White 5960 metres, CR71.9/135
Blue 5618 metres, CR70.2/129
Red 5285 metres, CR68.1/124
Women’s blue, CR76.7/141
Women’s red, CR74.1/136
George Peck 1923,
Colonel S V Hotchkin 1929
043 735 1356/7
East London is one of South Africa’s classic coastal layouts, magnificently situated in big dunes and coastal bush overlooking the Indian Ocean. It would be no exaggeration to describe this property as the best golfing site in the country. It looks like a links, with holes rolling over the hilly and sandy terrain, but has never been regarded as such.
East London, with elevated tee shots aplenty, has memorable holes, long and short, and incredible ocean views. Golfers are always stopping to admire the scenery, notably behind the 12th green, high above the beach.
It is an unconventional design with three par 3s and an overall par of 73, although two par 5s were played as par 4s in the Africa Open. The ninth green is away from the clubhouse, so club golfers begin their rounds at 1 & 8. The halfway house comes after the par-3 tenth.
Although remote – the nearest Top 100 course is 145km away at Royal Port Alfred – the club has been one of South Africa’s busiest tournament venues. Founded in 1893 it has hosted more than 30 national events. Golfers walk on hallowed turf. It is a club with an astonishing amount of historic happenings in SA golf (see Did you Know).
The course was unchanged for many years before an upgrade in 2008 by Cape Town designer Mark Muller saw the 13th green moved to a new elevated site, new bunkers introduced, and paspalum replacing cynodon on the greens. This grass proved a disappointment, and in April 2018 the club began a 3-year bent grass overseeding programme which has improved the consistency. A heavier particle sand is being used in the bunkers.
The clubhouse serves as a key conference centre for the city, and golfers have moved downstairs to their own lounge and bar adjoining the locker rooms and overlooking the 18th.
61 by Richard Sterne, 2009 Africa Open (31-30), with 11 birdies and 11 threes.
61 by John Hahn (USA), 2014 Africa Open (28-33).
There were four 62s in Africa Open – Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Adilson da Silva, Emiliano Grillo.
There are many great holes at East London, classic designs and quirky ones. The pulpit par 3 second drops precipitously; the short par-4 fifth rises steeply up a dune, to a hidden green; while the par-4 18th is one-of-a-kind – a semi-blind tee shot over a ridge doglegging left down a slope. Two outstanding holes are the 430m ninth – among South Africa’s greatest it asks for a challenging drive over a ridge dipping left into a valley, and an equally daunting approach – and 391m 12th, a downhill tee shot, then an angled approach to an elevated green in the dunes.
Seven Africa Opens on European Tour. Winners: 2009 Retief Goosen (267); 2010 Charl Schwartzel (272); 2011 Louis Oosthuizen (276); 2012 Oosthuizen (265); 2013 Darren Fichardt (272); 2014 Thomas Aiken (264); 2015 Trevor Fisher (264). Eight SA Opens, from 1906, seven times on current course. Recent champions: Mark McNulty (2001), Gary Player (1967) and Retief Waltman (1961). Eleven men’s SA Amateurs on this course, most recent in 2010, plus numerous interprovincials. Bobby Locke won both SA Amateur and SA Open on first visit to East London in 1937.
The club has an excellent short-game area close to first tee. Teaching pro is Michelle de Vries. A grass range adjoins first hole but golfers need to use own golf balls. The Nahoon Reef driving range is close.
1/ Ernie Els was first noticed when he won SA Amateur at ELGC in 1986, the youngest champion at 16.
2/ The 1993 SA Amateur provided the first black champion in Zimbabwean Lewis Chitengwa. The 1972 SA Amateur was the first multi-racial championship, and local caddie Ronald Ngqaka became the first black golfer to qualify for matchplay. In 1977 caddie Alfred Makandla became the first black golfer to win a provincial title, Border Matchplay.
3/ Home club members have shone in national events. Ben Ryan won 1948 SA Amateur, and Denis Jones, current club president, was SA Mid-Amateur champion in 2011, the oldest winner at 60.
4/ The first recorded instance in South Africa of golfers having successive holes-in-one was achieved at the par-3 second in 1972 by Jock Watt and Abe Kaplan.
5/ Four club members have served as national golf union presidents: Doug Wilson, Harold Whitfield, David Davenport (men), and Esme Butt (ladies).
6/ A world record 55 betterball Stableford points was achieved in a club competition in 1971 and matched in 1974.
Daniel van Seumeren (16) & Kesha Louw (12).
Kesha beat her mother in the women’s matchplay final.
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