MILNERTON
THREATENED
BY THE SEA

EROSION OF LAND CONTINUES
SINCE LAST WINTER'S ATLANTIC STORMS

Published by : Stuart McLean - 24 January 2024

The seaside course at Milnerton Golf Club in Cape Town is under threat from daily coastal erosion never seen before to this extent. The green of the par-4 second hole may have to be moved as a result, and the back tee box at the par-4 third has already been lost. The second green has been extended as a precaution.

Erosion has long been a concern at this popular club (it does close to 50 000 rounds a year) because of its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean beaches in Table Bay. Not just on the golf course but also the clubhouse. But the threat was heightened after last year’s extreme winter storms which saw strong tides, wind and waves eat away substantial chunks of land between the beach and the second fairway. Parts of the property were flooded.

Now, land is being lost virtually every day as strong south-easterly winds blow directly into the exposed soil under the third tee.

First fairway at Milnerton (left) and beach (right). The lighthouse is behind the clubhouse.

Only two other courses in South Africa come as close to the beach as Milnerton, and they only do so briefly at one hole. Those are Southbroom on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast (the tee of the par-3 fourth) and St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape (12th green). But Milnerton has half-a-dozen holes where the beach borders a fairway or green.

Milnerton, ranked No 86 in the Top 100, an out-and-back layout sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and an inland lagoon, can claim to being SA’s first “links” layout. It was established in 1925, four years before Humewood. Tee shots on the opening holes at Milnerton can land up on the beach if hooked powerfully enough. At one time golfers were allowed to play from the beach. Now it is out-of-bounds. The second hole has a brilliant tee box in the dunes overlooking the beach, and you then play away at an angle from the coast. However, the beach has edged 15 metres closer to the fairway since June last year.

The extent of the erosion from the sea and wind on the second fairway.

“The erosion is caused by the tides,” says Milnerton golf director Kyle Lee. “We’ve had to change the way the second hole is played, having lost 15 metres of land next to the green last winter. We have reshaped the fairway and added an additional section to the green to try and move away from the area where the erosion is taking place. As long as the tides change again this year the second green and its extension will be fine. On the third hole we’re teeing off from the club tees, about 10 metres forward from the yellow markers.

“Unfortunately we as a golf club cannot do anything about the erosion. The beach and dunes are on City of Cape Town property, and not being a public beach they are reluctant to assist in reinforcing the area. I believe they have spent R50 million on reinforcing the Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club structure, just 100 metres from our clubhouse, and that is only a temporary fix.”

Two other holes adjoining the beach, the par-3 fifth, and par-5 sixth, have been unaffected. “The tides move year to year, so these holes weren’t hit last year, but have been in the past,” said Lee.

The par-3 fifth green is close to the beach but there has not been erosion there.
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