White 5732 metres, CR70.2/125
Blue 5206 metres, CR67.7/114
Red 5000 metres, CR66.8/112
Women’s blue, CR73.5/124
Women’s red, CR72.2/121
Laurie Waters 1914;
Bob Grimsdell 1950s
046 624 4796
Royal Port Alfred is the most old-fashioned course you will find in South Africa, a scenic layout built on the dunes and hilly slopes of this Eastern Cape town with glorious views of the Indian Ocean. It has quirky holes and rugged natural features you would more likely encounter in a remote corner of the British Isles. The course has remained largely untouched for more than 100 years, and its diversity of holes will surprise the modern golfer.
Between the two world wars it was a premier club, hosting the men’s SA Championships (SA Open & Amateur) in 1922, the SA Amateur in 1932, and the SA Ladies Champs in 1927 and 1931.
The clubhouse disappears from view once you crest the hilly second fairway, and you don’t return to it until the par-3 13th, at which point many older golfers end their rounds rather than tackle the rolling terrain of the five closing holes. The halfway house is a shed in the bush at the par-3 eighth green, only open on busy days.
The holes each have their own individual names, a seldom occurrence today, although a more common practice in an earlier era. Several names honour famous members, others the sea and sky – Thalassa and Southern Cross – while some simply describe the character of a hole. The uphill tenth with its sloping fairway is Whale’s Back, while a hollow in front of the second green is Hippo’s Bath. The par-3 11th, Punch Bowl, has a sunken green.
Whale’s Back is a controversial and difficult par 4 on the side of a hill, a preserved relic which many years back was a fearsome downhill par 3. The fairway slopes steeply left to right, and the approach semi-blind to a well-guarded green.
64 by Steven van Heerden,
Riekus Nortje in 2010 EP-Border champs
Down near sea level there are three splendid holes from six to eight, a par 3 to an elevated green, a fabulous 453m par-5 up and over the dunes, and a testing par 3 from an elevated tee to a small green in a clearing. The 12th and 14th are excellent holes from high tees, while 16 to 18 are unsurpassed in their novelty. The long par-4 16th plummets downhill, and has one of the best-guarded greens. No 17 climbs back uphill to a sloping green, and 18 is a roller-coaster par 5 into a valley and back up to the green. Seven of the par 4s are less than 330 metres. Some are driveable, others play longer than their length suggests.
The club website has a list of recommendations.
The club has a 9-hole pitch-and-putt mashie course, with three alternate tees, and visitors are welcome at R10 a round. There is a practice tee where golfers can hit balls down the first or 18th fairways. Short-game area at the club entrance.
2020 Meeka de Sousa & Angela Trollip
2019 Benjamin Burger & Lynette West
1/ The membership includes many retirees, and two weekly social groups are the 1820 Society – which celebrated 50 years in 2018 and is renowned for its idiosyncrasy of playing just 13 holes – and the Kenton Golf Brotherhood (KGB), which has a Hammer & Sickle Trophy it awards to the worst fourball of the day.
2/ The clubhouse was modernised for the centenary celebrations in February 2007 which attracted representatives from more than 40 Royal clubs worldwide. The club received Royal status in 1924 with the visit of the Prince of Wales.
3/ Springbok roam the course, and the club enjoyed a rare coup when a coffee-coloured buck was sold at auction for R3-million with a batch of other animals.
4/ The annual Madhatter tournament (end April) is popular, and 997 rounds were played over six days in 2019. The 2020 event, the 25th, was cancelled. The last three days, Thursday to Saturday, are individual Stableford, with a 54-hole prize.
5/ Royal hosts the country’s biggest inter-club foursomes team event, the Kelly Foursomes, in October. It has been going 55 years. Named after the club’s biggest benefactor, the late Hugh Kelly, a former president, it attracts teams from all the Eastern Province clubs.
6/ The 3-day Royals Tournament in July is attended by members of the five Royal clubs in Southern Africa.
7/ Denis Jones won 10 consecutive club championships from 1981 to 1990.
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