Free State / Northern Cape Top 10
Vereeniging, Free State - Northern Cape & Free State
Club manager: Ben Grib
Greenkeeper: Steven Motitsoe
Club captain: Leon Kruger Junior
Chairman: Ben Botes
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 70.9 out of 100
Conditioning13.2 / 20
Playability14.8 / 20
Aesthetics10.9 / 15
Design Variety11.5 / 15
Shot Values10.0 / 15
Memorability10.5 / 15
Four tees / Par 72
Yellow 6631 metres, CR74.3/137
White 6218 metres, CR72.2/133
Blue 5753 metres, CR69.9/124
Red 5239 metres, CR67.2/120
Women’s blue, CR76.0/141
Women’s red, CR72.5/134
Visitor green fee
R235 peak & R170 off-peak
George Peck 1926,
Col S V Hotchkin 1929,
Peter Matkovich 1999
016 421 3196
51 (2021) & 36 (2020)
Maccauvlei is a famous club in SA African golfing history, yet its classic 1920s course remains something of a hidden gem due to its remote location on the Vaal River 80 kilometres south of Sandton City. It was a fashionable weekend retreat for golfers between the two world wars. There was a dormy house. In those early years one member used to fly in from Johannesburg with his Moth biplane and land it on the 18th fairway.
Today it offers an outstanding experience in terms of both challenge and conditioning, and has the best value visitor green fee among Top 50 courses.
The long winding driveway to the club takes you into a tranquil old-world environment and the original clubhouse set amidst shady trees. Inside, some of the rooms have been restored to how they were in the club’s heyday.
Maccauvlei was labelled an “inland links” in its early years, and the sandy terrain on which it was built backs those claims. However, the holes are now mostly lined with giant eucalyptus trees, and only the bunkering bears any resemblance to a links. The course has some of the largest individual bunkers to be found in South Africa.
When Johannesburg Golf Club professional George Peck first visited the site in the early 1920s this was a sandy wasteland with tall grass and reeds between the Vaal River and a large forest of oak trees. It was known as Maccauvlei (Wild Duck Pan) because it was regarded as a sanctuary for wild birds. Peck saw that nature had provided him with a site that he compared to those on which seaside links had been built in the UK. Accordingly he littered the layout with natural bunkers.
The club ushered in the millennium with a new upgraded course by Peter Matkovich. All 18 greens were remodelled. He did away with virtually all the old water hazards (three remain) and reinstated bunkering as the main design feature. One of his best ideas was to remove many of the trees on the banks of the Vaal River which obscured the view. He created a new green close to the water on the par-5 15th.
Maccauvlei is on the Free State bank of the Vaal, and in recent years became part of the Free State Golf Union after many years with Central Gauteng. There was a short period when it was part of Western Transvaal (now North West). On the opposite bank is Riviera golf course, in Central Gauteng.
Additional Course Facts
62 by Mellett Hendrikse in National Teams Champs.
58 by Bradford Vaughan in November 2006 during a social round. He had 29 on each nine with 12 birdies and an eagle three at 7.
The signature hole, and one of the most unique designs in South Africa, is the daunting 422-metre 17th which plays away from the river back to the clubhouse. A wide fairway curves left and opens up a vast bunker which stretches 100 metres up a slope to a high lip concealing the green beyond. Only the top of the flag is visible. The third is a short par 4 to a narrow raised green adjoining an old Boer War cemetery.
Range adjoining clubhouse has grass bays. Attractive large putting green in front of clubhouse.
2022 Divan van Zyl
2021 & 2020 Attie Schwartzel
2019 Attie Schwartzel & Olivia Tait
Four-time SA women’s champion Sanet Marais, who represented SA at the 1994 World Amateur team event, won 9 consecutive club titles from 1991 to 1999. Maureen Ahern (Steyn) won 19 titles between 1978 and 2006.
Did You Know
1/ Masters champion Charl Schwartzel grew up on a farm near Maccauvlei. His father George was club captain during the 75th anniversary. Younger brother Attie, having regained his amateur status after playing on the Sunshine Tour, has been the men’s club champion eight times (2003-07 and 2019-21), Charl three times (1999-2002), and George once (1995).
2/ Maccauvlei became a SA Open venue soon after it opened. It hosted four between 1927 and 1949, three won by Sid Brews, the other by Bobby Locke in 1938.
3/ Maccauvlei may have hosted more elite amateur tournaments than any other club in SA. Every year there are at least three. For many years, while there was accommodation on the property, it was the venue for the men’s National Teams Champs. Two of the club’s premier trophies are the Vaal Amateur (since 1959, first winner Denis Hutchinson) and Harry Oppenheimer Trophy (1964) in honour of an early club patron. These two trophies have been contested 115 times.
4/ The club has an excellent on-course pro shop owned and managed by professional Marthinus van Staden.
5/ Former club captain, chairman and president Dereck Mocke, the club historian, played in the club championship 50 consecutive years from 1967 to 2016. He passed away in April 2020.
