White 5977 metres, CR71.6/128
Blue 5457 metres, CR68.9/121
Red 5134 metres, CR ????
Women’s blue, CR75.2/135
Women’s red, CR73.0/131
R340 after 8.30 and weekends
R170 before 8.30 weekdays
George Fotheringham 1910,
Bob Grimsdell 1935
031 309 1530
Royal Durban occupies a unique place in South African golf history. Other than being the only course built inside a horse racing track (Greyville), the club still occupies the land where it was conceived in 1892. There are older clubs but none have remained on the site where the club was founded. However, this means that Royal Durban remains close to the old city centre which is no longer the city’s corporate and commercial hub, and its membership has declined as a result.
In its heyday it was one of the country’s premier championship layouts, hosting the SA Open, the last of those in 1985. Royal Durban has had a remarkable number of champions as members – men and women who have either represented South Africa or won national trophies. They include Frank Agg, Eric Dalton, Bradley Davison, Murray Grindrod, Derek and Neil James, Tony Johnstone, Bruce Keyter, Jannie le Roux, Douglas Proudfoot, David Suddards and Peter van der Riet, plus Rita Easton, Rae Hast, Jackie Mercer, Judith Paterson and Alison Sheard.
In breezy conditions Royal remains a challenging test. Its open and featureless expanse (there are few trees) belies an interesting design and artfully created greens. The course resembles a flattish links of the kind you find in the UK or Ireland, though without the run and bounce. It’s one of the few SA courses where out-of-bounds is a prominent hazard, notably on those holes bordering the race track. Another hazard is a deep sluit coursing through the middle of the property. It’s a shot-maker’s design, which explains the numerous fine golfers to have represented the club.
Royal is so compact and cleverly designed that the routing of holes can easily be switched around without disturbing the flow of play.
Royal has always had a reputation for excellent greens, and has its own indigenous cynodon grass known as Royal Blue.
It has an attractive colonial era clubhouse from the 1930s, located just a few metres away from the par-5 18th green. In the 1983 SA Amateur the clubhouse area was not out of bounds, and Mike Bradfield hit his approach shot into the lounge. He opened the doors and pitched back off the carpet on to the green.
64 by Clinton Whitelaw, 1992 SA Strokeplay Championship
Sadek Khader & Amanda Biyela
A range between tenth and 18th holes is limited to irons only. Putting green in front of the clubhouse.
Englishman Tommy Horton became the first foreigner to win the SA Open in 1970 at Royal Durban with a score of 285, and Gavan Levenson won the 1985 SA Open with 280. The club also hosted the 1999 Vodacom Players Championship won by Chris Davison (275). Gary Player won three Natal Opens at Royal Durban in 1958, 1960 and 1966. Royal Durban first hosted the men’s SA Open and SA Amateur in 1911, and altogether hosted five men’s and six women’s SA Amateurs.
1/ Royal Durban were unlucky with the timing of their only European Tour event, the Nelson Mandela Championship in December 2012. A thunderstorm flooded the course and prevented play the first two days. When it did start the course was so wet it had to be shortened to 5594 metres, par 65. Scott Jamieson had 66-57 and won in a playoff. Jaco van Zyl also had a 57, but these scores were considered unofficial.
2/ Home club member Bradley Davison won the 1992 SA Amateur celebrating the club centenary, beating Tim Clark in the final. The SA Amateur returned in 2008, won by Jacques Blaauw, who had triumphed in the SA Strokeplay at Pearl Valley a month earlier. Sally Little won her only SA Women’s Amateur at Royal Durban in 1971.
3/ The November 1975 Commonwealth Tournament at Royal was the first golf event televised in South Africa.
4/ The late Jackie Mercer was Royal’s greatest golfer, winning the women’s championship 28 times between 1947 and 1981. She was a 4-time SA Amateur champion and 12-time Natal champion.
5/ Garth Pearson has been the club pro since 1987.
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