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Golf and nature in balance at Leopard Creek

The delicate balance between golf and nature is one that Leopard Creek takes very seriously as part of its overall sustainability programme and its hosting of the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The most recent development in this area has been Leopard Creek’s use of the local wildlife to assist with clearing the overgrown bush around the golf course.

“When we converted the golf course to Cynodon grasses in line with our sustainability programme and using less water, we also started looking at the surrounds of the golf course. As a result of us being right on the border of the Kruger National Park, the bush encroachment had started to get quite thick over the years, especially the creepers that were climbing into the trees. The thick undergrowth was also a danger in terms of bushfires,” says Derek Muggeridge, Director of Maintenance at Leopard Creek.

“About 20 months ago we embarked on a programme to first bring in our local goats, which are called boerbokke. We started with 11 goats as a trial. We created a camp and released them into the koppies and around the golf course where the bush is quite thick and let them graze away mainly at the creepers and the lower branches of the trees and invasive plants. We were up to 70 goats at one point. They would come out of their camp at 9am and be back in camp at 3pm, and they had a herder who went with them. We also treated them for ticks and any other possible diseases, and it worked very well.”

The symbiosis between the animals and the golf course has always been part of the uniqueness of Leopard Creek and now even more so, with the next phase of this project now including the use of wild antelope to continue the work the goats started.

“We’ve introduced more kudu onto the property and they definitely help with the browsing of the bush to open it up. We have some other herbivores on the golf course such as impala and bush buck, and they work very well to complement this especially in the rocky areas on the hills around the course. Additional manual clearing of thickets has opened up vistas across the course, and the kudu and impala love those areas that the goats cleared out. They thrive in those areas where it’s a bit more open. The grasses have recovered beautifully this year in the areas where we’ve done this.”