Here we focus on the Top 10 golf courses in South Africa outside of the Western Cape. These courses are situated primarily in KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg. Though some of our Cape Town courses are the most popular for our golfing guests, they don’t necessarily have the highest rankings in the country! This list used to be the Top 10 Golf Courses. But with some new arrivals, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to say goodbye to some popular favourites.
We use information from the SA Top 100 Golf Courses 2023 Edition. (But now, to make it interesting, there are two competing Ranking Lists!) However our list differs slightly from the Top 100 ranking, because many of the top-rated golf courses, though immaculate, are not readily available to the overseas golfer. This may be due to their location in the upmarket suburbs of mainly Johannesburg, or their club membership. So, our Top 10 golf courses for the rest of South Africa focuses on those easily accessible to the golfing visitor. We have put the 100 Golf Courses in South Africa Rankings at the bottom of each description for your reference. (When the two sources differ significantly, we have given both.)
Check here for our article on the Top 10 Golf Courses in the Cape
1) Leopard Creek Golf Estate, Kruger Park
Consistently rated in the top 3 in South Africa, Leopard Creek lies on the border of the world-famous Kruger National Park. It has re-opened after an extensive revamp which repositioned fairway bunkers and also redesigned the 12th hole. They have also worked with indigenous plants to encourage wildlife and support the local ecology.
Gary Player’s design takes advantage of the natural environment, which is home to Africa’s “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo. Over 200 species of birds also make their homes in the surrounding trees, of which some trees are over 100 years old. Players are protected from the wildlife by means of innovative architectural and landscaping techniques. However, water hazards might include the odd hippopotamus or crocodile!
Situated on the southern border of the Kruger National Park, the exclusive Leopard Creek presents a rare opportunity to play golf in the heart of the bushveld. The designers planned the course to be both a challenge for the best golfers, and fun for the average player. Owner Johan Rupert and Gary Player meticulously laid out this 18 hole golf course back in 1995. The picturesque Crocodile River and the Kruger National Park borders the 360ha estate to the north. Typical bushveld koppies overlook the course from the east, providing an ideal backdrop for this magnificent course.
Kruger Border • Parkland • 6 665m • Golf Carts • Top 10 Golf Courses in South Africa – SA Top 100 Courses 2023 Number 1
2) Durban Country Club, KwaZulu Natal
Durban Country Club seems to be one of the courses that the two rankings disagree on. One puts it squarely at the very top of the Top 10 Golf Courses in South Africa, whilst the other puts it at a very respectable Number 24. But given its great location, we’ll include it at No 2.
Durban Country Club is a prestigious private club with a very colonial air, evident it its traditions and gabled clubhouse. The golf course boasts a naturally undulating dune layout near the sea, with holes flowing through dense tropical vegetation. The course is scenic, with the Indian Ocean and Durban seafront visible from several tees, but demanding. Extremely challenging to even the most skilled golfer, Durban Country Club is enjoyed, but rarely mastered. To score well you have to play well.
Golf Online’s top 500 holes include three of its holes: the 2nd, 3rd and 5th holes. For some, the third is the best 3rd hole in the world; for others it is the best par five. Playing from a high tee to a narrow fairway with dense bush and a predatory bunker on the left hand side, it is easy to see why it is the most popular hole on the course. Elsewhere an array of tropical bushes, tall trees and large bunkers guard the elevated tees and greens. This, together with the narrow fairways and steep slopes make for a challenging course. The foliage on the course is breath-taking. Virtually every tropical plant imaginable creates a colourful, scented backdrop to your round.
Durban • Parkland 6157m • Carts • Golf in KwaZulu Natal – SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 24
3) St Francis Golf Course, St Francis
The new St Francis Links course is not considered a true links course by all, given its rather disconcerting use of a number of water features. But it has risen in both rankings nevertheless. And a natural course between the beach and arable land it most certainly is! Jack Nicklaus has designed a course that will challenge all who play it and reward those who respect it. The layout combines every element of shot making with its undulating terrain, greens and surrounds as well as its variation in length and direction.
The shape of the greens comes from the natural movement of the land. The greens have simply been placed on top of the sand, changing shape in construction as the wind changed its mind. Some are more undulating than others. All putting surfaces and green surrounds present a mental and physical test.
