When I think of my favorite golf moments ever, many come to mind. Victories, eagles, my lone hole-in-one – they all make the list. However, a few years back in the northern region of South Africa, I experienced something that not many people can relate to.
I was on vacation with the family visiting the Kruger National Park, a world-renowned game reserve. Just south of the boundary fence is the Hans Merensky Golf Course, which is where I teed it up that day. The special thing about this golf course is that it is in no way fenced off from the surrounding wildlife. Cats, crocodiles, boars; they all roam the fairways. Naturally this poses a safety threat, but only very recently was the first fatality recorded. Just like marshals ride around the local courses asking people to speed up play, rangers patrol the premises with high-powered rifles.
I got to the 17th hole, a long par three over water. The green ahead still had to clear, and I needed a way to pass the time. A few yards short of the green in the dam a hippo was visible, and of course one thing led to another and I found myself with a pitching wedge in hand, a scuffed Titleist on the ground and trying to accurately gauge the distance to the wallowing giant. I guessed correctly. A beautiful high draw landed with a resounding thud on the beast’s head, sending it whooshing underwater. My first hippo-in-one was accompanied by shrieks of surprise from the German tourists putting out, completely oblivious to what had just happened. In all it was a weirdly amusing and enjoyable moment.
The 18th hole didn’t fall short in the entertainment category either. After tapping in for par on the previous hole and launching a drive down the final fairway, I began walking towards my ball. A hundred yards or so short of where it lay, a ranger drove up to me and told me to stop walking. Confused, I began asking him why but stopped quickly enough when I saw what was happening up ahead. A lion had emerged from the adjacent bushes, and it was dragging a baby antelope in its jaws. Clearly not in any rush to get out of the way, it dropped the kill down in the semi-rough and began eating away. After taking a few moments to absorb the reality of what I was witnessing, and fearful of fetching my ball let alone playing my approach shot, I got a ride back to the clubhouse.
I gave myself par.
Andre DeDecker, junior from Cape Town, South Africa