HARARE – One of the Eastern Districts’ annual sporting highlights takes place this weekend when the Navistar Leopard Rock Open Golf Tournament takes place at the Leopard Rock Course high up in the Bvumba mountains.
Action is expected from a large number of professionals and amateurs on the championship 18-hole course, designed 20 years ago by renowned golf course designer Peter Matkovich.
Byran Rocher, resident professional at Leopard Rock, said the event was a popular annual fixture and would bring to end a busy golfing year at the course, which stretches out along an attractive and challenging route south of the Leopard Rock Hotel and Chinyakwaremba mountain, with views into the Burma Valley and neighbouring Mozambique.
“The Leopard Rock course has enjoyed a busy year and we are already planning an equally busy year in 2014, with a range of tournaments, corporate golf days and other activities,” said Rocher.
A golf course has been operation at Leopard Rock almost since the hotel was opened in 1947, but the original course was more of a fun sports venue and was replaced by the current championship course when the resort was extensively revamped and extended in 1993. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the course and of the refurbishment during 2013, the resort has this year been positioning the golf course as one of the ‘must-do’ sports attraction of the Eastern Highlands.
Earlier this year, Leopard Rock golf course was named one of Africa’s top 10 courses in a listing released by CNN Travel. In a report written by Tony Smart, it was the only Zimbabwean golfing venue to feature in the list, which is topped by the Cascades course in Soma Bay, Hurghada, Egypt. The highest-placed South African course is Fancourt Links in the Western Cape, which is listed at seventh place.
Rocher was pleased with the CNN listing: “We are pleased and proud and this comes as further acknowledgement of the course’s very high standing within the international golfing community. Over the years the course has won various awards and accolades and all these serve to reinforce our efforts to maintain it as one of the great sporting attractions of Zimbabwe, not only for foreign visitors but also for people from within the country who wish to play on a course that is challenging and enjoyable and at the same time offers unique scenic splendours.”
The CNN report says of Leopard Rock: “One of 30 courses in Zimbabwe, this 1993 Peter Matkovich design is regularly voted number one in the country by Golf Digest.
Measuring 6,724 yards, par 72 Leopard Rock is located in lush subtropical surroundings about 180 miles southeast of the Zimbabwean capital Harare and has superb bent grass USGA-standard greens.
The course has been carved out of dense woodland in the shadow of the Leopard Rock mountain, though many of the trees still line the fairways.
As befits a course lying in the foothills there are some serious elevation changes on many holes.
“Other hazards include picturesque water features that protect several greens, rocks lining some fairways and ravines that must be carried if you're to finish a hole. All over the course wild orchids, tree ferns and other flora species indigenous to the area thrive, while the bush teems with birdlife. Green fees are $30 a round for resort guests and $40 a round for day visitors.”
Leopard Rock this year hosted the RM Insurance Manicaland Amateur championships, won by Ray Badenhorst, a first-year student on a golf scholarship at Florida Tech University in the United States. He claimed the title by three shots from Tabalani Vundla and Grant Hudson.
“The Leopard Rock golf club is suitable for company executives and golfing society tournaments, corporate golf days and for events such as fun birthday golfing weekends, so it is not just for professional and people taking part in special championship events,” said Rocher. – Correspondent