Rising above the savannah to a height of 5,640 feet, Hanglip Mountain in northeastern South Africa has an extraordinary reputation to match its uncommon natural beauty. No longer just a prominent local landmark, the distinctive, loaf-shaped mount has become a hot destination for adventurous sportspeople and well-heeled international travelers. And you’ll never guess why…
Located some 300 miles north of Johannesburg, the mountain overlooks the rambling grounds of the privately owned Entabeni Safari Conservancy in Limpopo Province. The reserve encompasses 85 square miles of African bush and its name means “Place of the Mountain.”
As you might expect, the region is a wildlife photographer’s dream. Elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, leopards and cheetahs are among its resident fauna. As such, the reserve is a popular place for safari trips… but safaris aren’t the reason that Hanglip Mountain has become internationally famous.
Entabeni Safari Conservancy is owned by Legend Hospitality Group, a formidable transnational tourism operation spanning South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana. “The ethos of Legend is to extract the spirit from its African surroundings and imprint it into everything that it offers,” states the group’s website.
Indeed, there is undeniable grandeur to the reserve, which is the setting for an award-winning Legend tourist resort. The property, according to Legend’s website, “reflects the rich cultural legacy of this ancient part of Africa where the lion still reigns as king.” But what exactly is the big attraction?
In a word, golf: the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Entabeni Game Reserve boasts a course like no other. Surrounded by wilderness, its 18-hole Signature Course – which was, in fact, designed as a par-72 championship course – offers players a truly majestic experience.
The course, in fact, showcases the combined expertise of multiple golfing legends, with each hole designed by a professional golfer. Hole 16, for example, was designed by Spain’s Sergio Garcia; hole 10 by Ireland’s Padraig Harrington. The course’s unique selling point, however, is its famous 19th hole.
Located high on Hanglip Mountain itself, the so-called “Extreme 19th” marks the dramatic finale of Legend’s world famous Signature Course. It is the world’s highest and longest – and according to some commentators, the world’s toughest – par-three hole. This is the reason why people come here.
Astonishingly, the tee is located on the edge of a sheer cliff some 1,312 feet above the green. A carry of 230 yards is required to clear the treeline below and the hole represents a true test of skill and nerves. And, it goes without saying, the views are simply jaw dropping.
“It’s the only place in the world where you can decide whether you want to use a golf cart, you want to walk or you want to fly to the tee box,” Director of Golf at Legend, David Riddle told Golfing World. “So the Extreme 19th, obviously, the only way to get up there is with a helicopter.”
So begins the Extreme 19th experience. Once airlifted to the tee, players get six balls, which, in fairness, hardly seems enough. “Everybody that goes up there, you can’t give them enough golf balls,” Riddle told Golfing World. “They would stand there all day just hitting golf balls off that mountain.”
It certainly looks awesome. But what is it actually like to play the Extreme 19th? According to Jason Scott Deegan, a journalist for the website Golf Advisor, “Even if you have the capability, your depth perception will feel considerably off kilter.” He added, “My fear of heights just wouldn’t allow me to transfer my weight from back to front.”
Fortunately, every ball is fitted with a handy tracking chip and, in addition, spotters with cameras watch your play from below. But despite all the close surveillance, the fact remains that it is astonishingly easy to miss the green. “The savannah swallowed every shot we hit,” wrote Deegan.
The green, once you make it there, is shaped like the continent of Africa to signify “the African Renaissance and the changes that are happening in Africa,” David Riddle explained to Golfing World. “The put will be in Namibia or Angola or Central Africa… It’s just an unbelievable experience to play that hole.”
Extraordinarily gifted golfers should note that a hole in one on the Extreme 19th carries a prize of $1 million, not to mention a permanent claim to fame in the annals of the course. So far nobody has claimed the prize, and that’s even after pros like Padraig Harrington have had a turn.
Harrington himself was in fact the first ever player to make par. Since then, some 143 others have done the same. Incredibly, just 14 elite players out of thousands have achieved a birdie. The hole’s reputation as the world’s toughest par-three hole is clearly well justified.
If you want to play a game here, the current cost is approximately $500 for a group of four. Solo players, meanwhile, get the tee to themselves for roughly $300. And even if you miss the hole, you’ll get a consolation prize of a cap, a glove and a DVD of your shot.
Meanwhile, accommodation at the exclusive resort includes 220 luxury suites built directly into the savannah landscape, all with private patios and sweeping views of the landscape. Amenities include a luxurious clubhouse with a rooftop sky bar, tennis courts and swimming pools. There’s also a ten-hole par-3 course.
Of course, golf isn’t the only attraction available to guests. Indeed, the resort offers a host of exciting outdoor activities including safari drives, bush walks, stargazing and mountain biking. And if that all sounds too athletic, you can always chill out in the health and wellness spa.
“Some of the guests we’ve had here have made comments like, ‘This is what golf needed,’” Riddle said to Golfing World. Indeed, Legend Hospitality Group has achieved something truly exciting: it has combined glamour and adventure to offer golfers around the world a truly unique experience. A job well done.