The 10 Best Golf Courses in South Africa

Golf in South Africa has shown positive growth during the past few years. Satellite golf societies have accounted for increased rounds but these societies are not affiliated with the National Golf Association and are purely social clubs.

The recognition of golf as an official school sport, and the numerous golf development programs sponsored by the government, has kept up the numbers.

Lifestyle changes have seen the ever-increasing number of golf estates proving very popular and also add to the growth of the game and new golf course development.

South Africa has over 450 affiliated golf courses spread all over the country.

The inland courses are as much as 6000 feet above sea-level and the ball flies higher and further in the rarefied air.

South Africans love the sea and the coastal courses capitalize on holiday traffic to the coast.

The wind and indigenous bush are the protectors of par on many of them, although the links-type courses are a stern test.

The selection of the Top 10 is a difficult task, but I have included another 5 courses that could easily qualify.

The Garden Route is the Mecca of golf in South Africa and tourist delight.

4 of the top 10 are in the area with Fancourt Lifestyle and Golf Estate, annexing 2 spots.

1. Fancourt Links No 1

Fancourt Links No 1

  • Site Link
  • Location: Western Cape, South Africa.
  • Par: 73
  • Length: Tips 6930, Club 6273 and 5721

4 tees on each hole.

Rated the No 1 course in South Africa and an exclusive golf course for its members and their guests. Tee times are available to hotel guests but are limited.

Designed by the legendary Gary Player, who officially opened the course in 2002.

He maintains it is his best.

Gary took a flat piece of land, which was previously an old airport, and turned it into a world-class masterpiece.

1000s of cubic meters of sand were moved and sculptured into a links course incorporating the natural bush and plants of the area. The wetlands blend into the man-made dunes and are home to abundant birdlife.

The course has hosted many prestigious events including the President’s cup in 2003; The Women’s World cup in 2005; the South African Open in 2005 and a few others.

Feature Holes

Every hole is a challenge, but the par  4 10th, named Kilimanjaro, has the green nestled into a raised dune. A very precise and intimidating 2nd shot then awaits.

The par 4 12th is a monster and making par here, even for the low handicap golfer, is an accomplishment. Avoiding the fairway bunkers is a must off the tee but then an accurate long iron into the narrow green with water guarding the left side, adds to the challenge.

The long par 3 2nd drops off the tee down to a bunker protected 2 -tier sloping green and the front bunker cuts into the entry to the green.

The course hosts 5 par 5s and all are long and require accuracy off the tee.

The condition of the course is always magnificent and testimony to the low number of rounds that are played by an exclusive few.

To play this course well, you have to trust the distance markers and not be deceived by the undulating fairways or what your eye tells you.

The Links is a walking course and a caddy is compulsory, but the beautiful scenery will keep you occupied if the challenging course does not.

2. Leopard Creek N0 2

Leopard Creek N0 2

  • Site Link
  • Location: Leopard Creek, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Red 6720 (73), White 6362(71), Blue 5966(69)

Holder of the number 1 position for many years, the course borders on the famous Kruger National Park. The course is separated from the park by the Crocodile River that meanders along the edge.

Hazards on this course take on a new dimension, as it is common to see a crocodile, buffalo, hippo, and elephants.

Playing surfaces are lush and rate as the finest in the country.

Designed by Gary Player, this parkland course was opened in 1996 and is primarily a member and members guest course. Limited tee times are available to visitors.

Feature Holes

The 18th and the 9th playback towards the majestic clubhouse, and have an island and a peninsula green respectively.

Daunting 2nd shots for even the Pros and a few tournaments have been lost here.

The 505-meter par 5 13th hole has its green on the edge of the river, but 30 meters above, and sightings of all sorts of wildlife abound.

3. Royal Johannesburg- East No 3

Royal Johannesburg- East No 3

  • Site Link
  • Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Blue 6940, Yellow 6442, White 5859, Red 5542

Established in 1890 the club is one of the most prestigious clubs in South Africa, having hosted the South African Open 7 times.

Home to the biggest annual event, the  Johannesburg Open tournament, which was inaugurated in 2007.

Designed by Robert Grimsdell the par 72 is a parkland layout.

The club hosts 2 18 hole courses of which the West course is easier.

On arrival, you get to walk down the champions walkway which celebrates all the South African Open and the Johannesburg Open winners.

The East course is a big golf course and gives the golfer the experience of what it is like to play on a course we see on TV.

Featured Holes

Holes 2 to 4 are brutal and require plenty of skill and firepower to overcome this loop. The 231 yard 2nd is a par 3 stroke 6. The 434 yard 3rd and 435 yard 4th are par 4s and stroke 4 and stroke 2 respectively.

