It’s not fashionable today but there was a time when it was popular for golf clubs to name the holes on their course or to assign particularly mean-sounding sobriquets for parts of their course which most troubled golfers. Hell Bunker on the Old Course at St Andrews, the Devil’s Arsehole at Pine Valley. I like the lesser known Lion’s Mouth on the Old Course, a yawning grass bunker fronting the 13th green.
It’s rare nowadays to find golf clubs in South Africa which still retain hole names on their scorecards. On my travels around the country in 2020 I only found two that still maintain the practice, Royal Port Alfred and Mbombela.
Royal’s names are ancient, an eclectic mix of notable members’ names (I love Vroom which so perfectly describes the high-flying tee shots you can hit at the downhill 16th) and vivid descriptions of unusual holes such as Whale Back, Hippo’s Bath and Southern Cross.
Mbombela has gone for the botanic option, naming each of their holes after 18 indigenous trees found on the bushveld course. If you have a 2 at the 17th you can say that you birdied the Knobbly Fig. Following the same theme, Glendower has named each hole after a species of bird seen on the property, although the names are not on the scorecard.
Highland Gate in the fly fishing region of Mpumalanga has original and unusual names for each of their holes, on the tees, like Black Ghost and Wooly Bugger. They are the names of trout flies, most of which are stocked at The Village Angler in Dullstroom.
Wild Coast Sun has the hole names on the tee boxes, mostly relating to the casino, founder members and hotel managers from the 1980s, while Umdoni Park and Prince’s Grant have recently removed the hole names from their scorecards. Why the first at Prince’s Grant was called Temper Tantrum is a mystery. It’s more appropriate for the controversial 13th, where over the years many golfers have pulled their hair out.
Umdoni’s names are reflective of the KZN South Coast club being 100 years old in 2020. The club was founded when the Boer War and Great War were recent events. The fifth hole is named after Dick King, who rode this trail on horseback in his epic 1842 journey from Durban to Grahamstown. Tiger (No 17) recalls another 19th century incident where a leopard wounded one of the local gentry, while Majuba and Delville Wood commemorate famous battles in long-ago wars.
Majuba was a common term in earlier days for any uphill par 3, and the 12th at Umdoni Park is just such an anachronism. The par-3 fourth at nearby Umkomaas GC, another hilly layout, is also known as Majuba.
Fancourt Links have had names for their holes since the course was opened 21 years ago, and Kilimanjaro is a name in the same vein as Majuba, to describe the hilltop green at this unusual tenth hole. Wee Wrecker is an apt description for the short par-4 14th.
Some clubs have individual holes that have gained renowned names over the years for some significant moment, like Durban CC’s Prince of Wales, the hazardous short 12th where the young prince took 17 shots to hole out on his 1925 visit (at the time it was the tenth hole, and there used to be a halfway house behind the green).
Several courses other than Augusta National have an Amen Corner to signify a tricky stretch of holes on the back nine, among them Knysna GC which has an Amen Corner sign on their tenth tee to alert you to the trouble ahead.
San Lameer has Crown Eagle Valley, a challenging four-hole stretch from No 14 to 17. Course designer Peter Matkovich has a quote on the board on the tee of the par-3 14th: “The difference between winning and losing begins here . . . use wisdom, or you may stumble.”
However, your golf on this stretch may be distracted by the possibility of catching a glimpse of the Crowned Eagles themselves, a magnificent pair named Alexander and Catherine. They have been monitored residents for many years, and successfully reared several chicks.