Bellville was the first golf club to be founded in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs, originally known as Welgemoed GC with a 9-hole course designed by Bob Grimsdell and opened for play in 1958. Today the Northern Suburbs are home to four 18-hole clubs. The area north of the N1 motorway leaving Cape Town is one of rolling hills, and Bellville was built in among them with beautiful views of distant mountain ranges.
The course occupies an attractive valley in pleasant suburbia through which the holes meander up and down, quite steeply in places, the elevation and slopes adding to the challenge and unique character of the layout. Roads have divided this hilly course into three separate parts. The clubhouse sits high on a ridge in the middle with four holes, and there’s seven holes in each of the upper and lower sections of the property.
Bellville became an 18-hole course in 1981, the additional holes being designed by Bill Kerr, a former president of the old SA Golf Union who worked with Grimsdell in his final years as a course architect.
Bellville is one of the shorter 18-hole courses in the Western Cape, at 5814 metres from the tips, yet distance is mostly immaterial due to the elevation changes, and scoring can be tricky. The parkland design is all about strategy and where to position your ball on the sloping fairways, which become firm in the summer months. The opening holes immediately catch your attention as the fairways tend to kick golf balls towards rows of trees on the left side.
The design variety is interesting though. The par 4s and 5s are moving either left and right, uphill and downhill, seldom straight. Grimsdell and Kerr together created some unusual and memorable holes to deal with the contours of the land, and to their credit there is only one hole which is severely uphill, the 11th.
In 1995 Mark Muller, then at Golf Data, reshaped the greens to make the course that much more challenging and varied. The subtly undulating greens are a feature of the layout, and are of consistently good quality for putting and chipping.
The 380-metre sixth is one of the best par 4s in Cape Town, played from a high tee to a fairway curving right around a stand of tall trees which mark the out-of-bounds. Stroke 1 (No 11) is only 327 metres, yet the fairway is uphill all the way as it turns right to a raised green. The par-5 15th, usually played into the prevailing wind, has a challenging tee shot skirting the edge of the main dam near the high point of the property.
Possibly the most adventurous hole though is the 490-metre 17th, a boomerang-shaped hole which crests a rise and then plunges left downhill to a green protected by large pines and a front bunker. The round ends with a superb short par 4, also downhill with a stream protecting the left side of the fairway and a water hazard the right front of the green.