The 10th (stroke 3) and 11th (stroke 1) are long and demanding par 4s with each over 500 yards long. The latter is the signature hole and a very attractive hole. Making par on any of these will be an accomplishment.

4. Gary Player Country Club No 4

Gary Player Country Club No 4

  • Site Link
  • Location: Sandton Gauteng, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Green 6535, White 5881, Red 5004

This golf course should need no introduction to any golfer or golf fan.

It is host to the Nedbank challenge and has seen the best players in the world attempt to conquer this par 72 layout.

All the greens are extremely difficult and fast. The course is very long for the average golfer and the heat in the valley can be draining.

It was one of the longest courses in the world, designed by Gary Player, and opened in 1979.

Feature Holes

The signature hole is the 545-meter par 5 9th. A scenic hole that works its way back to the SunCity Hotel complex.

An island green, very difficult to reach with the 2nd shot, and even laying up, the 3rd into this green is nerve-wracking.

Always play for the center of the green and take a 2 putt for par(stroke 5)

The par 4 8th is the most difficult hole on the course. A ditch runs across the fairway requiring a precise drive.

The approach shot is uphill and the green is very quick from the back.

The 200-meter par 3 12th is uphill all the way and the long narrow green has wicked slopes at the back.

Plan to leave the shot below the hole or face the daunting putt from above it.

5. Fancourt Montagu No 5

Fancourt Montagu No 5

  • Site Link
  • Location: Fancourt, South Africa.
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Tips 6714, Club 6374, Forward 5669

Gary Player designed all three golf courses at Fancourt and the Montague and the Outeniqua were the first to open. The Links followed a few years later.

This parkland layout is always in pristine condition and the greens are quick and smooth.

The design was upgraded in 2005 with the 1st and 9th being completely new holes.

New bunkers and reshaping of the greens increased the challenge by a few shots.

Water hazards are strategically placed all over the 18 holes and make distance control on approach shots a must.

Feature Holes

There are not too many easy holes on the course and it boasts its own AMEN Corner, from holes 5,6, and 7.

The 5th and 6th are short par 4s but accuracy and club choice off the tee are very important. The distance control on both 2nd shots must be perfect.

The 7th is one of the best on the course. A long dogleg left par 4, guarded by a stream on the left and bunkers on the right of the fairway, requires pin-point accuracy from the tee.

Trees on the corner of the dog-leg force the golfer to hit his approach shot with a draw.

The green is lightning fast from the back.

This stretch is a score wrecker.

The signature par 3 17th is a replica of the 12th at Augusta. The shot is all carry over water and the beautiful rose gardens beckon you at the back of the green.

Finally, the par 5 18th is a great finishing hole. Only the long hitters will attempt the challenge of reaching the peninsula green with their 2nd shot.

The lay-up 2nd will leave the golfer with a short iron 3rd shot into the green.

A nervous shot for most. Get the distance correct to avoid a watery grave for your ball

6. Durban Country Club No 6

Durban Country Club No 6

  • Site Link
  • Location: Durban, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Championship 6157, Club 5910

Opened officially in December 1922 by the mayor, the course designer, George Waterman had the privilege of driving the 1st ball down the fairway.

Durban has a tropical climate and the high humidity from December to March can reach uncomfortable levels.

The course is a magnificent layout, set on the edge of the Indian Ocean upon rolling dunes, and overlooks the Blue Lagoon estuary.

It is very similar in style to East London and George and is rated world-wide.

The narrow, undulating fairways are surrounded by tropical bush, and the wind makes this a true test.

Feature Holes

The signature par 5 3rd hole is 468 meters long and rated as one of the best par 5s in golf.

Played from an elevated tee down a narrow fairway, protected by tropical bush on either side, and a freeway on your right is enough pressure for even the accomplished golfer. (stroke 9)

A risk and reward 2nd shot is an option for the long hitters.

Stroke 1 is the par 4 5th, and accuracy on both shots is required. The freeway awaits a sliced shot on the right and tropical bush down the left.

The locals call holes 1 to 5 the “tunnel” and in stroke play, negotiating these at level par or 1 or 2 over par keeps you in contention. Unfortunately, it breaks more rounds than it makes.

The par 3 12th hole is only 143 meters long and requires a straight and distance controlled shot.

HOWEVER;

It is referred to as THE PRINCE OF WALES, as this fine gentleman required 17 strokes to complete the hole when he played the course in 1924.

Should you miss the green, the thick grassed banks on either side will take its toll.

