Golf has a reputation as a boring sport, but British tourist Dougie Thompson had the most terrifying game of his life last week when a 12ft crocodile tore open his leg. If his experience hasn’t put you off, here are ten courses around the world that can guarantee you a hair-raising game.
1. Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA
Kip Henley was caddying for Brian Gay at the RBC Heritage Tournament in 2012 when Gay’s ball became stuck in the mud on the fifteenth green. When he went to retrieve it, he found it guarded by a six-foot-long alligator. Unfazed, Henley enlisted some help from another caddie, Scott Tway, and calmly hit the creature with a rake until it left.
2 Camp Bonifas, South Korea
Even Kip Henley wouldn’t be brave enough to fetch a ball out of the rough at Camp Bonifas. A former UN command post, Camp Bonifas sits just south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It isn’t known as ‘the most dangerous golf course in the world’ for nothing. The ‘course’ might be a modest one hole but the danger is very real. Beyond the astroturf, it is fringed on three sides by landmines left over from the Korean War. The edges of the green are littered with golfing equipment that it is too dangerous to retrieve – and at least one landmine has been detonated by an errant ball.
3. Pyongyang Golf Course, Pyongyang, North Korea
Pyongyang is the only public golf course in North Korea, but it is rumoured that Kim Il Sung had his own private course in one of his residences. When his son Kim Jong-Il played his first ever game there, he played 38 under par, including 11 holes-in-one! This prodigious – some might say suspicious – score should have him down as one of the greatest golfers ever. You might find that hard to believe, but you’d be better off keeping that opinion to yourself whilst you’re in the country: criticising the late leader is of course illegal.
4. Prison View Golf Course, Louisiana State Penitentiary, USA
This American course is in the grounds of Louisiana’s only maximum security prison. Louisiana Pen was the inspiration for The Green Mile, and three-quarters of the inmates are on Death Row or serving life sentences. Although they built and manage the course, inmates aren’t allowed to play. (And you thought your surly teenaged caddie resented you…) As if making prisoners staff the forbidden course wasn’t a cruel enough joke, the tee markers are in the shape of handcuffs, welded shut. In 1995, The Independent reported that plans to create a six-hole course at Swalesdale Prison on the Isle of Sheppey were turned down.
5. Furnace Creek golf course, Death Valley, California, USA
This 18-hole course is the lowest in the world, and its home, Death Valley, is the world’s hottest spot. The mercury can climb as high as 135 degrees Fahrenheit, so the name ‘Furnace Creek’ is apt. Visitors to Death Valley are often rescued from dehydration, and some aren’t that lucky. Somewhat tastelessly, Furnace Creek staged the Heatstroke Open in 2011, where 48 competitors faced the course at 115 degrees Fahrenheit (they all survived). It was still an easier game than you would find at the Devil’s Golf Course. Death Valley’s other golf-themed attraction is actually a salt pan so rocky that only Satan himself would be able to play a round there.
6. Uummannaq Golf Course, Greenland
From heatstroke to frostbite. Uummannaq Golf Club sees temperatures as low as minus fifty, and graphite clubs are banned because they can shatter in the cold. This club is home to one of the hardest golf tournaments in existence: the World Ice Golf Championships. The competition isn’t just difficult because of the cold, but because the course reshapes itself every year as the glacier it is built on shifts. If you’re worried about freezing your balls off, you have to play with special ones coloured bright orange so they’re harder to lose on the greens – or ‘whites’ as they’re known.
7. Merapi Golf Club, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
A game at Merapi Golf Club could kill you, but unlike Camp Bonifas and Uummannaq, they don’t make you sign a waiver accepting this fact before they let you play. Merapi’s danger comes from its location on the slopes of Indonesia’s most active volcano. In 2010, an eruption claimed 122 lives. The spectacular views might make up for the danger, but it’s hard to forget when smoke billows ominously from the peak for most of the year.
8. Lost City Golf Course, Sun City, South Africa
This course stands out with its exotic desert design – particularly the thirteenth hole, which is shaped like the African continent. Oh, and it also has a unique water hazard – full of Nile crocodiles. Unlike Harbour Town Golf Links, these man-eaters were deliberately brought to the park. Unsurprisingly, guests are discouraged from trying to retrieve their lost balls.
9. Skukuza Golf Course, Kruger National Park, South Africa
If the Lost City doesn’t sound wild enough for you, Skukuza has no fences, meaning that the lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo are free to come and go. Freer, in fact, than the golfers, who have to sign an indemnity form and pass terrifying signs declaring ‘Beware: Dangerous Animals. Enter at Your Own Risk’. One hole, Lake Panic, is home to a family of hippopotamuses, thought to be the most dangerous animals in Africa. The club guide offers this helpful advice: “Do not run away! ... If you run, the animal will believe that it has gained the advantage and it will be more likely to give chase.” This won’t save you from the venomous puff adders that lurk in the rough, though…
10. Kingsboro Golf Club, New York, USA
At the end of the day though, you could be playing on a perfectly normal golf course, and end up being a threat to yourself. Temper tantrums aren’t uncommon in sport, but most don’t end as badly as Jeremy T. Brenno’s in 1994. The 16-year-old was so frustrated after missing a shot at the sixth hole that he hit a bench with his club (a No.3 wood). The shaft broke, bounced back, and pierced his heart, killing him.
Even if you’re on your best behaviour, golf can still be dangerous. In 1982, Naval Lieutenant George M. Prior fell mysteriously ill after playing 36 holes at Virginia’s Army-Navy Country Club. 10 days later, he died in hospital. Eighty per cent of the skin had been burned from his body and his major organs failed. The cause? He had an allergic reaction to the pesticide used on the greens – which he had swallowed due to his odd habit of keeping his tees in his mouth.