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15 January 2010

Set in the 22 000-hectare Entabeni Safari Conservancy in Limpopo, the Legend Golf & Safari Resort features a remarkable signature golf course, with each hole designed by one of the world's leading players, but it is the Extreme 19th, described by many as the most amazing hole on the planet, that has captured the attention of the world of golf.

In many ways, it resembles the kind of hole found on fantasy golf calendars. They are usually the spectacular but practically impossible products of an artists' dream, but the Extreme 19th is only one of those things: spectacular.

A par-three hole unlike any other, it presents a difficult and unique challenge. Proof of this comes in the offer of US$1-million to the first person to score a hole-in-one on it. But let's back up a bit and find out what has made this hole such a hot topic among golfers around the world.

Talking figures

Talking figures, the Extreme 19th is a par-three hole and measures 400 metres from the foot of the mountain to the back of the green.

No, it's not an impossible length for a par-three. That's because you need a helicopter to get to the tee, which is set atop a cliff on Hangklip Mountain, approximately 430 metres above a green that has been carved into the shape of the African continent.

Once driven, it takes about 20 seconds for a ball to land.

First birdie

It is one of the world's toughest par-threes, if not the toughest. So far, only one man has managed to birdie it: former Free State opening bowler Franklyn Stephenson, who during his career also turned out for Tasmania, Barbados, and Gloucestershire.

It's a little-known fact that Stephenson founded the PGA in Barbados in 1988, while he was still a professional cricketer. Today, he is the club professional at the Sandy Lane Golf Course in Barbados.

His birdie experience was described by BunkerShot.com, beginning with Stephenson's impression of the Extreme 19th: "Ordinarily a quote tends to be a sentence or an extract thereof, but it would challenge the best to truly express the overwhelming extremity of the truly amazing experience of a group of friends' visit to the Extreme 19th," he said.

20 feet from the hole

Stephenson, who is known for his booming drives (both on the golf course and on the cricket field), landed his drive only 20-feet from the hole and with an assured putt became the first man to birdie the amazing Extreme 19th.

Afterwards, he said: "Having scored a hundred in each innings and taken 10 wickets in a first class match, been the only West Indian and the last man to do the English County Double (100 wickets and 1000 runs in a season), and been credited with the invention of the slower ball, it was easy to think that the record headlines had already been written. No. Room has to be made for the amazingly awesome achievement and mind-blowing experience of making a birdie-two on the Extreme 19th at Legend Golf & Safari Resort."

Leaderboard

A look at the Extreme 19th's leaderboard reveals that some very famous people have attempted it. Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman is one of only 10 players to par the hole so far. Others in the top 10 include three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, who designed the Signature course's 10th hole, and former South African test cricketer Darryl Cullinan.

Among those who have carded bogeys are former Australian test cricketer Greg Blewitt, as well as professional golfers Raphael Jacquelin, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and KJ Choi, all four of whom also have signature holes on the Legends golf course. Those who have shot fives include singing legend Phil Collins.

The Extreme 19th is a stunning hole, with a view that is a marvel in itself, and it is the talk of the golf world, but don't forget the superb signature golf course.

Signature course designers

The list of hole designers is highly impressive. Between them they have won 15 majors and over 450 tournaments. They also represent 16 different nations:

  • 1st Trevor Immelman (RSA)

  • 2nd Thomas Bjorn (Den)

  • 3rd Jim Furyk (USA)

  • 4th Bernhard Langer (Ger)

  • 5th Michael Campbell (NZ)

  • 6th Colin Montgomerie (Sco)

  • 7th Mike Weir (Can)

  • 8th Camilo Villegas (Col)

  • 9th Justin Rose (Eng)

  • 10th Padraig Harrington (Ire)

  • 11th vRaphael Jacquelin (Fra)

  • 12th Ian Woosnam (Wal)

  • 13th Luke Donald (Eng)

  • 14th Robert Allenby (Aus)

  • 15th Vijay Singh (Fiji)

  • 16th Sergio Garcia (Spa)

  • 17th KJ Choi (Kor)

  • 18th Retief Goosen (RSA)
  • Each golfer has injected his personal touch into his chosen hole, resulting in a fantastic, can't-miss challenge for golf lovers. They describe their thoughts about their creations on the Legend Golf & Safari Resort website.

    The thoughts of those who have played the Extreme 19th can be found on the hole's leaderboard on the website. Among the common descriptions are: awesome, amazing, great, best, unique, sensational, and fantastic. See why they're so blown away on YouTube.

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