Five of South Africa’s best golf courses: The Gary Player Country Club doesn’t make the grade
Ranking courses can be contentious, but few objective reviewers or analysts would suggest that South Africa’s most famous golf course is its best.
In fact, quite a lot of fair-minded individuals have ranked the Gary Player Country Club outside of the top 10 courses in South Africa.
This isn’t really a slight on the famous course at Sun City, which, despite its equally renowned setting in a popular holiday resort, scores low for accessibility.
Here, we take a look at the top five courses in South Africa, and the Gary Player Country Club doesn’t make the grade.
Durban Country Club
The Durban Country Club sports an opening five holes that some reviewers believe represent the best start to any course in the world.
That is a bold claim, to be sure, but the original course layout designed by Laurie Waters in the 1920s has only been tweaked by subsequent redesigns. The most significant change has seen the course gradually evolve from a links course among the Dunes as Durban’s quick-growing vegetation made the task of maintaining it as such nearly impossible. The club uses a halfway house to mark the end of the front nine, and you will only get back to the famous clubhouse once you play through the 18.
The Durban Country Club is imposing at its full championship length and starts with a long par four. Recent floods haven’t done the course any favours but have prompted the installation of an improved drainage system.
There is a long waiting list to join the Durban CC, but guest players can book a round, including foreign visitors.
Humewood is the only South African links course listed in Malcolm Campbell and George Peper’s ‘True Links’, which some consider a comprehensive catalogue of the course type.
Golf icon Bobby Locke labelled the course as one of the best links he had ever played.
The course was laid out by Colonel Stafford Vere Hotchkin at the behest of the Port Elizabeth Golf Club, who wanted to add a second course. Stuart McLean writes in South Africa’s Greatest Golf Destinations: “Fortunately, Hotchkin was heavily influenced by the work of Harry Colt, regarded as the father of British golf course design. He applied the Colt design philosophy of natural symmetry with the land to his new project, so creating an enduring masterpiece at Humewood.”
Pearl Valley in Paarl in the Western Cape was the second course designed by Jack Nicklaus to open in South Africa.
The course is visually stunning and has played host to the South African Open three times in successive seasons. Its fairways are generous if often guarded by brilliant white river sand bunkers.
Natural water hazards add equal parts charm and challenge with the tough seventh and eighth holes that ask players to navigate around the largest of Pearl Valley’s lakes.
Pearl Valley has an online booking system and various accommodation options are available for visitors.
Dr Hasso Plattner bought Fancourt in the early 1990s and made the inspired decision to use a barren patch of land that was formerly an airstrip as a links course. Plattner brought in masses of sand and soil to build his own massive dunescape with the assistance of designs by Gary Player and Phil Jacobs.
Despite the efforts, it isn’t a true links course and plays like a hybrid parkland combination, making it just a little easier on the novice than a traditional links course.
It may be a relatively new course, but it has already hosted the Presidents Cup in 2003, the Volvo Champions, and Women’s World Cup.
Guests at the resort will get preferential rates, and booking your round will be made that much easier if you are also staying on the course.
You will have to book a stay at one of Leopard Creek’s associate lodges and book tee times directly through the relevant lodge in order to play the renowned championship course.
Those associate lodges include a long list of lodges within the Kruger National Park which is in itself a bucket list destination. The course itself is known to feature an assortment of wildlife. Hippos and crocodiles occupy some of the lakes scattered about the course giving you extra incentive to clear the water.
Its green fees are among the highest in South Africa at R6300 ($340, £276.19, €315.10). It is an exclusive and unique setting for what is arguably the finest example of a bushveld golf experience.
The property is located on the southern border of the vast Kruger National Park, bordering the broad Crocodile River, and it is this remote location that has captivated television viewers around the world while watching the annual hosting of the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour.
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