments and exhibitions. It was an 18-hole Bob Grimsdell layout until earlier in 2023 when regular flooding of Hennops River running through the course prompted the closure of the front nine. Mature parkland layout with tree-lined fairways which places an emphasis on accuracy. Just four par 4s survive, along with three par 3s. There is a TopTrack range powered by Trackman.

The green of the par-3 8th/17th at Zwartkop.

17 Swellendam

Swellendam, Western Cape Overberg
Score 39/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 8 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 6.5 / Innovation 5 / Challenge 6

This pleasant course occupies a beautiful and tranquil site on a hill above the historic town, overlooked by the Langeberg mountain range. There are westward views over the surrounding Overberg countryside from this lofty position. There’s a natural rugged look to the tree-lined layout, which undulates softly towards a valley, its holes framed by a variety of mature trees and native grasses which form penalty areas.

View: Swellendam – SA Top 100 Courses

The 7th / 16th par 4 at Swellendam.

18 Mooi River

Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
Score 38.7/60

Clubhouse 6.5 / Aesthetics 7.3 / Conditioning 5.5 /
Design Variety 6.5 / Innovation 6.7 / Challenge 6.2

Unusual setting on top of a hill, adjoining Treverton College, so prepare yourself for an undulating ride on the course and beautiful panoramic views. The final hole climbs steeply back up the hill to the clubhouse. Some interesting design innovations are a feature, notably at the opening hole which is both a par 4 (1) and par 3 (10) with alternate greens. There is not a single bunker on the course. And just three par 3s.

The clubhouse at Mooi River Country Club.

19 Riversdale

Riversdale, Southern Cape
Score 38.5/60

Clubhouse 5.3 / Aesthetics 6.2 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 7.5 / Innovation 6 / Challenge 7.5

One of the oldest clubs (1911) in the Southern Cape, set in a quiet valley away from the town. Very flat, compact, and challenging 1950s course with 11 greens. Two holes, including the long seventh, border the Goukou River flowing past. Remnants of an old stone bridge from an earlier era have been converted into a tee for the par-3 eighth.

The opening hole at Riversdale in the Southern Cape.

20 Hex River Valley

Near Worcester, Cape Winelands
Score 38.3/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 6.8 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 7 / Innovation 5 / Challenge 6

Short par-70 layout of 5 391 metres, close to the N1, with some stunning mountain scenery and quirky, fun holes. There are three par 3s on each nine, including No 7 over a dam to a large green. The two par 5s, No 6 and 8, are the only holes of any substance for longer hitters.

The par-3 second green at Hex River Valley.

21 Ceres

Ceres, Western Cape
Score 38/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 6 / Conditioning 6.5 /
Design Variety 6.5 / Innovation 6 / Challenge 5.5

As you crest Mitchell’s Pass into this picturesque town, the parkland course lies below the road. It is now part of a residential estate, and some holes have been modified. There is talk that holes 6 and 7 might be lost for a future housing phase which would be unfortunate. Strong closing par 4 with a stream to be carried with the tee shot. The estate came with a big modern clubhouse. Next to it is an old railway station from which steam trains still operate.

The seventh green at Ceres in the Boland.

22 Kriel

Kriel, Mpumalanga Highveld
Score 37.5/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 5.5 / Conditioning 6 /
Design Variety 6.5 / Innovation 5 / Challenge 7

A testing challenge with strong holes good enough to have once hosted the SA Senior Open where the winning score by Allan Henning was over par. An unusual feature of the design is that it has three par 5s, three par 4s and three par 3s. It begins and ends with a 5. No short par 4s, and the par 3s on the back nine play 193, 195 and 187.

The thatch-roofed clubhouse at Kriel Golf Club.

23 Sandy Lane

Hartbeespoort Dam, North West Province
Score 37/60

Clubhouse 7.5 / Aesthetics 6 / Conditioning 8 /
Design Variety 6 / Innovation 4.5 / Challenge 5

Short (5 469 metres) and friendly Par-70 layout (three par 3s) designed by Douw van der Merwe in the 1990s, with exceptionally good greens and an enjoyable mix of holes, including a superb short 4 (7 & 16). The opening and closing holes (both par 5s) are on the shores of Hartbeespoort Dam, on the opposite side to Pecanwood, with five holes inland among a residential estate. Good opening tee shot over water from the edge of a small boat marina.

View: Sandy Lane – SA Top 100 Courses

Risk-reward short par 7th/16th at Sandy Lane.

24 Fynbos

Eerste Rivier, Eastern Cape
Score 36.5/60

Clubhouse 8 / Aesthetics 6.5 / Conditioning 4.5 /
Design Variety 5.5 / Innovation 6 / Challenge 6

Built on high ground on the Tsitsikamma coastline overlooking the Indian Ocean and Eerste Rivier resort, this is a stunning setting for golf. The holes don’t quite live up to the Aesthetics, yet there are a few good ones closest to the sea, notably Nos 6, 7 and 8, which is a fine par 3 with two pins on the green. Very few trees so it has a links-like appearance, particularly the dogleg left sixth. An attractive clubhouse has accommodation and a restaurant.

An aerial view of the 9 holes at Fynbos, on the Tsitsikamma coast.

25 Pilgrims Rest

Near Pilgrims Rest, Mpumalanga Lowveld
Score 36/60

Clubhouse 5.5 / Aesthetics 7.5 / Conditioning 5 /
Design Variety 6 / Innovation 6 / Challenge 6

The course is one of the oldest in the Lowveld, close to Robbers Pass, its 9 holes attractively laid out in a narrow tree-lined valley alongside a stream and rocky hillside. The immediate area is where SA’s first gold rush took place in 1873, prospectors recovering alluvial gold from the gravel of riverbeds. The original name of the club was TGME (Transvaal Gold Mining Estates). The small stone-walled clubhouse is thought to be 100 years old.

RANKING CRITERIA FOR NINE-HOLE COURSES

10 points for each category

Clubhouse: Must be an attractive building open most days of the week, have a welcoming 19th hole, and include basic facilities.

Aesthetics: The scenic values of the courses must add to the pleasure of the round.

Design Variety: How varied are the holes in differing lengths, configurations, hazards, and green shapes.

Innovation: Creation of alternate greens, variety of tees from different angles, double pins, different pars for same holes.

Challenge: Does the course have length, hazards, rough, tight fairways, sloping greens?

Condition: The quality of the fairways, tees, bunkers and greens relative to the club’s resources.

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