Fortunately, I don’t suffer from acrophobia. Standing at the edge of any cliff with no protective railing while looking down 1,400 feet can be a stomach-churning experience anywhere. But when standing on top of Hanglip Mountain in Limpopo, South Africa, with my eyes fixated on a green in the shape of the African continent surrounded by dense bush at the Legend Golf & Safari Resort, I had cause to grip my 7-wood a bit tighter. That was the club I’d inadvertently grabbed in haste (instead of the suggested driver), plus pitching wedge and putter, as our group was rushed at a moment’s notice, due to weather concerns, for a quick 90-second ride to the top via helicopter to play the world’s longest par 3 (approx. 437 yards from foot of mountain to back of green).
I barely had time to get my shirt and pants on before I found myself standing on a 5’ x 5’ artificial green turf tee box determined to rip a drive through the west to east winds towards a pin that was located somewhere in Zaire. Given no time to warm up, my only pre-swing thought was what would Happy Gilmore do here?
So, with my feet firmly planted, I let’r rip and, after losing sight of the ball in an instant, I stood waiting almost 25 seconds until the ball came to rest, hopefully, in an area I’d be able to hit my second shot. Finally, the voice came over the walkie-talkie from the spotters below that my ball, marked “L1” had landed about 40 yards short of the South African coastline in what would have been the Indian Ocean. Dry and hittable!
After a return helicopter trip and locating my ball, the next shot was all about getting the ball on the green. With my lofty pitching wedge, I left myself a 12-foot putt. Standing over that putt I knew what was at stake since I’d been reminded of a very short list of pars made on this hole (only 109 of the near 3,000 attempts, not to mention only 12 birdies), including only one by a PGA Tour pro - Padraig Harrington. After a quick pep talk from my host, Scott Edkins, with Ascot Golf Tours, with slightly moist hands on my putter, I rolled it home for par and became only the 9th American to accomplish the feat since the hole was inaugurated four years ago. In your face Retief Goosen! Take that Colin Montgomerie! Nice try Sergio!
When all was said and one, this proved to be one of those bucket list experiences that surpassed all the hype and was a 19th hole where absolutely no libations were necessary – nor would I recommend!