It is probably worth mentioning before going on that one thing is for absolute certain; you are never going to get a general consensus in favor of one golf course being more picturesque or easier on the eye than the other. That’s just the way it is and for good reason given how subjective the matter is. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it very much depends on where you grew up in the world as to what has shaped your tastes.
Any honorable Californian will tell you Pebble Beach is the most beautiful course in the world while any Scot will tell you there is no better sight than St Andrews on a summer’s evening in June. The list of personal favorites according to different nationalities is an indefinite one and really it is good for golf that there are so many breathtaking courses around the world.
So, you will never be able to agree on one but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few that are better than the rest; that’s as close as you will get to any sort of agreement. When the European Tour swings around to South Africa every December, it gives golf fans the world over a chance to see the wonders of Leopard Creek.
Based four and a half hours outside of Johannesburg, Leopard Creek is situated in South Africa’s Lowveld and in the town of Malelane. Malelane is renowned for its blisteringly hot temperatures and for the famous Kruger National park which is home to the Big Five: Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo and, of course, Leopard. The Kruger National Park is a massive game park that is bigger than both Israel and Wales and it is there, in the park, that you will find the Crocodile River traversing through its borders.
It is on the Crocodile River that the golf course Leopard Creek is built, which gives it one of the more dramatic landscapes and backdrops you will ever see surrounding a golf tournament. The timing of the event on the European Tour calendar makes it an ideal getaway for the players and their partners to enjoy arguably the best safari in the world with a bit of golf thrown in for good measure. Local hero CharlSchwartzel says Leopard Creek is his favorite golf course in the world but, then again, he would, as he has won on four separate occasions at the course.
The 2016 winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Brandon Stone took home a cool £170k for his troubles and got to go out into the park most days after the golf had ended. There really isn’t a tournament like it and host Johann Rupert does go out of his way to spoil the golfers and even goes as far as to host a few of his favorite South African players in his salubrious digs looking overlooking the Crocodile River. You can be sure lots of the wonderful wine from the vineyards in Cape Town is flown up well in advance of the arrival of Ernie Els or Louis Oosthuizen at Rupert’s house.
Els is a longtime friend of Rupert and it is the businessman’s influence in Els’ life that has been integral to some of the success the Big Easy has enjoyed. Of course, all of South Africa would love their favorite golfing son to win another major, with his best chance probably coming at the Open in 2019 but, even then, Els is at odds of 200/1 in golf betting to do so. Still, even if Els doesn’t win another major, his loyal fans in the rainbow nation can watch him turn the clock back at Leopard Creek every year.
Leopard Creek underwent massive changes in 2017 as Rupert decided droughts could become more of a regular occurrence in South Africa and opted to switch the grass from Kikuyu to Bermuda. This meant the event didn’t take place as planned last season as the changes were put into effect.
By and large, the changes have been very well received by the players and, if anything, it has made Leopard Creek even more of a world-class establishment.
Some things have to be seen to be believed and a trip to Leopard Creek should be on every golfer’s bucket list. There will be few better sights you will ever see than rounding the dog-leg on the par five 13th to see the majestic Crocodile River lying below the green. Even if you’ve managed to put your golf ball into the river with the crocs, nothing will stop you from enjoying one of the best moments you will ever experience on a golf course.