Royal Johannesburg & Kensington (East) - Gauteng - South Africa

Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club,
1 Fairway Avenue,
Linksfield North,
Johannesburg 2119,
South Africa

  • +27 (0) 11 640 3021

  • Golf Club Website

  • Exit 116 from N3 eastern bypass

  • Welcome, except Saturdays and Sunday mornings

It came as something of a shock to the system when Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golf clubs merged in 1998 to form the one club – after all, had both clubs not been established more than 100 years before?

Proceeds from the sale of the Kensington property went towards upgrading the clubhouse and the two courses on the Johannesburg site, allowing the amalgamated club to face up to the new golfing challenges that await in the new millennium.

The West course is the shorter of the two courses (though they each measure in excess of 7,000 yards) and both are fine examples of metropolitan parkland layouts. The East is the tougher of the two (hosting the South African Open seven times between 1946 and 1986) and it was completed in 1935 by Robert Grimsdell, probably South Africa’s most prominent golf course architect and resident pro at “the Royal” for over twenty years.

The club’s centenary book, published in 1990, indicates C. H. Alison was consulted on a few occasions, firstly in 1935 when he was designing the course at Glendower. In 1948, the book says the club “had found that Alison was living in Durban. The old man had emphysema and his doctor had advised he spend time in a warm climate. A new commission was quickly arranged and for 200 guineas a report on both courses was promised”.

A special meeting was called when the report was produced and a resolution passed to the effect that “the courses be altered exactly in the way the report specified.” Alison came to the club and stayed with the club secretary Charles Coetzer at his house on the property. “Each day Coetzer drove him wherever he wanted to go on the courses.” When asked why he wanted to fill in a fairway bunker, Alison replied: “The bunker doesn’t work hard enough. Bunkers must work and earn their keep, for they are costly to maintain.”

The East is famed for its fearsome start to the inward half, with back-to-back par fours over 500 yards in length at the 10th and 11th holes. The latter, in particular, is regarded as one of the hardest holes in South Africa. Played downhill from the tee, the fairway doglegs smartly to the right where the approach has to carry across water before making it to the safety of a distant green.

Host venue to the Joburg Open since 2007, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club was able to lay claim (for a couple of years) to being the only golf club visited by the European Tour where more than one course was used for a single event. The Joburg Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship were the only two events on the European Tour International Schedule where two or more courses were used and the Alfred Dunhill Championship is spread across three separate clubs – St Andrews (Old), Carnoustie (Championship) and Kingsbarns. However, in 2010 the Singapore Open joined the party, where the event was played across Sentosa’s Serapong and Tanjong courses.

The East course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington reopened in January 2018 after an upgrade by Golf Data which was overseen by Robbie Marshall in collaboration with Royal CEO Chris Bentley, superintendent Shaun Brits and club officials Alan Field and Gordon Ogden. The East now measures 7,592 yards from the tips, making it one of the longest courses on the European Tour. The West course measures a more modest 7,237 yards!

Stuart McLean, former editor of Golf Digest South Africa, told us: “Those expecting to see radical changes to the East Course when it was reopened may have been disappointed. Traditionalists will be relieved that Bob Grimsdell’s design masterpiece has not been messed around with. All changes are subtle ones. Instead, what we see with this upgrade is an entirely new vision of Royal East. It’s the attention to detail and many attractive 'little things' that have transformed the layout.

Who would have thought that pruning the many large trees on the parkland property would have made such a difference in opening up the beautiful undulating vistas around the East Course? Golf Data have always been brilliant with their bunkering design, yet the quality of the new bunkers – moved further away from the tees to catch the long hitters – is exceptional, even by their standards.

The bunkering on the East Course had been criticised in recent years, golfers citing poor sand quality, so the bunkers were a priority on this project. Expensive construction techniques were paid for to improve drainage, reduce contamination, and retain the colour of the sand. The presentation of the experience at Royal J&K has been raised several notches, and it will be raised further in 2018 when a similar upgrade is completed on the West Course.

I have visited some of the world’s best courses with Golf Digest, and unhesitatingly I would say that the new-look Royal is now up there with the best of them. The club exudes class on and off its courses, from the entrance walkway to the locker rooms to its entertainment areas. It’s the kind of class you only experience at proper golf clubs. The clubhouse is still a clubhouse, not a boutique hotel."

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Reviews for Royal Johannesburg & Kensington (East)

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Description: The East course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington is famed for its fearsome start to the inward half, with back-to-back par fours over 500 yards in length at the 10th and 11th holes. Rating: 8.7 out of 10 Reviews: 3
Peter Handcock

The best course in Johannesburg and it's not even close. You have to play here if in the area.

The recent work on the bunkers has made the course outstanding. It is long, and it is tough, but if you embrace it then it is impossible to not have fun. The condition is amazing, with fairways like carpets, and greens like glass. It has a few boring holes, but enough elevation change and water to make it interesting.

The best holes are 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 18. I would say the worst hole is still a good hole though, which is a huge compliment to the course.

It measures 7700 yards from the backs, so is a very long walk. However, with the altitude, it only plays 7000.

April 28, 2020
8 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary
One of the premier classic courses in the nation’s largest city. I must admit, my first reaction after finishing the round was that I had a new found huge appreciation for the course. I watch the Joburg Open every year on television, and the course never seemed to inspire me. Oh what a difference it makes to play the course for yourself! The first 8 holes have dramatic changes in elevation, and the tall trees lining the fairways being in bloom only increase the demanding nature of the layout. The course opens with a par 5, tagged as index 18, but once you reach the second tee box, the challenge increases exponentially. The 2nd hole is a 200 meter par 3, the 3rd hole is a tight par 4 with bunkers pinching the small landing area, leaving an approach shot in a well bunkered green – possibly my favourite looking approach shot. The 4th hole is a murderous par 4 back up the hill dog-legging to the right. It is 450 yards of thrilling punishment. The opening stretch will really test every facet of your game as the holes are long, tight and tough! The front nine continues to throw tight, long, difficult holes at you and reminds you that “par” is a great score. The changes in elevation over the first 8 holes is a testament to the routing. Playing well on this course is as rewarding a feeling a golfer can get. The 10th hole is widely known as the toughest par 4 on the property. At approx. 470 meters from the members tee, this beast-like monster comes to life and is pretty much a par 5 for most players. The 11th is the signature hole and definitely the most attractive hole on the course. The fairway plays downhill and swoops to the right. The green is guarded by a pond lined with rail-road ties. The movement of this hole and the unique design contribute to an outstanding par 4. A number of the holes on the back nine run parallel, but overall, I really enjoyed my round and highly recommend it to all visitors.
September 07, 2015
8 / 10
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Chris Bentley
September 15, 2015
The East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club not only comes with rich history and tradition, but a course that displays a remarkable parkland layout. This Championship course is one of the great courses in South Africa offering various challenges to both Professional and Amateur. A true test of Golf accompanied by the most spectacular walk. This is a world’s must play golf destination. Chris Bentley, Executive General Manager Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.
Paul Jakeman
Whereas I think Glendower is a slightly better course – the East Course at Royal Jo’Burg is probably a better overall destination if you only had time to play one course in Jo’Burg. The club house, practice facilities, changing rooms, restaurant and service are all geared up to a high standard – if a little too formal for my liking. The course itself is testing and a really pleasant stroll. Plenty of water in places, lovely kept fairways – and at the right time of year with the flowers in bloom, a stunning setting. The only problem with this course – is getting on. During the week it’s fine, but as a visitor at weekends you really do need to sweet talk a member.
December 02, 2010
10 / 10
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