The wonders of nature and the game of golf combine perfectly at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Michael Vlismas
LEOPARD CREEK COUNTRY CLUB,
Early on in Charl Schwartzel’s career, he realised the value of solitude in nature and the impact it has on his golf. As a young pro, to clear his head he once bought a piece of carpet offcut in Windhoek and drove into the desert to hit golf balls and find what the hustle and bustle of a normal driving range couldn’t uncover for him.
It’s hardly surprising then that Leopard Creek and the Alfred Dunhill Championship should merge into such a sweet spot as to have seen Schwartzel win a record four of these titles – one by 12 strokes – and finish second on four occasions too.
“It’s definitely one of my favourite courses, if not the favourite. For some reason Leopard Creek always seems to spark something special in my game,” says Schwartzel.
And he’s not alone. The Alfred Dunhill Championship finds perfect expression in its home at a golf course that hits like a 1-iron to the soul of all golfers.
At Leopard Creek, the relationship between golf and nature is as delicately balanced and finely tuned as a dragon fly landing on a blade of grass overhanging the majestic Crocodile River that serves as the natural border between this golf course and the Kruger National Park.
Highlights of Ockie Strydom’s maiden DP World Tour victory at Leopard Creek in 2022.
EXPLORE THE COURSE
To try to explain the view from the 13th green (above) as the sun sets over the Crocodile River and with the vastness of the Kruger National Park beyond it is a bit like asking a professional to not just explain the technicalities of hitting the perfect draw, but also the feeling.
There are also other pockets of uniqueness around this course. The multitude of birds that gather in the trees around the 5th hole (below) in the late afternoon. That sense of being the last golfer enjoying heaven on earth while you walk the sweeping fairway of the 15th. And the beauty and terror all rolled into one of the approach shot into the treacherous 18th green.
All of it comes together perfectly during the week of the Alfred Dunhill Championship. A week when the Sunshine Tour says to the almost 490-million households worldwide who receive the television broadcast of this event, “Yes. It exists. And we have it.”
FEELING THE HEAT
The rules have been bent at the Alfred Dunhill Championship to allow players to dress more freely.
HE SAID IT...
Former champion Brandon Stone on playing the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
“It’s the best place on earth – simply put. I cannot wait to get to Leopard Creek every single year. The golf course is obviously spectacular, and the setting is just as good. The energy I get from just being there in nature makes me feel a little different to any other week on Tour.”
THE BRONZE LEOPARDS
A closer look at another of Leopard Creek’s unique features.
SA STARS SET TO SHINE
A gallery of former PGA Tour, Major and Alfred Dunhill Championship winners head a strong field of Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour stars for this tournament.
Augusta National Golf Club has Amen Corner. Leopard Creek has what I am presumptuous enough to suggest should be its own Leopard’s Lair.
Holes 7, 8 and 9 are a tough stretch of holes. But it’s the par-three 7th (below) in particular that makes the hairs on the back of any professional’s neck stand up like they’ve just heard a lion roar in the night. Former champion Brandon Stone says: “The only reason it’s the toughest par three on the golf course is because it should be a par four.”
Pablo Larrazabal hit three balls into the water on the 7th the year he won the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Charismatic English professional Eddie Pepperell says: “The 7th is a brilliant par three. It’s a 6-iron, and if you don’t get it right you’re going to make bogey or double-bogey”.
According to Richard Sterne: “Visually, it’s a very tough hole and extremely demanding with zero bail out to the right obviously because of the water. So a lot of guys try to play left. But your ego gets to you now and then and you think you can take it on, and then it bites you. It’s a hole that I think if you can play it in one over par for the week or even two over, you’re gaining shots on the field.”
PETRI OESCHGER/SHAUN ROY/CARL FOURIE/TYRONE WINFIELD/SUNSHINE TOUR/ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP/GETTY IMAGES