Royal Johannesburg (West)

Johannesburg - Gauteng

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CEO: Christopher Bentley
Golf directors: Tiaan van Wyk & Shaun Carter
Head pro: Greg Jacobs
Course manager: Jerry Steyn
Club captain: Nick Watt-Pringle
Chairman: Chandru Wadhwani
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 75 out of 100
Conditioning14.6 / 20
Playability15.3 / 20
Aesthetics12.8 / 15
Design Variety11.4 / 15
Shot Values10.1 / 15
Memorability10.8 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 72

Blue 6586 metres, CR73.8/137
Yellow 6255 metres, CR72.3/131
White 5859 metres, CR70.3/125
Red 5280 metres, CR67.1/119
Women’s white, CR76.0/142
Women’s red, CR72.4/132

Visitor green fee

R650 weekday
R800 weekend
Golf cart R450

Course designer

Laurie Waters 1910, Colonel SV Hotchkin 1929, Bob Grimsdell 1935


011 640 3021

Previous ranking

33 (2023), 34 (2022) & 31 (2021)

Royal’s West Course, being considerably shorter than the adjoining championship East Course, is a favourite among club members. Length is really the only distinction between the two attractive parkland layouts, because the West covers the same undulating tree-lined terrain, with a similar quota of water hazards. A natural stream runs through the two courses, entering near the sixth tee West and departing at the sixth green East. It impacts on eight holes on the West and seven on the East.

It does play easier than the East, yet there is no shortage of challenging holes, and nothing that remotely resembles a weak hole. That’s a strength of both the courses at Royal.

Golf was first played on this site in 1910, and the original West’s chief asset was that it had grass greens, uncommon for that era, from the outset.

The West underwent a major upgrade by Agrano Turf in 2022 to its greens and bunkers to complement the work completed on the East in 2017. The greens were resurfaced with 777 bent grass. At the same time the two nines were reversed. No 10 is the new opening hole, and the par-5 ninth has become the 18th. What this means is a much tougher finishing stretch of holes on the back nine, beginning with the 450m par-4 16th, followed by the intimidating 200-metre plus par-3 17th, and 507m 18th.

The clubhouse has in 2022 seen the opening of a wellness and fitness club and the Old Oak restaurant and family centre. All these upgrades have been predominantly financed by property development on land owned by the club.  

Having had 36 holes for nearly 90 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 1891 with exceptionally high standards of quality service and presentation. Its clubhouse resonates with history, from the foyer to the locker rooms and 19th hole.

There is an impressive “Walkway of Fame” from the car park to the clubhouse entrance, where the names of famous tournament champions (SA Opens and Joburg Opens) are engraved into the pavement.

Royal is home to the offices of the PGA of South Africa, and the Gauteng Senior Golf Society.

Royal CEO Chris Bentley was named PGA Professional of the Year in the 2021 PGA of South Africa Awards.




Additional Course Facts

Course Record

61 by Charl Schwartzel in 2011 Joburg Open.

Feature Holes

South Africa does not do enough “short” par 3s, and the West has one of the finest examples at No 5, which plays between 95 and 111 metres from its four tees. A flick wedge across a water hazard to a narrow green yet to be treated with the utmost respect. The green is narrow and sloping, and any approach short or long of the pin can prove troublesome. The par-3 eighth is twice as long, and possibly the best of the par 3s at the club, played from an elevated tee to an unevenly shaped green that falls away on the right. The long par-3 third is a uniquely attractive hole, downhill to a dogleg fairway moving left.

Practice Facility

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.

Club Champions

2024 Jacques van der Merwe & Tze-ning Chang
2023 Matthew Mortimer & Eleonora Galletti*
2022 Marc Kourie & Eleonora Galletti
2021 Jules Helary & Eleonora Galletti
2020 Kian Rose & Eleonora Galletti
2019 Kian Rose & Eleonora Galletti
*Galletti has won nine titles. Rose won men’s title three years in a row.

Did You Know

1/ Johannesburg Golf Club became Royal Johannesburg in 1931, the Prince of Wales having first played the original West Course in 1925 and again in 1930.

2/ Royal J&K made history in February 2020 by hosting both the SA Amateur men’s and women’s championships in the same week on the East and West courses. They were held at Royal through 2022.

3/ When Royal opened 36 holes for the first time in 1935, both courses started at the old clubhouse and were known as the Old and New. The Old had a 230-metre 19th hole up a hill to the clubhouse. The routing was changed in 1939 to accommodate the new clubhouse.

