Royal Port Alfred
Port Alfred - Eastern Cape
General Manager: Sally Greasley
Greenkeeper: Butch Lee
Club captain: Mark Warren
President: Noel Stotter
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 62.3 out of 100
Conditioning12.4 / 20
Playability12.0 / 20
Aesthetics12.5 / 15
Design Variety9.5 / 15
Shot Values7.5 / 15
Memorability8.4 / 15
Three tees / Par 72
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
Visitor green fee
Laurie Waters 1914;
Bob Grimsdell 1950s
046 624 4796
94 (2021) & 98 (2020)
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.
Additional Course Facts
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.
2021 Meeka de Sousa & Chante van Zyl
2020 Meeka de Sousa & Angela Trollip
2019 Benjamin Burger & Lynette West
Did You Know
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.
Course and Facilities Rating
This is Eastern Cape golf's hidden secret. My first sight of the course from the clubhouse was of rolling hills and wide open spaces, offering a feel of freedom. Royal Port Alfred is well designed with some tricky holes requiring skill and accuracy. The greens resemble upturned saucers so if you are slightly off line the ball tends to run off down a swale. The fairways are generously wide and the rough cut short, so longer hitters can try and drive some par 4s. The greens have nap so you have to watch the shine which will indicate which way the grass is lying. They are smooth and consistent to putt on and quick down grain. The fairways hadn’t been cut due to a lack of rain as there is only irrigation around the greens. The course is well maintained with lots of attention to detail around the greens. Neat and tidy and a pleasure to play. The clubhouse catering is excellent. Bram's at the 19th serves an excellent breakfast and lunch at reasonable prices.
28 June 2022
Royal Port Alfred has become an impressively conditioned course over the past year, and I've rarely seen the greens running as true and flowingly as they are now. What a difference it makes to such an interesting layout. I visited soon after the annual Mad Hatter tournament, the club's popular festival week, and that may have been the reason. Playing this ancient layout (used for golf since 1907) is an enriching experience because it's all about dealing with the natural elements of wind and hilly terrain, ignoring the distances you normally hit certain clubs. At the 290m uphill 15th into the breeze I had to convince myself that a 6-iron was the club from 100 metres out, and still left it short of the pin. That's the difference between golf in the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape. The two destinations adjoin each other, yet one is manicured and predictable modern golfing heaven and the other is wild, anachronistic and quirky. How lucky we are to have both to enjoy.
24 May 2022
I finally managed a round at RPA and absolutely loved it despite the inclement weather (on a day when many brave souls were playing 36 holes in the EP Country Districts). Despite the rain the course played firm with bounce, sadly a rarity these days. The contours and shaping are classic links-style and require consideration in shot-making. There are many impressive swales and hollows like the one in front of the second green known as Hippo's Bath. RPA has a lovely collection of par 3s with one downhill, one across a valley, one uphill and one pretty much flat. The day I played there was considerable variance in the length of each which added interest. Aesthetically the views are lovely with great birdlife and wildlife (springbok, impala, blesbok) adding to the ambience. Royal reminded me of the type of course you find in remote seaside towns in Scotland. The club has a strong sense of tradition but not in a stuffy way. Friendly staff and members eager to hear how I enjoyed the course. Added bonus is that I walked 18 in a touch over two hours.
31 March 2022
When the wind gusts (and it does more often than not) Royal Port Alfred is a challenging layout. Overall conditioning good, but greens need some attention.
07 January 2022
A seaside course blessed with a rich variety of interesting holes, Royal is always fun to play, whatever the weather conditions. The first hole, named after one of the club's best remembered members, Hugh Kelly, is what I regard as a perfect opener for the round to follow. At 294 metres you have the luxury of taking any club you like off the elevated tee, depending on how bold or cautious you feel. Beware, however, of the out-of-bounds fence right if you're planning to rip a driver. It has claimed many victims. The scorecard suggests a short layout, yet unless it's a calm day you can be fooled by the distances due to the elevation changes which are a feature. Currently it's in excellent condition, well grassed and superbly presented.
06 November 2021
A must play course for Eastern Cape visitors, and the Royal St Andrews Hotel across the road from the entrance to the golf club offers superb accommodation.
22 July 2021
Quite an experience on this demanding course. Always in good nick and a pleasure to play.
06 April 2021
I am a club member, preferring to drive 65km to Port Alfred than play my nearest local course. Friendly club with spectacular sea views. I have enjoyed playing in the 1820 and KGB social events and will miss the camaraderie. The wind can make it a beast, but on a calm day a decent golfer will enjoy its generous fairways and minimal rough. Rain obviously helps any course, and sometimes the fairways can get worn, but it remains an exceptional place to play and easy to recommend.
14 February 2021
The course is a pleasure to play. Some breathtaking scenery, memorable holes, wide fairways. The greens need some help though.
13 February 2021
Really enjoyed this course, though some of the holes were confusing for a first-time visitor and required a local caddy to understand. Some challenging holes and the wind made it even more interesting. Noticed a springbok lamb taking its first steps. Look forward to returning again. Didn't get to use the traditional halfway house at the eighth green, which only opens on certain busy days, but it has a great location.
09 December 2020
It's remarkable how challenging this course can be in windy conditions, particularly the easterly where only two holes are straight downwind. You have to mostly deal with tricky crosswinds. But even in a big wind it is eminently playable. One of the enjoyable features of Royal Port Alfred is its quirkiness, and hopefully that will always remain. Please don't change it. Whale's Back (No 10) would never be built today, but it's a hole golfers never forget. There are a number of blind shots to greens, yet this is part of the course's charm, as is the curious routing of holes which returns the 13th to the clubhouse. You don't come here for design conventionality, but to experience something different. Currently the course is green after good rains, with the fairways beautifully covered.
05 November 2020
A proper links. One of our most historic courses.
12 July 2020
A gem worth travelling a distance to play. An all-round wonderful golfing experience on the road less travelled. Add it to an Eastern Cape links experience. You won't be sorry.
03 June 2020
It's worth the 155-kilometre drive from PE to play here. Greens usually good, fairways generous. Some tough holes, some easy ones; all-in-all a good experience every time.
28 April 2020
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