Wanderers is one of the iconic golf clubs in South Africa due to having been the permanent host for 23 years of what used to be the country’s premier tournament, the Lexington PGA Championship. This annual showcase at the Wanderers from 1972 to 1995 drew large galleries to follow famous American and British golfers competing against South Africa’s finest.
The winners included five major champions – Gary Player and Ernie Els, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin and Corey Pavin. And many leading South Africans have their names on the trophy: Dale Hayes three times (1974-76), Hugh Baiocchi, John Bland, Bobby Cole, Fulton Allem, Tony Johnstone, Mark McNulty and David Frost. The PGA had such status that the winner was invited to the World Series of Golf at Firestone in Ohio.
Today the Wanderers remains one of Gauteng’s most beautiful parkland courses, its undulating fairways lined with majestic rows of distinctive mature trees, primarily oak, ash, birch, chestnut, elm, camphor and stinkwood. By modern standards it’s now a shortish course, yet tight enough off the tee to trouble most golfers.
A R2-billion development with Investec Property is planned for the Wanderers in 2021 which will entail the loss of the par-4 ninth hole bordering Rudd Road. A new clubhouse will be constructed and the course will be changed and upgraded, with new water features being built.
The golf club owns the property, yet for many years it was part of the greater Wanderers Club. It owes its prime position in upmarket Illovo to the foresight of Victor Kent, who in the 1930s purchased the land so the club could move out of central Johannesburg, and add golf for its members. The course opened with 10 holes in 1939, designed by Bob Grimsdell and club member Felix Oliver, with 18 completed a few years later.
Three of the original holes were lost when the Wanderers Stadium was built in the 1950s. The course has three par 5s, with a par of 71.