Though many non-Africans don’t think of Africa as a continent of golfers, a 2013 study by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) revealed that one-fifth of the 1.6 million golf tourists worldwide chose Africa as their destination. Africa offers 828 courses spread throughout 50 countries, which cater to locals and visitors alike. Most countries have multiple courses, often designed by internationally-known pros. This is slowly but surely earning Africa a reputation as a top-class golf destination to rival Europe or North America. Here’s a roundup of some of the great golf courses in Africa.
A little more than half of all golf courses on the continent (450) are located in South Africa, which may explain why the country has produced some of the world’s top players, from Gary Player and Retief Goosen, to rising stars like Trevor Immelman and Tim Clark. If you’re thinking if hitting the links on your trip to South Africa, here are few worthwhile courses around the country, from Cape Town to Durban to Jo’burg.
Leopard Creek: Don’t mind the baboons, monkeys and impalas that will be watching you as you play on this wild but elegant course near the border of Mozambique. Leopard Creek coexists nicely with the bushveld, creating a perfectly manicured setting amid the local fauna. From the river’s-edge green of the par-five 13th, players often see hippos and elephants, and from the elevated tee at the long 15th, players get an amazing view of the surrounding savanna.
Links at Fancourt: South Africa’s most challenging course, Links at Fancourt is a former flat airfield-turned-golfer’s dream located along the Garden Route. Players navigate through high mounds and dunes covered in picturesque tall bush grass and on many holes one can catch great views of the Outeniqua Mountains. The course is also dotted with lovely small lakes and marshes.
Arabella Golf Club: Southeast of Cape Town is Botrivier Lagoon, the largest lagoon in South Africa, and around it is this stunning course where players are pleasantly distracted by 130 different species of birds, the Kogelberg Mountains, forest and natural fynbos (evergreen shrubland only found in South Africa.)
Durban Country Club: Durban Country Club is one of South Africa’s most respected institutions, with not only a world-class course but also a spa and fine-dining restaurant. The dunesy holes next to the Indian Ocean make this course unique, and the narrow valleys, tight routes and famous winds make this a deliciously challenging course.
The typical tourist comes to Kenya for a safari or beach holiday, but spends an extra day or two taking part in an additional activity, such as golf. And
Nyali Golf and Country Club, Mombasa: Nestled on a hilltop in the heart of the beach resort neighborhood of Nyali, this 18-hole course is famous for its vervet monkeys and lush Madagascan Flame trees. In addition to some of the fastest greens in Kenya, Nyali also features a six-hole par 3 junior course, the only one of its kind in Kenya.
Muthaiga Golf Club, Nairobi: This 18-hole course, located at the edge of the Karura forest in an affluent Nairobi suburb, is among the most beautiful and challenging in the country. The Kenya Open is hosted here every year, and has been won by golfers such as Ballesteros, Woosnam and Immelman who went on to become Masters champions.
Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Course, Naivasha: In addition to breathtaking views, incredible birdlife and beautifully-contoured greens, this majestic 18-hole course offers a 654-yard, par-5 17th hole which is considered one of the longest and trickiest in the country.
Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club, Nairobi. Built on a former coffee estate, this Tom Macauley-designed course is set into 200 acres and incorporates stands of virgin forest. The 73 bunkers, plus numerous lakes and streams offer challenges for serious players, and two of the greens are completely surrounded by water.Considered by some to be Kenya’s very best course and designed to championship levels.
Nigeria has a whopping 62 golf courses, which is more than the average African country, but not much considering its population of 170 million people. Golf has not yet captured the imagination of most Nigerians, who tend to be fanatical about football, basketball and boxing. But there are enough quality courses to satisfy even the pickiest international visitor.
In Lagos, the leafy suburbs of Ikoyi and Ikeja each host their own eponymous clubs, which are professionally managed and host international competitions. However, these can get crowded due to their popularity, and you may have to wait days for a tee time. Abuja, the inland capital of Nigeria, is home to the IBB International Golf and Country Club, where waits are somewhat shorter and the greens undulate around streams, lakes and bridges.
Once you get out into the provinces, you’ll be able to book a game of golf without having to plan far in advance. Some of the top-rated courses include Ilorin Golf Club in Kwara state; Port Harcourt Golf Club in the port town south of Lagos; MicCom Golf Resort, near Ada in rurul Osun state; and Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort near Uyo in the Niger delta.
There are many more courses in development throughout the country, most as part of larger hotel or conference center complexes. If you can, try to get your hands on the golf guidebook published by the National Tourism Development Corporation, which not only gives details on the country’s top 50 courses, but also describes attractions and activities near each one that appeal to tourists.
