East London - Eastern Cape
Club manager: Janice Jamieson
Golf manager: Russell Wheller
Golf director: AJ Steyn
Greenkeeper: Wayne van Mazijk
Club captain: Chris Brent
President: Alan Hawkins
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 77.4 out of 100
Conditioning14.1 / 20
Playability15.4 / 20
Aesthetics13.3 / 15
Design Variety11.9 / 15
Shot Values10.1 / 15
Memorability12.6 / 15
Three tees / Par 73
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
Visitor green fee
George Peck 1923,
Colonel S V Hotchkin 1929
043 735 1356/7
11 (2021) & 10 (2020)
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. Several holes-in-one have been made on two back-to-back short par 4s, the fifth and sixth. The ninth green is situated a fair distance from the clubhouse, so club golfers begin their rounds at Nos 1 & 8. The halfway house comes after the par-3 tenth or the par-4 16th.
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.
Additional Course Facts
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.
Did You Know
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.
2021 Masibulele Vamsinya & Demi Flanagan
2020 Dion Kahts & Kesha Louw
2019 Daniel van Seumeren (16) & Kesha Louw (12)*
*Kesha beat her mother in the women’s matchplay final.
Course and Facilities Rating
East London, with its variety of holes, elevation and beautiful surroundings, is a course that offers it all, and sees the use of all 14 clubs in the bag. It's a magnificent challenge even on the calmest day. The greens were smooth and quick, tricky but consistent. The fairways had not been cut as there is a shortage of water, but they are firm and running. The club offers a good menu at affordable prices.
28 June 2022
East London has had abundant rain the latter part of summer, which is welcome, but perhaps more than they would like. The rain creates vibrations on the surface of the soil and earthworms migrate to the surface, leaving crusty casts in the rough and fairways. It's a common sight at Eastern Cape courses, unwelcome to the greenkeeper and golfers. Other than that it's hard to fault the conditioning of this wonderful layout. It is playing beautifully at this time of year, the ball running on the fairways, the greens sublime and quick. May is one of the best months for golf trips to coastal regions, with warm and generally windless days. ELGC is a unique golf experience in so many respects, the stunning aesthetics among the coastal dunes and bush, the unusual routing (the halfway house sits next to the tenth and 16th greens), the continual shifts in elevation, and the surprising amount of design variety on offer. May it remain undisturbed by development and treasured for many years to come.
24 May 2022
East London is a great course tucked into the Eastern Cape coastal bush on the front nine and having a woodland feel on the back nine. As with any windy coastal layout, course management is essential to good scoring. But as it would not be much fun laying up on all the driveable par 4s, this beauty demands some risky shots! The signature 12th is a great spot to stop for a minute and take in the view from the back of the green. With buck scattered around the property it most certainly is not a good walk spoiled! The smart course design uses the natural coastal elevation change to great effect and holes are so varied with shot selection it can feel like a different course each time you play it. Book two rounds! I hope it regains a top 10 spot soon as it deserves to be there. The best part of my day was hitting a 6-iron into a gentle breeze to eight feet on 12. The worse part was missing the birdie putt!
13 January 2022
Having played East London and Humewood in the space of a few days, both in windy conditions, it was noticeable that East London provides a better opportunity for lower scoring. The easterly wind is at your back on most of the tougher par 4s. And the course is not as fully exposed to the wind as Humewood is. Several tee shots are played from sheltered positions in the coastal bush. The first 12 holes, if you are driving well, provide numerous pars and birdies before you turn back into the wind at 13 and face a more exacting challenge. The members certainly enjoy playing in a strong easterly. Three pairs each shot 47 points in the midweek club betterball competition.
07 November 2021
Always a great experience to play on a course where Colonel Hotchkin was involved as the original designer. He had an incredible eye for creating the best golf holes out of the natural terrain. An absolute must play in South Africa. It is harsh to rate most courses in winter in South Africa as they are clearly not at the same level in conditioning as they will be during the summer.
28 September 2021
A classic layout that provides a wonderful and distinctive mix of holes. Stunning views of the Indian Ocean from some holes, notably the 12th. The ninth is one of the toughest stroke ones in South Africa and being a coastal course it is susceptible to the prevailing easterlies and westerlies.
Brent Arthur Kleve
27 April 2021
This is a fantastic course, with such a wide variety of holes. It plays tough when the wind picks up (which it did). I enjoyed the fact that not every hole felt like you might lose a ball off the tee. There were some that definitely set themselves up to be attacked and others that attacked us! Great conditioning and consistent greens, with awesome elevation changes.
17 January 2021
East London's strength lies in its interesting and fair design, the undulations and variety of the holes, and the views of the course and its surrounds. It is always enjoyable to play.
28 December 2020
East London has some exceptionally good par 4s both long and short which have fabulously unique characteristics. And the approach shots to these holes require strong iron play to well-guarded greens. The fourth is a brilliant links-style hole with as natural a greens complex as you will find at a coastal layout. The eighth, ninth and 12th stand out in terms of design. It would be difficult to replicate them anywhere else but on this rolling terrain. Holes 13 to 16 don't repeat the magic of the first 12, yet it's still a strong finish, with 17 and 18 more in keeping with the aspect of the earlier holes as the course winds back into the indigenous bush amidst elevation changes. The paspalum greens are steadily improving having been inter-seeded with bent in 2018, and hopefully will become quicker.
06 November 2020
East London provides one of the finest coastal golf experiences in South Africa. At the time of playing the greens were running incredibly true, the general presentation being world class. East London provides good variety, shot value and interest on every hole. Truly deserving of its Top 10 ranking.
12 October 2020
One of my favourite courses in beautiful surroundings. Like many coastal courses a wonderful nature walk.
03 June 2020
Awesome course, although quite short if the wind doesn't blow. Greens generally good. Fairways tight for driving, but that is a defence of this great championship layout.
28 April 2020
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