4/ The first tournament 62 in SA was by Bobby Locke on West Course in 1952 Stanley Motors Open. Club member Duncan Lindsay Smith had a record 28 on back nine in 1978 Silver Vase to shoot 63.

5/ The first men’s SA Amateur over matchplay was contested on the West in 1925, and the final was between two club members. Tom McLelland beat AL Forster 2up over 36 holes.

6/ Original course designer Laurie Waters won four SA Opens, the last of those in 1920 on his home course. He was club pro from 1898 to 1920.

7/ The original clubhouse, opened in 1911, became home to Old Johannians hockey club in 1939.

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Course Reviews
It hasn't been a particularly wet summer in Gauteng, yet Royal has had more heavy rain showers than most clubs in the region, and it is unfortunately affecting playability due to the undulating terrain. Several fairways on West are soft and muddy as water gravitates to low-lying areas, the worst being that on the uphill dogleg left 15th, with drives burying into the wet ground. One ball disappeared. The greens were unaffected though and putting rather well. Only one greenside bunker, right of No 2, was damaged.
Stuart McLean
20 January 2024
The fairways on the West are surprisingly lush and green, in beautiful condition for early summer in Gauteng. The fairway lies are excellent. It also means the rough is punishingly thick in places, notably around the greens. Right of No 3 I could hardly move the ball forward, while in other places it leapt out like a bolting rabbit. This is a quality design in so many respects, having such a variety of holes to keep everyone interested: ever-changing direction, distances and elevation, variety of greens, the clever placement of greenside bunkers. Fairway bunkers are notably absent, except on three holes (11-12-15) where they dictate the line to be taken off the tee.
Thomas Souness
08 December 2023
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Royal West has a significant number of excellent holes in a beautiful setting which for me makes it one of Gauteng's finest parkland layouts. A most attractive walk. So much balanced variety in the design. Doglegs, elevation changes, water hazards that are seriously in play, four exceptional par 3s. Four particularly strong par 4s at No 3 and No 5, No 13 and No 16, balanced out by a mix of other interesting 4s. One of the best clubhouses in SA.
Dieter ten Haag
02 December 2023
The West's new 777 bent grass greens have been open for six months and sad to see the number of unrepaired pitch marks which have scarred many. Fixing pitch marks is obviously not within the remit of some golfers today. Or raking bunkers. The West's new greenside bunkers are terrific by the way, attractively shaped and mostly substantial. I didn't visit any fairway bunkers, but there are only a handful. A feature of playing the West is their absence, and the quality of the design means they are probably not needed. So many good holes here, and I'm amused when golfers describe the West as an "easy" layout. Yes, perhaps in comparison to the East Course, but I found it easy to make bogeys. Part of the problem may have been the surprising slowness of the greens. They didn't look freshly cut. I'm told they are being protected as they settle in, yet moderately extra pace would make them more fun and interesting.
Stuart McLean
29 May 2023
Changes to improve the course were disappointingly limited in the 2022 upgrade of the Royal West greens and bunkers, and the club appears to have missed an opportunity to reshape weaker holes and introduce more new bunkers other than that on the par-5 11th (previously the second). And regretfully the cross bunker on this hole has been removed. It was a key defence of the hole and its absence has reduced the hole's aesthetics. The new greens are firm and may take a while to become receptive to approach shots. The West remains an enjoyable day out, although we had poor service at halfway.
Jon James
25 January 2023
An excellent upgrade to the reconfigured West course (the nines have been reversed), plus the addition of some classy touches (new distance markers) that enhances the playing experience. The Royal team take small details into account, focusing not only on the two courses, but everything a golfer experiences after entering the property. The new greens need time to settle and were springy, making it almost impossible to stop an approach shot or even a chip. The West is still enjoyable though, and more playable than the East Course for the average golfer.
Chris Wood
31 December 2022
Being tasked this year with upgrading a West Course that has been around for 100 years could not have been an easy proposition. However, Royal Johannesburg CEO Chris Bentley and his team, working with Agrano Turf, have achieved a notable success. The West has long existed in the shadow of the championship East Course but the upgrades to greens and bunkers have narrowed the gap. Along with significant aesthetic improvements and minor layout and directional changes, the West may well now be the club golfer's preferred course to play. Royal resisted any urge to make a major redesign and have retained the West's architecture more or less as it has been since several alterations were implemented some years ago. What one sees now is a beautiful parkland course that encompasses modern conditioning, playability and varying challenges depending on one’s choice of tee boxes. With the addition of a first-class restaurant, Old Oak, and a new halfway house, which provide excellent service and cuisine, Royal Johannesburg must rank as one of SA's finest golfing facilities.
