- Top 100
- Peter Matkovich
Peter Matkovich grew up in the mining town of Shabani, close to Fort Victoria, in what was then called Southern Rhodesia. Nowadays, the town is called Zvishavane and is located in the Midlands Province of modern Zimbabwe.
He learned how to play golf at Shabani Golf Club, which was owned by the local mine company, and progressed to play many of the other courses around the country, most of which were developed by the various mining firms.
After turning professional in 1968, Peter played on the Sunshine Tour for a decade , though he also ventured further afield to Australia and Europe, where he played in the 1968 Open at Carnoustie and the 1970 Open at St Andrews.
He and his family moved to Pinetown, just inland from Durban, in 1973 before he accepted the position of club professional and course superintendent at Umhlali Country Club. It wasn’t long until he’d extended the 9-hole layout to a full eighteen holes.
Peter spent the best part of two decades dedicated to his home club, though he co-designed the course at Worcester in Western Cape with Gary Player in the late 1980s, the only time he's ever collaborated with the Black Knight.
Peter then headed along the Kwazulu-Natal coastline to Southbroom, where he designed the 18-hole course on the San Lameer Estate in 1992.
During the remainder of the 1990s, Matkovich designed another dozen courses, though they weren’t all located within South Africa.
He ventured into his native Zimbabwe on several occasions – notably at Leopard Rock then Chapman, where he redesigned the club’s 1920s layout in Harare – in addition to renovating Royal Swazi’s 18-hole course at Mbabane in Swaziland. Peter also collaborated with Nick Price on an 18-hole layout at Borrowdale Brooke in Harare.
He also travelled to Israel to convert a very short 7-hole layout to a 9-hole course for Ga’ash Golf Club in Tel Aviv in 1998 and this to date is his only non-African design.
Peter’s work rate in the Rainbow Nation was pretty intense at that time with projects spread across three provinces: Silver Lakes (1993) and Centurion(1997) in Gauteng; Prince’s Grant (1994) and Kloof (1995) in Kwazulu-Natal; and Steenberg (1995) and Arabella (1998) in Western Cape.
Into the new millennium and Peter fashioned a couple of new tracks in the Limpopo province at Zebula and Elements. Western Cape commissions also continued at Hermanus, De Zalze and Pinnacle Point, with further assignments arising closer to home in Kwazulu-Natal at Simbithi and Cotswold Downs.
Outside South Africa, Peter renovated the Muthaiga course in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005 a year after he’d set out his first course in Mauritius at Golf du Château (since renamed Heritage) and he would return to the island to create new courses at Avalon in 2016 and Mont Choisy the following year.
The Matkovich magic has also been in evidence in other parts of the continent in recent times: a 9-hole layout at Mbawa in Malawi (2012); Omeya in Namibia (2012); another 9-holer at Sea Cliff in Tanzania (2015); plus Bonanza (2017) and Kulambila (2018) in Zambia.
His only South African design effort since Ebotse in 2007 was a redesign of Somerset West in Western Cape in 2018 so it’s fair to say his output on the domestic front has slowed quite considerably from the years when he was producing at least one new course every twelve months.
Today, Matkovich Design is just one aspect of the Matkovitch Group which offers a range of services, including construction, maintenance and management. Peter’s still at the head of the organization but he’s now built a strong, committed team to look after different aspects of the business.
He’s had an informal working relationship with his good friend Dale Hayes which goes back a long way and he welcomed Louis Oosthuizen in 2016 to work alongside his design associate Louis van der Walt, a move intended to drive the company forward and perhaps expose it to more global markets in the future.
Stuart McLean, long-time Editor of Golf Digest South Africa, gave us this exclusive quote:
I’ve known Peter Matkovich for many years. I published a lengthy Q&A with him in Golf Digest in 2012 where he was most candid about his career. At that stage he had designed 22 original courses in Southern Africa, and has since gone on to build two more in Mauritius, two in Zambia, one in Namibia, and 9 holes in Zanzibar and Malawi. In 2016 he engaged former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen as a design partner, and their first collaboration will be a second 18-hole course at Heritage Resort in Mauritius.
There’s been nothing for some while in South Africa other than redesign work, although his company last year completed an entirely new back nine at Somerset West CC near Cape Town, after the club sold off land.
Matko has always been a unique thinker in his design work, so his courses include a variety of exciting and unusual holes. He’s a big proponent of risk-and-reward challenges. On most of his courses you can expect a dramatic par-5 finishing hole, usually with water hazards.
The 18 holes he conceived at Simbithi Eco Estate on the KZN North Coast, where he lives and has his offices, is an example of his willingness to try something different. It’s a par 60 “executive course,” with 13 par 3s, four par 4s and a par 5. Most entertaining and quick to play in a golf cart. Modern day golf could do with more of these concepts to popularise the game. The golf estate has been an incredible success.
Matkovich was a talented all-round sportsman as a young man. In 1966 he represented the four-man Rhodesia golf team in the biennial Eisenhower Trophy, and in 1967 played in the Rhodesian rugby team against the touring French side. He completed the ultra-distance Comrades Marathon between Durban and Maritzburg 10 times. One of his claims to fame is that he has played golf with four of the five men who have won the Grand Slam – Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. He is perhaps the only man to have both played in the Open Championship, and caddied for a champion (Gary Player).
Throughout his career Matko has had a dependable team of key people behind him, notably his head construction man, Sabine Baring-Gould.
His assistant Louis van der Walt is an astute designer in his own right, and has done a few of the recent smaller-budget Matkovich courses like Bonanza at Lusaka in Zambia.