MPUMALANGA, South Africa -- Leopard Creek Country Club -- host of the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship since 2011 -- is two parts Augusta National, one part zoo.
It requires a stay at one of 15 safari lodges associated with the club to get on Leopard Creek, one of three golf courses in South Africa to make a world "Top 100" list. The club's exclusivity, impeccable conditioning and location adjacent to the Kruger National Park create a memorable day.
Golfers may encounter monkeys, hippos, crocodiles, antelope, cobras, turtles and lizards. Leopards are perched near every tee box. A collection of 18 leopard sculptures depict a day in the life of a leopard from awakening to the kill. The Gary Player design follows a similar arc, starting simple before building for a killer finish. Solid holes on the front nine -- notably the driveable sixth and difficult downhill ninth -- give way to a more dramatic back nine. No. 11, a par 4, climbs uphill through dense jungle over a bunker in the middle of the fairway. The drive on the signature par-5 13th hole must leapfrog a creek. Its green overlooks Crocodile River, where hippos and crocs roam free. The par-5 16th and par-3 17th holes share a large pond. Water surrounds the 18th green, the finish of a downhill par 4 in the shadow of the clubhouse. These obstacles determine the fate of every round at Leopard Creek, from pros to members alike.