Outside of Nigeria, there is not a whole lot of golf in west Africa — with Ghana being one major exception. The country has about a dozen or so courses, with Achimota Golf Club consistently rating high in international rankings. Located 10km outside of Accra, it’s a relaxed, friendly place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.The course starts and finishes with par-3 holes, and also incorporates back-to-back par-5s on the front and back nines. If you’re not a pro, that’s OK — they offer reasonably-priced lessons.
Tunisia is closer to Europe than to much of the rest of Africa, which is why it should come as no surprise that it attracts hordes of British, German and French golfers. During frigid European winter, Tunisia’s strong desert sun and gentle ocean breezes offer a welcome respite for those who want to hit the links.
Golf Citrus, Hammamet: This forty-five hole complex in the beach resort town of Hammamet has two eighteen-hole championship courses: La Foret and Les Oliviers. Though it’s surrounded by desert, the courses are actually carved out of a native forest and arranged around seven beautiful lakes. Designed by Ronald Fream, the two courses are slightly different but equally challenging, with blind holes, water hazards and bunkers flanking the fast two-tiered greens.
The Residence Golf Course, Tunis: This state-of-the-art 18-hole facility was only opened in 2008, but has already become one of the premier courses in the country. Winding around gorgeous marshes and tidal inlets, the Robert Trent Jones II design offers an unusual configuration, with a trio of par threes, fours and fives on the outward half.
Golf Oasis in Tozeur is one of the few courses that’s not on the coast. Instead, it’s located in the oasis town of Tozeur, at the edge of the Sahara. The 18-hole, 60-acre Ron Fream design is best played during the off-season months (from October to May), due to the intense summer heat.
Tanzania’s golf scene is small, consisting of seven 9-hole courses and two 18-hole courses (with one more to come). The two larger courses are both in the capital, Dar Es Salaam.
Named after the riding school it grew out of, the Gymkhana Golf Club offers golf plus numerous other sporting activities. Located in the Msasani peninsula, the club overlooks the sea and provides a nice respite from the congestion of the city. It may be a little rougher around the edges than a well-manicured British or American course, but that shouldn’t put you off. Lugalo Golf Course is a bit further out of town, in Mikoroshoni. Situated inside the grounds of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (who own and manage it), it boasts a back nine designed by Howard Swan.
When it opens in 2014, the Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate will no doubt become a major attraction for golf enthusiasts. Located just outside Arusha, in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it’s a par-72 course with a traditional mix of four par threes, four par fives, and ten par fours. The David Jones-designed fairways and greens are shaping up to be dramatically beautiful and well-integrated with the surrounding area, with natural water features, indigenous plants, and native wildlife.
Morocco, which boasts over 40 top-class courses, is Africa’s second most popular golf destination after South Africa. In fact a new PR campaign by the national tourism board brands the country “The Kingdom of Golf,” and advertises the fact that every major city (Marrakesh, Rabat, Agadir, Casablanca, Meknes, Essaouira, and Fez) has at least two courses, with many more under construction.
The top course in the country is arguably the one at Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, which Golf Digest magazine voted number one in Morocco in 2013. Designed by South African legend Gary Player, the course offers several different sets of tees so you can play at distances ranging from 6,142 to 6,647 yards. Since the course sprawls along the shores and dunes of the Atlantic ocean, strong winds can create a challenge here.
Other notables include Royal Golfe Dar Es Salam Golf Club (red and blue courses) in Rabat, Marrakech Golf Club Assoufid in Marrakech, and Golfe de Mogador, near Essaouira.
Zambia boasts 21 courses and is another up-and-coming golf destination on the continent. In 2014 the country is hosting the Mopani Copper Mines (MCM)-Zambia Open Golf Championship, which it hopes will help promote Zambia’s golf tourism potential and perhaps even pull some golfers away from nearby South Africa.
Most of the courses are centered around the capital, Lusaka (such as Lusaka Golf Club), but there is a string of notable links in the countryside as well, along the T3/T5 highway corridor that runs northwest of the capital: Ndola Golf Club in Ndola; Nkana Golf Club in Kitwe; Nchanga Golf Club in Chingola; and Kansanshi Golf Estate in Solwezi.
This beatific island in the middle of the Indian Ocean has seven championship courses, including two which rank among the top courses in the world. Heritage Golf Club in Bel Ombre boasts a 72-par, 7,000-yard Peter Matkovich-designed course fringed with mango, papaya and palm trees and blessed with views of the shimmering ocean.
The other top-rated course, Le Tousserok on the Ile Aux Cerfs, is on an island which is only accessible via boat or helicopter. It’s blissfully beautiful, with pearly white sand sidling up to some of the holes, exotic flora and fauna, and even rare birds flitting about. But it’s also extremely challenging, with volcanic rocks, mangrove swamps and water hazards testing the skills of even the best players.