Amanzimtoti Country Club suffered the most devastation of any KwaZulu-Natal golf course in the April floods.
Situated on the Indian Ocean coastline south of Durban, the Mbokodweni River which flows through the middle of the 18-holer turned into a wide raging torrent, devouring holes and carrying away the two bridges which linked the two separate parts of the course. The water surged through the clubhouse and other buildings. A total of 40 golf carts were destroyed in the cart barn.
The renovated pro shop, fully stocked for the upcoming Easter weekend, was three metres deep in water and sewage.
“On the morning of Tuesday, April 12 we woke to a nightmare unfolding,” says club greenkeeper Louis Steyn, who is overseeing the reconstruction of the 18 holes. “The course, which had been looking its best in years, was gone.” An estimated 500 trees were lost, plus the club’s tree nursery.
The club was closed for two months with no water, electricity or sewage. The sewage issue still exists, as municipal infrastructure was damaged in the flood – the pump was replaced twice and stolen twice – and it spills into the clubhouse area. A waterway was built to drain the water and sewage from the clubhouse and pro shop. Some 2 000 tons of mud was removed from the car park.
“About a month before the flood we had an unexpected visitor, Gary Player,” said Steyn. “He arrived unannounced, and told us how he had regularly played the course on South Coast visits in the 1950s. He nearly bought one of the Athlone Park homes that overlook the course. Gary said our course was looking beautiful and he loved the greens.”
Reading the history of the golf club, which celebrated its centenary in 2015, there are numerous references to floods over the past century. The latest one, which saw three greens complexes vanish, is on a par with the scale of destruction experienced in 1973 (see sidebar below).
My first sight of the course at the end of May was one of despair. Surely this would be the end for Amanzimtoti? Where were they going to find the millions of rands needed to fix the damage? The club did have insurance but only on the buildings, bridges and some equipment. There was no loss of income insurance. The course was popular with visiting groups over weekends, and their patronage brought in the bulk of the club’s income. None of these groups have returned.
But today Amanzimtoti is making a fightback and any financial assistance they can get to survive would be greatly appreciated. In June, members began to play what holes had been left generally unscathed on the clubhouse side of the river. Today they are playing a 9-hole course, and Steyn is talking about all 18 holes being open again in December.
“The recovery has been hard work but everyone is heartened by the progress being made,” says Steyn. “A few months ago the members had their hearts in their shoes. Money is tight, but there is an end in sight.
“We have received about 7 000 tons of rubble to reclaim the river which widened as a result of the floods. We removed about 3 000 tons of sand from the clubhouse side of the river and resodded it, and about 10 000 tons from the other side. We resodded 10 000 square metres of grass harvested from the rough on the course. About 12 local caddies have been employed to help with this mammoth task.
“Until we have a bridge over the river only nine holes can be played,” he says. “Escalation in steel prices has forced us to budget for only one new bridge which is being built.”
‘TWO RIVERS JOINED PRODUCED A TIGER’
Founded as the Isipingo Beach GC in 1915 with a 9-hole course lying between what was then two rivers, the Isipingo and Umbogintwini (now one river, the Mbokodweni). The first flood arrived in October 1917 when the original clubhouse (and 17 bags of clubs) was swept away.
The course was later increased to 18 holes and in 1934 to 27 holes. In 1939 the military took over the property for the duration of World War Two, and the course ploughed up for the construction of a training base airfield.
A new 18-hole course was built after the war, designed by Laurie Mandy, and the name changed to Amanzimtoti Country Club.
Industrial development in the area (the club adjoins Prospecton and the Toyota manufacturing plant) saw the two rivers diverted to join and flow into one lagoon estuary (the Sipingo joins the Mbokodweni just before they flow under the N3 motorway bridge bordering the course), which was foreseen as a natural disaster waiting to happen.
This is an excerpt from SA Golf magazine in 1973.
“The joining of the two notorious flood rivers produced a tiger which when unleashed almost wiped out the heart of the course. It had to come, and the destruction and devastation in ‘73 had to be seen to be credited. Rising more than two metres the river rampaged to the sea with staggering ferocity, taking with it in only a few short hours the south banks and breaking away great chunks of the fairways; dozens of huge irreplaceable trees, riverine bush and reeds, a large newly erected metal bridge. It was reckoned that three hectares of land had gone. Several fairways lay under tons of mud, silt and debris. The river now lay open three times its former width.”
A flood fund was started by members, and financial help came from clubs all over the country. A new multi-sport club arose from this disaster, tennis and squash courts being added. Alas, less than a year later another flood tore up all the good work. The council then constructed a wall consisting of thousands of old tyres, filled with sand and positioned at the most vulnerable point in the river’s course. Several hectares of land were re-established and repaired.
The club records two further floods in 1977, and a deluge in September 1987 which arrived in the week the club were to host the Ladies Natal Inter-Club. A casualty was the “Golden Gate” suspension bridge over the river, a significant structure erected with the help of several major companies and craned in.