• Golf course review: East London Golf Club

    Golf course review: East London Golf Club

    East London Golf Club’s course is one of a handful that qualifies as an unspoiled classic that is truly timeless. This course deserves its place among the finest golf courses layouts in the land, and despite its lack of length, will always qualify as favourite among anyone who has ever played here.
    East London Golf Club’s unique view

    The East London Golf Club is situated on one of the most naturally beautiful sites in South Africa, embracing high, rolling coastal dunes between the Buffalo and Nahoon rivers on the Eastern Cape coast.

    One of the greatest views on any South African golf course layout is the vista from the 12th green, perched high on a dune, where the player can see the beachfront and the entrance to the harbour.

    Minor changes have been made to this golf course layout over the years, the most recent, four years ago, being a complete revamp of the greens (the original cynodon surfaces replaced with paspalum) and some remodeling of the bunkering by Mark Muller. Wisely, the original routing and character of the holes have remained as they were designed almost a century ago.
    The history and design of the East London Golf Club

    It is not known exactly what the course looked like before this, but one of the more quirky features of the design was limiting the par threes to a trio – all pretty good holes measuring 161, 166 and 150 metres; considerably shorter than most, but each a bit of a handful when the wind really blows.

    East London Golf Club, like Durban Country Club and Humewood, is one of the classic golf courses that date from the 1920s and 1930s, and it is easy to see why this era was considered to be something of a ‘golden age’ for golf course layout architecture.

    Besides its long and proud history of championship coastal golf in South Africa, over the years it has proved that sheer length is not a prerequisite for claiming to be a great championship test. East London Golf Club is currently the venue for the Africa Open, which forms part of the European Tour.

    The club and course are packed with some wonderful stories. This is where Ernie Els first came to prominence as a 16-year-old in the 1986 SA Amateur Championship, and where the late Indian golfing legend Papwa Sewgolum was allowed to play in his first South African Open in 1961. The list of champions at East London Golf Club is an impressively long one. Apart from Els they include Locke, Sid Brews, Gary Player, Mark McNulty, Retief Goosen and South Africa’s two most recent Major champions, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who were victors in the Africa Open.
    East London Golf Club’s golf course layout

    In fairness, the golf course layout probably has too many short par fours to be considered a serious challenge for the modern golfer, professional or amateur, but it has no shortage of variety and interest. Its attraction lies in the remoteness of many of the holes, carved through magnificent indigenous coastal bush and over undulating terrain.

    Round one at East London Golf Club gets off to an interesting start – an uphill par five that has one of the most wicked greens on the course – its severely sloping surface demanding full attention, followed by the first and only par three on the outward loop. In a fierce crosswind, this short hole, played steeply downhill, can be a lot more difficult than its length might suggest, and just hitting the large green can be something of a challenge.

    The back nine is longer and more open, and it concludes with the strikingly unique par-four 18th, where the fairway banks sharply left down a steep hill, usually leaving a downhill lie second to the green.

    The clubhouse stands prominently on high ground overlooking the hole, where golfers that have completed their round have a great vantage point of the golf course layout that allows them to watch the players coming home as they sip their libations.

    The walks along East London Golf Club’s fabled fairways are well worth the modest greenfee, and if you happen to flatter your ability by scoring better than your handicap suggests, this is a bonus. Long may this classic remain an unsullied South African golfing treasure – a tribute to one of the best architects ever to shape our soil.


    → Magnificent trees, great natural changes in elevation, and the feel of a timeless classic.
    → The sense of history.
    → The members – a friendly lot that welcome visitors.


    → Too far away from the major centres and during the past winter the paspalum greens were a little disappointing – but the golf course layout has since been rectified.



    Course – Coastal parkland, par 73, 6 191 metres.

    Designer – Colonel SV Hotchkin

    General Manager – Brendan Fourie

    Club Captain – Alan Hawkins

    Course Superintendent – Cameron van Niekerk

    Greenfees – R325 (affiliated), non-affiliated R450.

    Contact – Tel: 043 735 1356 | East London Golf Club: www.elgc.co.za

    Getting There – From the airport, take the R72 into the CBD and turn left into Fitzpatrick Road. Turn right into Moore Street and left into John Bailie Road. Turn right into Turnberry Avenue and follow the signs to the East London Golf Club.

    Article written by