At Home With: Gary Player

Time spent not relaxing at the stud farm
Gary Plyaer

I drew the fortunate assignment of visiting the Gary Player Stud Farm in Colesberg, South Africa. It was an honor to spend time with him at his beloved family ranch, but I had no idea that it would be three of the most exhausting days of my life.

The miracle of Player’s endless energy is almost a cliché in today’s golf circles, but I found it to be oppressively true: I’ve never met a more tireless human being. From the moment I arrived after the nearly seven-hour drive from Johannesburg, the only time we stopped was to eat and sleep.

Player acquired the 3,540-acre ranch in 1974 and spent decades reshaping it into his family’s oasis. His passion for horse racing and thoroughbred breeding is well known, but to see him in his element, spending time with these beautiful animals, was awe inspiring. He bounded through the stables, describing each horse’s history and personality traits in loving detail. I’ll never forget the look on his face as an 18-day-old foal sprinted around him in a small grass paddock. If static images had sound, it would still never do that moment justice.

Every morning, Player gets up and climbs what I immediately christened “Heart Attack Hill,” a massive bluff overlooking the farm where Player constructed a 365-step incline. I also witnessed one of his legendary hour-long gym sessions, quivering with fear that he would make me join him.

When we did stop to eat, dinners were incredible. Each evening, we would all congregate in the marvelous dining room, where Player would sit at the head of the table and tell remarkable stories about his life. One of my favorite memories of the trip was telling Player a story of my own, about an English golf colleague who made a hole-in-one on the same hole three days in a row. Incredulous, he made me repeat the tale. Gary Player nearly speechless—now that’s a miracle!