St Francis • Links • 6 828m • Walking course • Top 10 Golf Courses in South Africa – SA Top 100 Courses 2023 Number 4
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4) Humewood Golf Course, Port Elizabeth
One of South Africa’s top-rated golf clubs, Humewood is a true Links course. It hosts numerous PGA events, including the South African Open. However, Humewood broke away from the traditional links design of 9 holes out and 9 holes back. Instead, each of the 9 holes returns to the Clubhouse.
Coastal bush surrounds the course. Although it is close to the centre of Port Elizabeth, Humewood shows little sign of human development. Situated on the sand dunes on the shores of Algoa Bay, the fairways are exposed, undulating and wide to compensate for strong winds. Bunkers are few with steep faces, greens are firm and the rough really is rough with thick coastal bush.
Port Elizabeth • Links • 6 390m • Walking course • Top 10 Golf Courses in South Africa – SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 9 (or No 3 with Alternative Ranking)
5) Royal Johannesburg & Kensington East
This is the top Johannesburg course. (See below for some of the other highly rated options). It has risen in the Top 100 charts after the extensive revamp. Robbie Marshall worked with the Royal staff to install new bunkers, prune trees and to enhance the overall presentation.
This traditional parkland course offers stunning vistas where mature trees abound. The club exudes class both on and off the course. The clubhouse is still a proper clubhouse and not a boutique hotel. The West course is also highly rated at No 29.
Johannesburg • Parklands 6 940m • Carts available • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 11 (or No 6 with Alternative Ranking)
6) Gary Player Country Club, Golf at Sun City
The Gary Player Country Club at Sun City is probably South Africa’s most famous golf course and with good reason. The course plays host to the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge. Past winners include Ray Floyd, Steve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Ernie Els and Nick Price.
It features two holes that have ranked in Golf Online’s list of the 500 best holes in golf: the 9th and 18th holes. Golf Digest USA has ranked the course at Number 29 in the world outside the US. And it is consistently ranked one of South Africa’s top 10 courses.
This course is one of the longest in South Africa at over 7000m. And certainly one of the toughest, with the roughs being especially punishing. It places a premium on accurate approaches, with plenty of bunkers and water hazards to test even the best. Stray shots are likely to end up in the bushveld of the Pilanesberg – not an easy place from which to play a recovery shot.
Although this tree-lined parkland course is fairly flat, the many water hazards, cunning sited bunkers and hidden pin placement make up for the lack of gradient. Even so, both social golfers and professionals can enjoy it alike. The Gary Player golf course is the more difficult of the two courses at Sun City, the other being the Lost City course. Stay at the Palace at the Lost City Hotel
Sun City, near Pilanesberg • Parkland 6 550m • Golf Cart • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 12
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7) Zimbali Country Club
The superb Tom Weiskopf course (former British Open Champion) descends from Zimbali Lodge down the valley to the Indian Ocean. This course is both challenging and beautiful, offering world-class conditions for top players and higher handicap players alike.
Zimbali has an abundance of natural features which include constant changes in elevation. A combination of mature indigenous trees and vegetation, and some beautiful wetland areas with natural steams and ponds all create a dramatic and beautiful setting. The course thus combines links, coastal and parkland vegetation. Plus, it is one of the most breath-taking and scenic golf experiences in the world.
The Zimbali course has two distinct sides. Some holes lie in open former sugar cane fields. Many others cut through the indigenous forest and coastal wetlands. It boasts spectacular sea views from the 14th to 18th holes. The par 3 13th hole is probably the most scenic on the course, bordered by natural wetlands. The stylish Country Club completes the experience. Plus you can stay at the Zimbali Lodge, the Fairmont Zimbali Resort or other nearby boutique hotels.
Natal North Coast • Parkland 6 524m • Carts available • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 19
8) Champagne Sports Golf Resort
Located in the beautiful Drakensberg area, this course must be one of the most scenically memorable golf courses in South Africa. Designed by Hugh Baiocchi and Kevin Curren, it successfully blends the natural attributes of the terrain and the surrounding beauty with the modern demands of a quality course. It undulates up and around the contours of a valley which nestles under the dominant Champagne Peak. And it incorporates several holes with blind tee shots. Professional and novice alike will appreciate the 84 well-appointed bunkers that line the fairways and greens. The quality of the greens is accredited to Trevor Livesey whose passion remains unabated. Though the drama of the mighty mountains dominates the eye, the course also enjoys gentle vistas. Here the lower hills create a kaleidoscope of colour blessed with trees, rivers and dams to add even more of a challenge.
