The closure of Beachwood CC in Durban North is a sad loss for South African golf. Even though this had been expected for several years, following the 2017 sale of the land to property developers by Durban Country Club, there was always faint hope it might be around for longer.
However, those hopes were dashed when all the tenants at Beachwood CC were recently evicted by the developers for alleged non-payment of rent and power bills. The course had been leased since 2020 by Simon Draycott, offering budget pay-and-play golf. However, the condition of the course had gone backwards following the April 2022 floods. More than a year later, two damaged par 5s, the third and fourth, were still being played as short par 4s. Another setback in 2022 was a fire in the cart barn, destroying 54 carts.
Due to its shabby condition Beachwood was omitted from the 2023 Top 100 rankings, having been as high as No 66 in 2022. View: Beachwood – SA Top 100 Courses
Beachwood is slightly younger in age than Durban CC, which is celebrating its centenary, and the two of them are only seven kilometres apart. It was a struggling club when DCC acquired it as their second course in the early to mid-1990s. It was given an impressive upgrade by Gary Player Design, and re-opened in 1996.
The course, a sandy links in its early years, was opened in 1930, designed by SA Open champion of that era, Sid Brews. A feature of playing there was the sight of low-flying light aircraft making their final approach to the adjoining Virginia Airport directly down the fairway of the par-5 17th. And the round ended with a challenging par 3 in front of the clubhouse.
It was not just a wonderful design and championship test, but a beautiful environmental gem on the Indian Ocean shoreline, similarly shaped to Durban CC, yet having no highway between it and the beach.
The front nine winds through a mangrove swamp, which is home to numerous bird species. The beach is a short walk from the clubhouse. It is horrifying to think this will be turned into concrete and high-rise buildings. Are there no local environmental concerns?
The closure comes at a critical time when Durban is running short of golf courses at which to play in 2023. Durban CC is currently closed until December for an upgrade by Golf Data, while The Woods at Mount Edgecombe will close later in May for four months for a bunker restoration project. Royal Durban will certainly profit from this, as may Bluff, Windsor Park and Amanzimtoti.
Beachwood was a Top 20 course in South Africa, ranked No 3 in KZN, between 2004 and 2009 when it was part of DCC and in fabulous shape. It stayed in the Top 50 until recently.
Several other former Top 100 courses have disappeared in the last decade, among them Fish River Sun in the Eastern Cape (the 1980s Gary Player design closed in 2022), Leopard Park (a Peter Matkovich estate layout in the North West close to the Botswana border), Randfontein in the West Rand of Gauteng, King David in Cape Town, and the Legend resort in Limpopo. I have heard there are plans afoot to try and revive that.
There is rumour that Riviera on the Vaal River might be the next to go, along with Sand River in the Free State which has a handful of members.