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Royal Port Alfred

Port Alfred - Eastern Cape

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General Manager: Corrie van Zyl
Greenkeeper: Butch Lee
Club captain: Terry Counihan
President: Noel Stotter
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 61.5 out of 100
Conditioning12.4 / 20
Playability12.0 / 20
Aesthetics12.5 / 15
Design Variety9.2 / 15
Shot Values7.5 / 15
Memorability7.9 / 15

Course Summary

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

Affiliated R330
Non-affiliated R360

Course designer

Laurie Waters 1914;
Bob Grimsdell 1950s

Contact

046 624 4796
www.rpagc.co.za

Previous ranking

98

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

Course Record

64 by Steven van Heerden,
Riekus Nortje in 2010 EP-Border champs

Feature Holes

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.

Accommodation

The club website has a list of recommendations.

Practice Facility

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.

Club Champions

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
Conditioning Ratings
Greens
Bunkers
Tees
Fairways
Presentation
Overall Conditioning
Facility Ratings
Pace of Play
Practice Range
Halfway House
Pro Shop
Service
Locker Room
19th Hole
Course Etiquette
Course Reviews

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.

keith simpson
22 July 2021
Quite an experience on this demanding course. Always in good nick and a pleasure to play.
Sandor Kovacs
06 April 2021
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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.
mike stadler
14 February 2021
The course is a pleasure to play. Some breathtaking scenery, memorable holes, wide fairways. The greens need some help though.
Megan McCallum
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.
Sabelo Ndabazandile
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.
Stuart McLean
05 November 2020
A proper links. One of our most historic courses.
Greg Hart
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.
Keith Simpson
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.
Sandor Kovacs
28 April 2020
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