Golf is a game that has been played in Zimbabwe since 1895 when the first golf course was built in Bulawayo by the English settlers. The country has fifty courses to choose from and each is absolutely unique.
One of the most interesting courses is the Elephant Hills Golf Course in Victoria Falls, just across the Zambezi River from Livingston, Zambia. A well-manicured course with a picture postcard view on almost every hole, it offers some interesting challenges for the intrepid golfer. The most interesting are the hazards that were not in the original design of the layout; not the sand traps or numerous water hazards, but, the wild game that use the fairways and greens as grazing and resting places.
At one time, it wasn’t unusual to have to suspend play while a herd of elephants transited the fairway, but the management installed electric fences to discourage the wayward pachyderms because of their unpredictable nature and the danger they pose to unwary visitors. During a recent weekend round at Elephant Hills, my caddy, explaining why we would see not elephants, said that in the previous two days three people had been trampled to death by elephants in the area around Victoria Falls.
While the elephants might have been evicted, there’s still plenty of other game; not considered dangerous; to be seen during an 18-hole round. During the weekend round that I played with my wife and frequent playing partner, we had to wait for a herd of warthogs to clear the area in front of the first tee before we could begin, hit our approach shots over a herd of antelope on one of the short par fours, and wait for a herd of impala does to finish cropping on the eighth green before we could chip on. We took all this in stride, but were nearly undone by a group of monkeys sitting on a hillside near number eighteen watching us putt. Amateur golfers don’t handle galleries well, and when they’re simians who look like they know the game better than you it can be a real bummer.
Along with the wildlife, Elephant Hills also offers some of the most amazing vistas. The sight of the thundering mist that constantly billows up from Victoria Falls as you’re standing on the tee wondering if you can avoid hitting into the water hole just off the right of the fairway ‘” in which the caddy casually informs you there might reside a small crocodile ‘” can play havoc with your game while it entrances you at the same time.
Elephant Hills is one of 50 courses in Zimbabwe, and like the others it is unique in its layout, scenery and the golfing challenges it offers. The next time you find yourself cursing the strategically placed bunker that trapped what you thought was a perfect approach shot, think about the challenge of hitting over a herd of impala while you try to ignore the monkey sitting in the rough near the green with a smirk on its face.