Royal Durban Golf Club
By Neville Leck Last updated: 3rd December 2012
Royal Durban Golf Club, where the 2013 Race to Dubai gets underway this week with the inaugural Nelson Mandela championship, is unique to South Africa - and possibly the world.
That's because it is built in the centre of a racecourse in the very heart of a busy port city - Duban's renowned Greyville Racecourse, home of the famed Durban July handicap horse race.
In the words used by the club on it's official website, this helps to make it "an oasis of calm amidst a bustling city".
Yet, at the same time, it's website continues, the club is so centrally situated, it is "the ideal place to meet clients or friends for breakfast, lunch or a round of golf".
At just 6 115 metres (6 688 yards) Royal Durban's course by modern-day standards is a short one, but in Durban's humid, sub tropical atmosphere where there is little run on it's lush fairways, it is said that it more often plays closer to 6 500 metres (7 109 yards).
Bob Grimsdale, the renowned, early 20th century South African golf course architect who was responsible for converting what was originally not much more than a goat track into a championship golf course in the 1930s, was unable to use clumps of trees and mounding as course defenses as these would have obscured the view of the Greyville race goers, but to his great credit, his course is anything but a pushover.
Narrow fairways, some wicked kikuyu rough, a series of cleverly placed bunkers, and the gentle, but hard to read contours of its greens ensures that its seeming simplicity is, in truth, so mysteriously difficult that, more often than not, it leaves those golfers unaccustomed to its hard-to-spot defenses shaking their heads and wondering just how and where they went wrong.
In short, hitting fairways and reading the greens correctly on the cynodon fairways and greens of this 18-hole, par-72 course is absolutely vital to making good scores, especially when the sea breezes get up and give it even more teeth, it is not altogether surprising that over the years only a handful of the world class golfers who have tackled it in events like the Commonwealth Tournament in 1975 where Nick Faldo competed at the tender age of eighteen, have managed to break 280.
Three holes you might best remember after playing on this always well manicured course are the:
- The short 11th which, though considered Royal's easiest hole, is a stroke-18 that is never as easy as it looks. Barely 140 metres in length, the target at the end of it has the habit of shrinking and it's four greenside bunkers are always kept busy.
- The 468-yard 7th hole is considered to be the most difficult par four on the course. It's as long as it sounds and some the tall palm trees can spell disaster for the sliced or blocked tee shot.
-The 18th 483-yard par five is normally well within reach of a second shot after a good, clean drive, but a drainage canal, a huge fig tree and three well-placed fairway bunkers can all prove problematic if you are not careful and overall the 18th makes for a fine finishing hole.
You can get the facts and figures about all 18 holes at Royal Durban Golf Club's website by clicking here
Royal Durban Golf Club was first launched in 1892 as the Durban Golf Club, after a local bank manager, John Watt, approached the town council with the request that a golf club be established in Durban.
Permission was granted and a links design course was laid out on a piece of ground inside the Greyville Racecourse.
Durban's first course was a far cry from the pristine, professionally landscaped piece of real estate it is today
The greens consisted of scuffed, hard clay surfaces and the fairways were made up of indigenous grasses cut by a reaper drawn by oxen. Worse still the course, with little or no drainage, was often flooded, making play impossible
Then, in 1932, the Durban Golf Club was rebuilt.
A smart, new clubhouse replaced the original wood and iron shanty that had served its members as their 19th hole for 40 years, and Grimsdell was brought in to build a properly-drained championship course of international standards.
As already mentioned, he was highly restricted by what he could do, but he managed - and so much so that his work culminated in one of the club's proudest moments.
This when, on April 8, 1932, following a visit from Edward VIII, the then Prince of Wales in 1925, Durban Golf Club was granted permission to use the prefix "Royal", making it one of only four golf clubs in southern Africa to obtain this honour.
Unlike so many of the latest golf estate clubs, Royal Durban does not offer fancy restaurants and sushi bars. It has no gym, wellness centre or massage parlour, but as a golf club pure and simple, it's upgraded 1930s clubhouse does have a wonderfully hospitable players bar, well appointed locker rooms, and a professional pro-shop.
Although this is a members club, visitors are welcomed. The current green fees are:
- For golfers affiliate to the SAGA: R235.00
- For Non-affiliated golfers: R350.00
- For visitors playing with a member: R185.00
Green Fee Specials
Early Morning Golf (Monday to Friday) - Tee off between 07h00 and 08h30 for R110.00.
Sunset Golf (Monday to Friday) - Tee off from 16h30 for R60.00 (for as many holes as the light allows).
To make a booking, phone 031 309 1530
9 Holes: R110 (2 players per cart)
18 Holes: R220 (2 players per cart)
Must be booked through the Pro Shop (031 309 2581)
9 Holes: Minimum of R80.00
18 Holes: Minimum of R140.00 and R25.00 for refreshments at half way
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