Roy Jones
23 December 2022
The West is always enjoyable, usually offering consistently good levels of playability and conditioning throughout the year. The heavy rains have impacted the course's lower areas though: the third and 15th were waterlogged. The West's strength lies in the good design variety of the par 3s which range from 100 to 185 metres. The short fifth demands precision while the eighth may require a long club. The two most testing holes are the par-4s seventh (stroke 1) and 12th (stroke 2). Each lives up to the stroke index. Significant work is ongoing around the Royal clubhouse, and hopefully will improve the halfway house service. The only course-related drawbacks on the West relate to its current conditioning. The tee boxes are poor by Royal standards (they need levelling) and the greens frustratingly slow and uneven. Reviewers have commented on the inconsistency of the putting surfaces on both East and West courses. Attention to these flaws would improve the overall experience.
Jon James
21 March 2022
Royal's status as one of the best clubs to be a member is confirmed by having two such magnificent courses to choose from. The West Course is awesome, always challenging, and fun to play. In great condition too and it drains better than the East Course.
Graham Jones
29 January 2022
The West Course is often described as the easier-to-play sibling of the East Course at Royal, yet it's a good challenge in its own right, and a comfortable fit for both low and high handicaps. Probably more forgiving off the tee than the East, and nowhere near as long. The West has a better set of par 3s in my opinion, each of them special holes. On the front nine you have the contrast between playing the short fifth -- 88 metres to a front pin on the day I played -- and the daunting eighth, one of the best par 3s in South Africa, which was over 200 metres to a testing back pin where the green has considerable slope to negotiate. The 13th is another long par 3 from a high tee to a large green guarded by a deep bunker on the right, while the 16th plays across water to a wide shelf of a green offering a variety of pin positions. Creative design thinking went into this quartet of wonderful holes.
Stuart McLean
26 November 2021
Played on a glorious May day. Fairways still green but getting some run. Greens have recovered well from recent aerating programme and were very good. A wonderful course to play as it is not too difficult.
Michael Faber
19 May 2021
Royal West presents a well balanced and enjoyable golfing test. Fairways, greens and rough are in very good condition, but the teeing areas are not kept to anything like the same standard. It’s a pity that the excellent greens are slow, as speedier greens would add greatly to the challenge and enjoyment in playing this course.
Mark Lynam
10 March 2021
RJK West is suitable for all levels of golfers. While RJK East has its emphasis on length, West emphasises Playability and Shotmaking with a variety of interesting and challenging holes. It's no wonder the senior category of members much prefer this course. Conditioning is excellent which adds to the altogether enjoyable golf experience.
Terry Knight
21 January 2021
Always an excellent experience playing either course at Royal. The West was in superb condition, greens a little slower than you would expect but they held approach shots well. Stunning scenery around the course.
Craig Gunther
19 January 2021
The West Course is often considered as "the least" compared with "the beast" or East Course, and not a destination in its own right. For the average golfer, though, from 8 handicap up, the West is far more playable, still challenging and enjoyable. The Poa greens are in superb condition with an average stimp reading of 10 depending on ambient weather conditions. The bunkers have a low rating due to sand inconsistency but remain playable.
Vaughan Sammons
22 December 2020
The West is supposed to be the easier of the two courses at Royal. Don't let that lull you into a false sense of security as there are some really difficult holes. Overall it may be shorter than the East, yet there are some special and very hard holes. The stroke 1, No 7, may be the most difficult of the 36 at Royal. A few dogleg holes make it play differently to the East. The East may be brilliant, but the West is considered more fun to play.
Doron Neuhaus
18 November 2020
The West Course holds its own against the East at Royal. Fantastic layout and usually well conditioned all year round. Easier than the East but don't let that fool you about the challenge.
Sandor Kovacs
16 April 2020
The West is supposedly the easier of the two courses at Royal, yet it has several challenging holes, and even one of SA's shortest par 3s scares most handicap golfers.
Sabelo Ndabazandile
27 February 2020
Course in excellent condition ??️
Henry Trevena
13 February 2020
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