We’re highlighting some of the top golf courses around the world today for National Golf Month. Each course offers different experiences for every golf enthusiast, from the beginner to the seasoned player. Written by Lee Stranathan
South Africa is one of the world’s ‘golfing hot spots’, gaining much of its reputation from the success of its native golfers. Since the 1940s, South African golfers have won more golfing majors than any country in the world, other than the United States. The golf staff at Ker & Downey has been fortunate enough to play all the ‘top ranked’ courses and it’s hard to do better than a round at the country’s #1, Leopard Creek. Leopard Creek Golf Course and Country Club is situated near Malelane in the heart of Mpumalanga, on the southern border of the Kruger National Park. Typical bushveld koppies overlook the course from the east, providing an ideal backdrop for a magnificent course. Johann Rupert created Leopard Creek, and with Gary Player, designed a championship 18-hole golf course as its center piece. Small streams and lakes are found throughout the development, creating challenging play to the golfer. Golfing hazards take on a new dimension at Leopard Creek for much of the water are home to hippos and the creature for which the adjacent river is named – the crocodile.
Many other highly ranked courses are available for play during a journey to South Africa, from spectacularly beautiful Pearl Valley, surrounded by the Simonsberg and Drakenstein Mountains and bordered by vineyards outside of Cape Town, to challenging Fancourt Links, an awe-inspiring example of magnificent design and golf-course construction where Gary Player’s team have drawn from the best of the classic links courses in Scotland and Ireland, to Arabella, a classic parkland course named the top course on the Western Cape by Compleat Golfer magazine.
But for a real treat, try Simola. While ‘only’ listed at #16 in the most recent Golf Digest rankings of South African courses, the course offers challenging and rewarding golf amidst spectacular scenery. Set below the high ridges above the Indian Ocean not far from Knysna, it’s free from the wind that so often plagues coastal courses. Fairways flow with the natural undulating contours of the terrain and the unusual configuration of five Par 5’s and five Par 3’s adds a new dimension to the game. Keeping your head down at Simola can be a challenge simply because the views around the course are awe inspiring, and with this it is clear to see why Simola takes its place as one of South Africa’s premier golfing destinations.
Scotland is the birthplace of golf and few countries offer more Top 100 courses than this country. Always on a golfer’s bucket list, a trip to St. Andrews with a chance to play one of the 7 courses including the world-famous Old Course is one not to be missed. Just down the road find Kingsbarns, a unique challenge where golf has been played since 1793, or travel north to Carnoustie, known as ‘the nasty’ by many, or south to Muirfield where nine holes run clockwise and nine counterclockwise (meaning the wind is always an issue). Or head inland to Gleneagles, site of the 2014 Ryder Cup, where three courses of unique challenge and experience await. But for a real treat, and one not yet discovered by many, try nine holes at Kingarrock, located only 10 miles from St. Andrews. You will arrive and be provided with original hickory clubs, an old golf bag, together with balls and tees that represent the early 20th century golfing experience. The size of the hole remains four and a quarter inches and the thrill of competition will be as great as ever. Forester’s Cottage will be staffed by men and women knowledgeable in the period 1910 to 1930. They will provide you with a Spoon, Driving Iron, Mid Mashie, Mashie Niblick and Putter, together with helpful advice on play. With golf bag, clubs and balls weighing on average only 5 lbs., there is no need for carts! Golf at Kingarrock will re-establish the thrill of the game 100 years ago with hickory shafts and softer golf balls. The more gentle sport will be rekindled in the most beautiful of Scottish settings.
Ireland is home to over half of the world’s links courses, and they are a spectacle to behold, plus some of the most well-kept parkland courses on this side of the Atlantic. If Dublin is your home base, you’re but 20 – 30 minutes from courses with names you know. There’s The K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup and two very different layouts to test your skills. There’s Killeen Castle, host of the ’11 Solheim Cup and a wonderful blend of new and old. There are the two courses at Carton House, Montgomerie and O’Meara, where several Irish Opens have been hosted. But then there’s a hidden gem just minutes from Dublin City Center, The Island Club. The tallest dunes in Ireland, a qualifying course for The Open Championship, and as quintessentially an Irish links course as you’ll ever find.
For a different treat, head to the southern edge of Ireland and a round at Old Head. Jutting over 2 miles out into the Atlantic, this links course has been ranked as high as #1 by Links Magazine. With five Par 5s and five Par 3s, and with nine of those holes being from the cliff tops, Old Head is both a challenge and a sight to behold. Caddies are a must, and often they ‘make’ the round.
Ready for your next round of golf? Contact your Ker & Downey travel representative today to begin planning your journey on the green! Stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.