SOUTH AFRICAN GOLF HISTORY
Far from par: brief history of golf in South Africa.
Golf arrived in South Africa sometime in 1885, even before it was played in America only two years later. South Africa’s first golf was played at Waterloo Green in Wynberg Cape Town, under the name Cape Golf Club. This is an area of land between where you’ll find Wynberg Military Camp and Victoria Hospital along Waterloo Road in Wynberg. Peter Sourman, the author of the book A History of Golf in South Africa, a must read for golf lovers.
From the Rondebosch Common, the Cape Golf Club moved to its current home adjacent to the Wynberg Military facility and has since been called Royal Cape Golf Club, the oldest golf club in South Africa.
In 1892, the first National Golf Championship was held in Kimberly in the Northern Cape, and the first South African Open Championship in Port Elizabeth in 1903, after many exhibition tournaments of same was played over the preceding 10 years. The SA Open as it is known today, takes place at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City, and is thus one of the oldest Open Championship tournaments in the world. Yes, in the whole world!
In 1910, the South African Golf Union (S.A.G.U.) was formed. The South African Ladies Golf Union (S.A.L.G.U.) was formed in 1914.
The first great boost for South African golf was in 1959, when the Commonwealth Golf Tournament took place at the Royal Johannesburg Club.
Bobby Locke got South African golf on the world map, won 13 tournaments, the British Open four times and won the South African Open at the tender age of 17.
In 1970, female golfer, Sally Little posted the best individual score at the World Team Championship in Madrid.
Gary Player, a nine-time major winner, will forever be associated with two of the greatest players in the history of the game, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Together, those three took golf to another level, pulling millions of new fans to the game with their great battles down the years.
Ernie Els is undoubtedly one of the most popular golfers in the world. He is also one of the best. His apparently easy-going appearance has earned him the nickname “The Big Easy.” Although Els says that perception is not quite right, he admits to feeling big pressure, just like everyone else. Ernie’s big wins have come as the victor of the U.S. Open in 1994, 1997 and The Open Championship in 2002.
Retief Goosen is a quiet man—the only real noise he makes is by his achievements on the golf courses of the world.
He has been a regular top 10 ranked player for some time and, like Els, he fares well wherever he plays. Goosen captured the US Open title in 2001 and 2004, he is also a two-time winner of the European Order of Merit. The man who stopped his three-peat was Ernie Els.
The Els-Goosen pair won the World Cup of Golf for South Africa in 2001, but more recently it was another South African pair that did the trick. Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman won at Kiawah Island in 2003 to give the country two victories in the last three times the competition has been held.
Trevor Immelman seems to be battling with Ernie Els for top South African golfer with his 2008 Masters win.
A very healthy local tour has been established, known as the Sunshine Tour.
An event that stands out in the minds of many is the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. The first golf tournament to offer a first-place prize of $2 million USD, it has since gone on to be a destination of choice for those among the world’s top golfers invited to contest it towards the end of each year.
The country boasts fantastic courses in a wonderful variety of stunning settings, and the golf tourism industry is just starting to hot up.