Durban Golf Club dates back to 1892 when a course was laid out inside the rails of the city’s Greyville horse racing track.
In the late 1920s, the layout often became waterlogged and this led to the installation of a drainage system, which feeds into a small canal that runs through the middle of the property, and this storm drain now separates some holes but has to be crossed at others.
Around the same time, Bob Grimsdell redesigned a new 18-hole course on land that was now no longer subject to regular flooding and so, in 1932, a new chapter began in the club’s history when a new clubhouse was built and King George V granted a Royal prefix.
Fairways are relatively flat here but don’t be fooled by the benign topography as there are plenty of subtle undulations, small water hazards, palm trees and strategically positioned greenside bunkers to maintain interest in the layout.
The routing is configured in two returning 9-hole loops and, interestingly, a road that bisects the course – Durban Light Infantry Avenue – has to be crossed during a round.
In this extract from the book South African Golf Courses: A Portrait of the Best author Stuart McLean writes: “The club is entered through a historical gateway which stands as a memorial to those members who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars. The clubhouse is a distinguished piece of architecture, with a long veranda which overlooks the course.
The front nine take in the perimeter of the course, bordering the racetrack in an anti-clockwise direction. It does not pay to slice the ball as the out-of-bounds area looms on the right-hands side of the course for most of the front nine. On the back nine it is a relief to play in the middle of the course and the three par-fives help improve scores.”
The 468-yard 7th is a long par four (converted from a par five) that many golfers consider to be the toughest on the course, even though the preceding hole is ranked stroke index 1. The short par four 9th is another fine hole, with a green located close to the racetrack rails.
On the back nine, five bunkers protect the green of the 153-yard 11th and the other par three at the 15th plays to a two-tier putting surface. Ranked the hardest hole on the inward half, the 17th is often played into a prevailing wind to a narrow, unyielding green.
The old clubhouse at Royal Durban Golf Club is famed for its hospitality and visitors are always welcome to mix with members to discuss how they got on when they walk in from the 18th green.
In December 2012 the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship was held at the Royal Durban Golf Club. It was the first event on the European Tour’s 2013 Race to Dubai calendar but sadly poor weather resulted in the tournament being cut to 36 holes and the course reduced to a par of 65 due to waterlogged fairways. However, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson took full advantage, winning the title and recording his maiden European Tour win.