Leopard Creek Country Club is an exclusive facility, which opened in 1996. Businessman Johan Rupert owns it and his company sponsors the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in Scotland.
The front gate to the club is at the bridge leading over the Crocodile River into the Malelane Gate of the Kruger National Park. The entrance is as strictly secured as that at Augusta National, Leopard Creek being reserved for members and their guests. However, visitors can access the property, use the clubhouse, and play the course, by staying at various game lodges in the area, and paying a high-end green fee. The closest one to the course is Buhala Lodge, which is located a few kilometres away on the banks of the same Crocodile River which borders the golf course.
Course architect, Gary Player, commented as follows: “Leopard Creek is surrounded by bushveld. The fact that your could be playing while hearing a hippopotamus snort or seeing a lion near the fence is unique, as is the pitch shot you might hit over a lake full of crocodiles and hippos. The clubhouse, an extraordinary piece of architecture with a thatch roof, is filled with golfing memorabilia. Just three years after its completion in 1996, Leopard Creek hosted a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between Ernie Els and Nick Price.”
Leopard Creek has been the annual host to the Alfred Dunhill Challenge on the European Tour since 2005.
An addition to the golfing experience at Leopard Creek in 2016 was the construction of a par three course which replicates famous short holes around the world, plus a state-of-the art practice facility adjoining the par three course.
Stuart McLean, editor of Golf Digest South Africa, informed us that Leopard Creek was closed for play at the end of 2017 because the course was undergoing eight months of major construction – including a total redesign of the par three 12th hole with its Redan green – and re-turfing, which resulted in the cancellation of the annual end of year Alfred Dunhill tournament.
Many of the fairway bunkers have been repositioned and landing areas for handicap golfers widened. Kikuyu grass fairways were replaced with warm season Bermuda, a grass that requires 30% less water and fewer chemicals to maintain, and this move should help improve year-round playability and allow the golf ball to run further.
Greens have also been planted with the latest strain of Champion bent grass from Houston, Texas, with Leopard Creek now having the South African rights to this particular grass.