Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 5th hole
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 5th hole
The par-3 fifth is the shortest of the four par 3s at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 5
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 5
According to several rankings, Leopard Creek is the no. 1 golf course in South Africa. It's private, but if you stay at the right lodge, you can play it. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 6
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 6
A large fairway bunker looms on the short, par-4 sixth at Leopard Creek Country Club. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 9
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 9
The par-4 ninth, which used to be the finishing hole at Leopard Creek C.C., plays to a downhill green protected by water. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 11
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 11
One of the simpler and more picturesque holes at Leopard Creek Country Club is the par-4 11th. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 12
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 12
The 12th is the only par 3 at Leopard Creek Country Club without water. It's rated the easiest hole on the golf course. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 13
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - no. 13
Everything slopes to the left on the the par-5 13th at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 13th hole
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 13th hole
Behind the 13th green at Leopard Creek Country Club is a good look at the Crocodile River and Kruger National Park. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 15th
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 15th
Water down the right side makes the par-5 15th at Leopard Creek Country Club a formidable test. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 16th
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 16th
It's all carry on the long, par-3 16th at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 18th
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Leopard Creek C.C. golf course - 18th
An island green awaits on the par-5 finishing hole at Leopard Creek Country Club. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. - leopard statue
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Leopard Creek C.C. - leopard statue
Throughout Leopard Creek C.C., there are statues of the course's namesake in various states, from awakening to hunting to triumph at the end. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor
Leopard Creek C.C. - clubhouse
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Leopard Creek C.C. - clubhouse
Inside Leopard Creek's clubhouse is a unique blend of artifacts and style. Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor

Leopard Creek Country Club near Kruger National Park: Accessing South Africa's most exclusive golf

MALELANE, South Africa -- If it's not South Africa's best golf course, it's certainly in the top two or three and may be the country's most exclusive. Ranked no. 25 in the world outside the United States by Golf Magazine, Leopard Creek Country Club -- a Gary Player-designed gem -- sits on the edge of Kruger National Park, overlooking the Crocodile River where sightings of crocodile, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and elephants are as common as birdies.

Owned by the richest man in South Africa, Johann Rupert, this club doesn't have any reciprocal agreements with U.S. private clubs, but it doesn't mean you can't play it. If you stay at one of the more exclusive game lodges in and around Kruger National Park near Leopard Creek (Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, for example), you can arrange to play the course, which can play as long as 7,000 yards.(Green fees range from around $175-$200 depending on the value of the South African Rand.)

The 550-yard, par-five 13th is one of Leopard Creek's most memorable holes. The green sits on the edge of the Crocodile river, 100 feet above the water, offering great views of the river and Kruger National Park.

Player is said to be especially proud of the par-five 18th with its island green and the par-4 ninth, both of which share the same body of water and sit below the clubhouse.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Gary Player declined the chance to design San Lameer Country Club in the 1990s, believing there wasn't enough land for a quality course. South African architect Peter Matkovich proved otherwise once a bit more land was acquired, creating a target test of golf in the jungle-covered hills overlooking the Indian Ocean.
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Leopard Creek Country Club near Kruger National Park: Accessing South Africa's most exclusive golf
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