7. Glendower No 7

Glendower No 7

  • Site Link
  • Location: Gauteng, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Championship 6899, Club 6433, Forward 5469

Glendower is a picturesque parkland course close to Sandton, which was designed by Charles Hugh Alison and opened in 1937.

In 1973 it was declared a nature reserve due to the abundant birdlife.

The 80s saw a total revamp with all 18 greens rebuilt and shaped and water features installed.

With 64 bunkers and water hazards on 11 of the 18 holes, accuracy is key.

The course has hosted many tour and national events.

Feature Holes

The par 5 2nd is the signature hole and known as The Barn Owl. A tree-lined narrow fairway, with water along the entire, left side and carry over a large dam off the tee.

Aesthetically very appealing, the green is protected by water and bunkers.

Sparrowhawk or the 13th is a 500-meter par 5 and can be a risk and reward hole depending on the golfer’s patience.

A strategically well-placed fairway bunker and a green that is protected by water and bunkers underline the challenge.

Go for the green and make birdie, but miss-hit results in a triple bogey.

8. Arabella Country Estate No 8

Arabella Country Estate No 8

  • Site Link
  • Location: Kleinmond, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Tips 6381, Championship 6082, Club 5403, Ladies 5107

Opened in1998 and located on the shores of the Bot River lagoon, the panoramic background views of the Palmiet mountain range add to this stunning setting.

The wetland is home to thousands of waterfowl and it has been recognized as a biodiversity “hotspot”. 1600 fynbos species and animal life abound on the property.

Designed by Peter Matkovich the par 72 layout is one of the most picturesque courses in South Africa. The tight and pristine condition course is a great challenge for all golfers.

The Hotel and Spa are world-class.

Feature Holes

The 8th hole has claimed the title of the most beautiful par 5 in South Africa.

The fairway slopes from right to left and bunkers and a water hazard protect the front of the green.

The 3rd hole is a par 4 and the toughest hole on the course. 2 long shots are required to reach the green and the left side is guarded by water.

The par 3 17th and par 5 18th put the ïcing on the cake” to complete your round.

Both run along the lagoon and any shot going right will land you in the bunker, on the beach, or in the water.

The long 18th is rated in the top best finishing holes in the country. A long bunker flanks the right side of the fairway, which is inclined to force golfers to keep to the left where thick rough awaits.

3 accurate shots will set you up to make par and complete an unforgettable experience.

9. East London Golf Club No 9

East London Golf Club No 9

  • Site Link
  • Location: Parkland, South Africa
  • Par: 73
  • Length: Championship 5960, Club 5618, Ladies 5285

East London golf club is another coastal gem and a firm favorite throughout South Africa. They maintain a high volume of annual rounds and the course is a links -type, cut into the dunes, and sea bush.

The course was built in 1920 and the architect was Colonel S V Hotchin.

Rather than move tons of sand around, he was successful in rounding out the land and contours shaped into the existing bush.

Narrow, undulating, tree-lined fairways give the course some teeth. The wind is an added protector of par.

Although rather short by modern standards, it is a great challenge and has many risk and reward par 4s.

It has hosted many top tournaments over the years including the African Open as part of the South African leg of the European tour.

The views from the course are spectacular.

Feature Holes

The par 4 12th is a great test as the fairway slopes downhill and then the 2nd shot is played from a downhill lie to a raised green. Into the wind, most golfers struggle to make the green with their 2nd. (stroke 4)

The stunning views from the back of the green take in the sea below, and part of the seaboard, including the river port entrance.

The par 3 2nd hole has an elevation drop of 90 meters from the tee to a well-bunkered green below. The out of bounds fence is 7 meters from the back of the green.

Depending on the wind, club selection can vary from a 9 to a 4 iron. (stroke 15)

The closing 18th par 4 tests the golfer’s nerve in all respects. Played from the tee to a raised fairway, that then slopes right to left and drops 50 meters to the bunkered green.

The 2nd shot causes some anxiety as it is played from a downhill, with the ball either above or below your feet.

It runs down in front of the beautiful clubhouse, and this adds to the pressure.

(stroke 6)

10. George Golf Club Joint No 10

George Golf Club Joint No 10

  • Site Link
  • Location: George, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Tips 6162, Club 5862 and 5542, Front 5204

Set at the foot of the Outeniqua mountain range and in the heart of the Garden Route, this parkland course offers spectacular views of the mountains and surrounding plateau.

George has developed from a small quiet town to forming part of South Africa’s golf Mecca.

George golf course was established in 1906 and has always been a favorite golf destination for golfers touring the Southern Cape.

It boasts one of the highest total annual rounds played on any course within South Africa.