Drakensberg Mountains • Parkland 6 694m • Carts available • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 27 (or No 49 according to Alternative Ranking)
9) Wild Coast Country Club
Designed by well-known golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, the Wild Coast course lies against the dramatic background of the Indian Ocean. This makes it beautiful but punishing for those that stray from the fairways into the rough. When the wind gets up, as it does from time to time, the Wild Coast course can present a very difficult challenge. The course isn’t particularly long, but it presents interesting and challenging changes in elevation, and the roughs are truly rough!
The course may be a testing layout for professionals and amateurs alike. But its wide fairways and huge greens attract golfers of all levels. The club’s signature hole is the par-three 13th, which measures only 146m but is a real tester. While the Wild Coast course has many memorable holes, the 12th is probably one of the most breathtaking golf holes in Africa. This par five is played from an elevated tee down to a fairway. This cuts through the valley and then rises again to an elevated green. (SA Golf Digest Number 11)
South Natal Coast • Parkland 5807 m • Carts available • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 36
10) Prince’s Grant, North Coast of KwaZulu Natal
The Prince’s Grant Estate has a beautiful setting in the sugar cane country on KwaZulu Natal’s Dolphin Coast. It is bordered by lush sugar cane fields on one side and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean on the other.
The Peter Matkovitch designed course, with sweeping views of bush, lush vegetation and the ocean, is a mecca for local and international players alike. The artful design of greens, hazards and bunkers makes it an interesting challenge for the higher handicap, and provides ample reward opportunities for the top golfer.
Dolphin Coast, KwaZulu Natal • Parkland 6 196m • Carts • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 43 (or 35)
And One for Luck – Lost City Country Club
The Lost City Country Club lies adjacent to the Palace of the Lost City within the Sun City resort. It certainly is a conversation piece and an experience not to be missed. Like an oasis in the arid bushveld, the course offers many surprises. It was designed by South Africa’s grand master of golf, Gary Player.
The short but hazardous 13th is played over a crocodile-infested waterhole in the shape of the continent of Africa. Within the water hazard are 38 crocodiles, with some of them nearly two metres long! So it’s best to leave your ball if you hit a wayward shot into the water.
The rich green fairways of the course offer a dramatic contrast to the arid bushveld backdrop and the barren waste bunkers, which is a special feature of this intriguing course. The desert style design of the golf course is quite unique amongst South Africa’s green parkland and links courses.
Baobab trees and cacti are among the aesthetic attractions, and baboons are often seen on the course. The views of the surrounding countryside and the Palace at the Lost City Hotel are breathtaking.
Sun City, Pilanesberg • Parkland/Links 6 983m • Golf Carts • SA Top 100 Courses 2023 No 65 (Or No 45 with Alternative Ranking)
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Check out our other blog article about the Top 10 Golf Courses in Cape Town, Winelands and the Garden Route.
Golf Courses in Johannesburg
Many of South Africa’s top courses are in Johannesburg where you may find yourself for a night in your itinerary. If you are a keen golfer, it’s worth extending this to two nights, so that you can play on one of the following top-rated courses.
- Blair Atholl – Number 6
- Glendower Golf Club – Number 8
- Royal Johannesburg & Kensington – Number 11 – see description above
- Club at Steyn City – Number 17
- Johannesburg Country Club – Woodmead – Number 22
- Kyalami Golf Course – Number 26
- Bryanston – Number 29
- Hoghton – Number 32
Other Scenically Located Top Courses:
- Highland Gate Golf Course, Dullstroom – Number 21
- Pecanwood Golf Course, Hartbeespoort Dam – Number 35
- Gowrie Farm Golf Course, Natal Midlands – Number 54
- Woods at Mount Edgecombe, KZN North Coast – Number 57
- Umhlali Golf Course, KZN North Coast – Number 67
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Top 10 Golf Courses in South Africa (rest of the country) – was written by Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a Africa safari specialist focusing on Southern Africa. We put together tailor-made itineraries which are designed around YOUR interests. Whether it is a stand-alone golfing trip or combining golf with safari. Or adding some golf into a highlights tour of South Africa. We have been in business for over 25 years so we know what we’re doing! Contact us if you’d like a tailormade golf and safari quote.