What a brilliant way to finish our golfing safari through Sth Africa!
We were staying at Kirkmans Kamp, abutting Kruger National Park, and enjoying the most thrilling safaris both early morning and late afternoon each day.
Already we had not only sighted the big five and much more, we had got up closer than we had ever thought possible. It was an adventure we were never likely to forget...
But being so close to the top rated course in Sth Africa was too big an opportunity to overlook.
After morning safari the chopper picked 4 of us for a glorious 75 km ride over Kruger to Leopard Creek.
We spotted elephants and rhino all over...
Leopard Creek was designed by Gary Player, and opened for play in 1996
The course abuts Kruger, with only the river separating the course from the park.
The course was clearly named after the leopards in the area, but sightings are fewer these days.
And the giraffes have been relocated as they were damaging greens.
Nevertheless the course has a real connection with the animal kingdom with leopard statues at every turn, monkeys, and impala abundant.
And then there is the 13th hole!
The course starts slowly on the front nine with a number of pleasant parkland holes on relatively flat terrain. As my readers would know by now I am not a great fan of kikuyu as a playing surface for golf, and unfortunately Leopard Creek is covered in lush kikuyu. Not so great for options around the green, and with little difference between the colour or height of the rough and the fairway, in my opinion the course lacks a little definition.
The first few holes are redeemed somewhat by clever use of water hazards/ burns, and lovely shaping of the greens. The introduction of a pretty water carry par 3, and an interesting short par 4 with fairway cross bunkering forcing a decision on a potential layup off the tee at 5 &6, add more interest to the front nine which finishes like many other Player courses with water down the left and around the green, somewhat Mirroring the 18th hole. This opening nine reminded me a little of Valderrama with the general feel of the layout- not such a bad comparison I would argue...
The back nine is set on hillier terrain, and is much more engaging golf. Ten is more in keeping with the front nine, but then hole 11 rings a change. The hole goes through a gap in trees over a gully, and then up.
There is more definition with tree lines and elevation changes. It's a good hole.
Twelve is a pretty downhill par 3 from a very high tee. I thought the front of the green a bit silly with a severe front to back drop for the first third of the green kicking good shots straight off the back.
Thirteen is a special hole, not unlike Augusta with a swinging right to left par 5 , creek and jungle all the way down the left, big right to left slope, and a rocky creek angling across at the landing area forcing a decision on the lay up.
Then there is the green, a bit reminiscent of the 11th at Augusta in shape, with pond on the front.
This is a skyline green, and when you walk on to putt you should plan to spend 10 minutes transfixed with the view to Kruger and the river below.
It was noisy too!
The river below was full of hippos having a great old time.
This is one of the great holes anywhere!
Further on we faced a very elevated tee, and long carry to the par 5, 15th hole.
This was another strong hole with tricky second shot across bunkering and a fairway curving left, and lake on the right. You need to pick the right line and length!
If succesful you are faced with a short iron to a green projecting partially into the lake.
16 continues with the water theme with a par 3 with a longish carry over the lake. Anything not struck well gets wet...
Finally the picturesque 18th is a par 5, with an island green set in front of the dramatic and unique clubhouse. It's a nice finish to a very good course.
I am very pleased we took our opportunity to play Leopard Creek, and very much enjoyed the experience.
It may not be the best in Sth Africa- I would rate The Links at Fancourt and Pezula higher- but it is an exciting golfing venue, and something not to be missed.
The helicopter ride over Kruger comes as an optional extra!
The Travelling Golfer