The old-style layout underwent some changes to enhance the course and the appeal.

The narrow tree-lined fairways and cleverly placed doglegs put a premium on accuracy off the tee. Over the years the trees have grown and added substantially to the difficulty

of the course. Indigenous heather lurks off the fairways and is penal.

The superb condition of the course throughout the year can be attributed to its high annual rainfall.

A small snippet of useless information: George’s vehicle registration lettering is CAW.

Meaning Cold and Wet. During the winter months, it is the absolute truth.

C M Murray was the designer.

Feature Holes

The par 4 7th hole is a slight dogleg to the right and the fairway slopes right to left. The fairway then drops down the hill to a raised green.

A gentle fade off the tee is ideal but still leaves a long iron for your 2nd shot.

Par on this stroke 1 hole is excellent.

The par 3 17th is the signature hole on the course and deserves the title. It is rated as one of the best in the world and number 1 in South Africa. (stroke 4)

From the tee the hole drops down the hill to a fairly wide but narrow green, guarded by bunkers and water. Into the wind, a long iron or fairway wood is required.

The 18th is the most difficult on the back 9, with bush and a large dam on the left side of the fairway. The fairway feeds down to these hazards, so a drive out to the right is called for.

The 2nd into the green from the sloped fairway also requires some precision. Leave it out to the right and you land in the “snake pit” ( the name locals have for the bush and heather in that area.)

The great Bobby Locke was quoted as stating that the last 2 holes on this course were the best in South Africa.

11. Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate Joint No 10

Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate Joint No 10

  • Site Link
  • Location: Dullstroom, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: Yellow 6764, Red 4957

Highland Gate is an Ernie Els Signature golf course and his inspiration for the design comes from the Scottish Highlands.

To quote him: Ït is like Gleneagles”.

Nested in the Steenkampberg mountain range near the town of Dullstroom, the dramatic elevation changes, and attention to detail, make this course a must to play.

Dullstroom is also the trout fishing capital, for those who want a break from golf.

Every hole played takes on a different view of the landscape.

Feature Holes

The par 4 4th plays to a fairway below that slopes from the right and the left-hand side should be avoided at all costs. The misty mountain background can be a distraction.

The massive green beckons the 2nd shot, but without distance control, your putting skills will be tested to the limit.

Stroke 1 is the par 5 14th with a very narrow landing area. High grass on the left and a river that runs down the right-hand side to just short of the green, is intimidating.

The average golfer will not reach the green with his 2nd and the lay up just short of the river as it crosses the fairway, is a good play.

The short 3rd shot to the tricky green, makes the golfer understand why it is stroke 1.

Comment:

This golf course has the WOW factor and the breathtaking views and challenging course has a special appeal.

Each hole is as good as the next and we played 27 holes into the dark.

I could not leave it out of the top 10.

A quick synopsis of another 5 golf courses that could make the top 10 list:

12. Humewood Golf Club

Humewood Golf Club

  • Site Links
  • Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 6440 meters

Set in Port Elizabeth, Humewood is the only true links golf course in South Africa and rated as one of the world’s most challenging.

Overview

  • 18 holes
  • Length: 6390 yards
  • Opened: 1933
  • Designer: Major S V Hotchin

13. Erinvale Golf Estate

Erinvale Golf Estate

  • Site Link
  • Location: Somerset West, South Africa
  • Par: 72

Set just outside Cape Town it is a very picturesque and challenging layout.

Hosted many top-class tournaments.

Overview

  • 18 Holes
  • Opened: 1995
  • Designer: Gary Player

14. Pearl Valley Golf Estate

Pearl Valley Golf Estate

  • Site Link
  • Location: Cape Winelands, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 6397 meters

A magnificent setting within the Cape Winelands and at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains.

Hosted the South African Open in 2007,2008 and 2009.

Overview

  • 18 Holes
  • Opened: 2003
  • Designer: Jack Nicklaus( Signature)

15. St Francis Links

St Francis Links

  • Site Link
  • Location: St Francis Bay, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 6553 meters

A true test of golf and the wind makes it extremely tough. Golfers are advised to play from the tee that best suits their playing ability. One hour drive from Port Elizabeth.

Overview

  • 18 holes
  • Opened: 2006
  • Designer: Jack Nicklaus

16. Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate

Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate

  • Site Link
  • Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Par: 72
  • Length: 7523 meters

Gary player turned the farmland he owned into a traditional style golf course. Anything he designs is top class and his love for horses has kept its place at the course.

A challenging and rewarding experience just outside Johannesburg.

Overview

  • 18 holes
  • Opened: 2007
  • Designer: Gary Player

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