Champ 7001 metres, CR76.8/142
Club 6465 metres, CR74.1/136
Exec 6036 metres, CR72.0/128
Classic 5466 metres, CR68.8/122
Exec women, CR78.3/152
Classic women, CR74.6/143
Affiliated R690 weekday,
Bob Grimsdell 1935
011 640 3021
Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club has two outstanding parkland courses as part of its 36-hole facility, and the East Course stands out as one of the continent’s leading championship layouts. The PGA Tour would likely have approved it as the venue for the 2023 Presidents Cup following an impressive bid by the club, but SA’s economic slump has meant the biennial match is too costly to host.
Having had 36 holes for more than 80 years, Royal has long been looked up to as one of the foremost golf clubs in the southern hemisphere, and today it continues a great historic tradition going back to 1890 with exceptionally high standards of quality service and presentation. Its clubhouse resonates with history, from the foyer to the locker rooms.
The East first went through a substantial redesign in 1999, when Royal merged with Kensington GC, which saw the construction of new holes on the back nine. Another significant upgrade took place in 2017/18, again by Golf Data, but this time the changes were subtle ones, and Bob Grimsdell’s design masterpiece has not been compromised. The layout was instead transformed by newly positioned bunkers, new bent grass on the greens, the pruning of trees to open vistas on the undulating property, and increased attention to detail.
The East was built with championship golf in mind, and in the days of persimmon woods and balata balls its sheer length was regarded with awe, even allowing for the effect of Johannesburg’s high altitude on the golf ball. In 1964 it measured 6660 metres from the back tees, par 72, equivalent to about 8500 metres today when you factor in modern equipment and the golf ball.
The course has hosted no fewer than 20 SA championships (men and women) since the Second World War, and most of those were in the previous century. In the new millennium it became a European Tour venue, hosting the Joburg Open for 11 consecutive years, and briefly an International Final Qualifying venue for the Open Championship.
63, by Gary Player when he won the 1977 SA Open; Darren Fichardt 2008 Open Final Qualifier; Charl Schwartzel 2009 Joburg Open; Jamie Elson 2012 Joburg Open; Thomas Aiken 2014 Joburg Open. Martin Maritz had a 62 in the 2011 Joburg Open, but there was placing due to wet fairways.
The cornerstone of the East is its number of beefy par-4s. Three exceed 500 yards, including the back-to-back 10th (474 metres) and 11th (457m). Both play gradually downhill, yet No 11, one of the country’s best holes, adds in a dogleg fairway and the daunting prospect of a large water hazard fronting the green. Even with these two holes, the back nine is 207 metres shorter than the front, where everything is long barring the shortest hole on the course, the 162-metre fifth, a scary par 3 from an elevated tee to a narrow green protected on the left by water. If there’s one thing missing on the layout, it’s a short par 4.
Lengthy range and golf academy 100 metres from clubhouse adjoining the West Course tenth hole. Excellent short-game facility in front of clubhouse. Martin Briede is the Head Teaching Professional and academy owner, and former SA Open champion Gavan Levenson works under him as a teaching professional. Both are ranked among the top teachers in South Africa.
The East Course has hosted 7 SA Opens (Bobby Locke 1946, Denis Hutchinson 1959, Gary Player 1972-77-81, Bobby Cole 1974, David Frost 1986) and 11 Joburg Opens on the European Tour. There were 6 SA champions (Richard Sterne 2008-13, Charl Schwartzel 2010-11, Branden Grace 2012, George Coetzee 2014, Haydn Porteous 2016, Darren Fichardt 2017). The club has hosted 14 SA Amateurs, eight for women and six for men.
1/ The East was voted Best Course in South Africa and Africa, at the 2019 World Golf Awards in Abu Dhabi, repeating its 2018 triumph. The club is the only SA member of the World of Leading Golf.
2/ Royal J&K made history in February 2020 when hosting both SA Amateur men’s and women’s championships in the same week on the East and West courses. These championships will be held at Royal until 2022.
3/ A walkway of fame to the clubhouse has plaques commemorating winners of major events.
4/ Two prestige international amateur team events have been played on the East. Three Royal Johannesburg members were in the 6-man SA team which won the men’s Commonwealth tournament in 1959 against Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain & Ireland. In 2007 Royal hosted the women’s 5-Nations involving GB, Australia, SA, Canada and NZ.
5/ Course designer Bob Grimsdell was club pro for 20 years until 1946. He shuffled holes on both courses to accommodate the new site for the clubhouse which opened in 1939.
6/ Richard Sterne had a 27-under total of 260 (63-65-68-64) with 26 birdies, one eagle and one bogey in the 2013 Joburg Open which he won by seven from Charl Schwartzel. Schwartzel had an ace at No 12 in a 63 at 2009 Joburg Open.
7/ On an August Saturday in 1981, club member Hal Snow began his round 2-2 on the East, an albatross and birdie.
2019 Kian Rose & Eleonora Galletti.
2020 Kian Rose & Eleonora Galletti.
(Kian Rose has won men’s title three years in a row.)
This is my home club and I have tried to be as objective as possible. There are several aspects of the East that should be better, notably the tees, which have become somewhat uneven, and the fairways, with which I have a problem with the method of mowing. Two wide strips, one towards the green (left side) and one towards the tee (right side).
Beautiful and enjoyable championship course with two tee options for women: Executive and Classic. Very picturesque holes, and greens superb. The clubhouse and 19th hole are large and it has an old school feel.
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