6/ New Vaal Colliery adjoins the course, supplying coal for Eskom’s Lethabo power station next door.
Course and Facilities Rating
Maccauvlei is looking particularly beautiful at this time of year, green and leafy and a tranquil course at which to play in the countryside. In good condition too. The club is this week hosting one of their two main trophy tournaments, the Harry Oppenheimer. First played in 1964 and won by the legendary amateur Dave Symons, this is the 58th edition and the title has been won by numerous celebrated players, including home club member Charl Schwartzel three times in a row when it was still 36 holes in one day. Now it's over three days and is a world ranking amateur tournament. The other event is the 36-hole Vaal Amateur, started in 1959 when it was won by Denis Hutchinson. Hutchy shot 140, and the record is 130 by Kyle McClatchie in 2016. Maccauvlei is one of the few clubs to have retained their original clubhouse from the 1920s (it would be dwarfed by many modern golf estate homes) and the interior reeks with character, particularly the lounge at the main entrance with all its memorabilia. The single-storey building is a magnificent backdrop playing the superb par-5 18th hole. And next door to the clubhouse is one of the best on-course pro shops in SA, owned and run by club professional Marthinus van Staden. It's packed with a wide range of the latest equipment.
08 November 2022
Drove an hour to Maccauvlei in May and only managed to play one stroke as the rain would not relent. We were invited back and the Vaal River course had withstood the elements and was looking as beautiful as I remember it. There has been a clearing out of trees on the par-4 13th which has improved visibility of the green, though I will miss the blind approach. This is a fun course to play with some of the biggest bunkers outside Pecanwood. Greens were perfect and ran true. Fairways were okay, just don’t miss them as the lie changes for the worst.
20 July 2022
The course is well maintained, fairways well covered, and Maccauvlei is a good overall experience.
20 March 2022
Maccauvlei was conceived as a links golf experience almost a century ago because it was a sandy wasteland that reminded Englishman George Peck, who laid out the first holes, of the links in his homeland. It might have still looked that way today but for all the trees that were subsequently planted. The course drains beautifully after heavy rains. Natural bunkering was always the design theme, and Peter Matkovich built some stunningly large feature bunkers in his redesign for the 75th anniversary of the club. They don't always come into play but golfers can admire those left of the sixth, ninth, tenth and 18th fairways. The famous and most treacherous bunker on 17 is from the original design, although it was part of a par 3 for a few years until Colonel Hotchkin turned this into one of the great par 4s in SA golf.
15 March 2022
Not only is Maccauvlei in good condition, but the Aesthetics of this Vaal River course have been improved by a winter project to clean up and rehabilitate two adjoining water hazards on the 13th and 14th. These could look unsightly before, and the construction of two newly lined dams linked by a weir, with high water levels, have enhanced the immediate area. I like the two curved arch bridges accessing the 13th green. This par 4 has long been one of the club's feature holes, and the removal of a tree which hid part of the green from the right side of the fairway, plus the new sight of all the water right of the green, gives it a positively different feel. No 14 is an attractive par 3 with a shapely green, yet the old hazard in front was a mess. I'd now like to see a facelift for the large teeing area. Another sizeable hazard given similar treatment is that short left of the green on the par-5 second. Previously full of reeds it is now a clear expanse of water, and alerts any golfer going for the green in two.
08 December 2021
Maccauvlei is worth the drive to the Vaal River (on any day of the week). The layout is interesting and varied, with testing par 4s and long par 3s. The Vaal frontage of some holes is enjoyable and provides good views and interesting variety on the back nine. A highly recommended day out from Johannesburg or Pretoria.
09 April 2021
Maccauvlei is a mature, attractive course in reasonable condition with some quality holes, notably the par-4 17th with its large bunker guarding the green. However, the greens are too soft and forgiving of poor approach shots. Putts don’t roll true.
09 March 2021
The course was in good condition, but the bunkers were not good. The greens were pure and the rest of the course played nicely.
13 February 2021
Disappointed by this exceptional course. The condition of the greens was impeccable but the fairways have been better. Some of the tees, particularly on the par 3s, were devoid of grass and had been overused.
16 November 2020
Very rural feel to this old golf club. The driveway to the clubhouse is attractive and inviting. I was most impressed by the pro shop. A small shop but packed with all the latest equipment. And great service. I had a new grip put on my putter within minutes. I loved the layout and the sense of space. However, the few water hazards -- other than the Vaal River -- could be cleaned up. Those at 13 and 14 are bright green with duckweed.
15 March 2020
Maccauvlei has a rustic feel to it, and a visit there is like stepping back in time. The 1920s clubhouse is magnificent with an old-fashioned pub, and there's a shady porch overlooking the putting green where members chat to their friends before and after golf. If this course was closer to Johannesburg there would be a waiting list to join. But its remoteness and tranquillity, the natural veld between holes, is what essentially makes it special. The conditioning is brilliant considering this is a club on tight budgets. Green fees are a bargain on quiet weekdays!
21 January 2020
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