Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate
Lengths: (Masai Mara)
Men – 5,782m (6,323yards)
Ladies – 5,001m (5,469 yards)
Championship – 6,246m (6,831yards)
Lengths: (Whistling Thorn)
Men – 2,981m (3,262yards)
Ladies – 2,496m (2,730 yards)
Championship – 3,141m (3,435 yards)
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is another magnificent offering from Jack Nicklaus in South Africa. The course offers an 18 hole championship course as well as a bonus nine hole course that can make up a composite with either nine front the main 18. Masai Mara, the championship course played host to the South African Open Championship recently in which Henrik Stenson won his first title on the way to be crowned Fed-Ex Cup and Race to Dubai Champion. We were lucky enough to play a round on both the eighteen hole Masai Mara course, as well as a composite of the back nine of the Masai Mara course and Whistling Thorn’s nine hole layout.
All 27 holes at Serengeti Golf Course stand out and the club itself is probably one of the best in Gauteng, if not the country. The Jack Nicklaus team chose to use evergreen grass that give the course a beautiful rich green all year round, even in the frosty cold months on the Highveld. That grass however takes getting used to for the season Gauteng golfer as it is a lot tougher to play out of than the kikuyu we normally play out of in Johannesburg. The rough has an uncanny ability to hold your club making it a bit easier for the stronger players to get out of it. The fairways are wide, but undulate heavily, which is very much in line with the links styling.
Because there is barely a tree on the course, wind plays a massive role in determining the round you have. The course is not altogether long, but it does have the tee boxes to make it an almost impossible challenge. There is a varying mix of long and short par threes, drivable and monstrous par fours as well as reachable and three shot par fives. All in all it is a great golfing experience and has one of the best clubhouses we have ever been in. A beer in the shower after your round, thank you very much!
As there are 27 holes on the course, we will pick a featured hole from the Championship Masai Mara Course as well as the nine hole Whistling Thorn.
For the first time ever, we couldn’t pick just one hole from a single nine and had to choose two from the Masai Mara front nine. The incredibly technical 6th hole, and the incredibly beautiful 8th. Both featured holes in their own right and both completely unique.
6th Hole (Masai Mara)
When you stand on the tee box of the 6th hole, this par 4 doesn’t hide any of its difficulty, which plays a huge part on how you choose to play the hole. The hole plays ever so slightly downhill and has a very large body of water down its right flank. With the water the cutting across the fairway ¾ of the way to the green, it is a constant threat until you make the green. With the hole dog legging to the right, the water appears more in play than it should and most golfer would opt for an iron off the tee or a wood of some sorts. At 375m, it is not a short hole, so not using driver off the box will mean the approach into this green guarded by water to the left will be made with a long iron. With the green undulating quite sharply, the sixth is a real test of any golfer’s skill level.
8th Hole (Masai Mara)
The 8th hole is the signature hole at Serengeti. It is a short, but beautiful par 5 that is flanked to the right by water and guarded on the right with a steep faced fairway bunker. What makes the 8th hole stand out however is the wonderful island green. The green is completely surrounded by water, with a bridge at the back being the only way to gain access. The green undulates heavily, and is not a very large landing area either. Despite it being a short hole by par 5 standards, taking the green on in two will require nerves of steel. One attempting the green in two would be happy to find their ball find any of the green side bunkers that save your ball from a watery grave. Although most would choose to lay up, this hole does yield a few birdies and a par is a good enough score not to ruin your experience of the round.
16th Hole (Masai Mara)
The 16th is a very intimidating par 5 as water and sand dominate everything you see off the tee. It is a very good looking hole, but having to carry a long stretch of water to make the fairway gets the nerves going. Even if you do manage to carry the water, if your ball has movement to the left, it will find the down-slope and more often than not, will end up in the water. A drive that is too straight will end up in one of two very tough fairway bunkers which will make even a short par four tough. The ideal play on the 16th is to take the water on and play over more of it to make the fairway without bringing the bunkers into play. Finding the fairway will mean a monstrous second is need to hit the dance floor in two blows, but a layup and a pitch will make birdie a real possibility. Water and sand aside, this is easily the best looking hole on the back nine.
5th hole (321m – par 4)
This is a cute little par 4 that plays downhill and is not at all very difficult if you avoid the trees and bunker to the right and the water at the end of the fairway. Looking down at the 5th hole, the water will make some consider an iron, but those brave enough to go for it with the big dawg will have nothing more than a small pitch into a small green. An iron off the box will leave an intimidating mid iron into one of the narrowest greens on the whole estate. Whistling Thorn doesn’t offer the same technical round that Masai Mara would, but it is great fun and a stern enough test for golfers of all levels.