On the first day of February this year I found myself standing on the 2nd tee box of Durban Country Club.
The sun was shining, the surf was crashing, Kings Park and Moses Mabhida were positively glowing. The only downside was that instead of holding a golf club in my hand, I had a microphone.
I was talking to Errol Stewart, one of the most gifted sportsmen ever to come out of this country and now the chairman of DCC. He was doing his best to downplay the fact that 2022 marks the centenary of my favourite golf course, but when the head of the R&A arranges to fly in for dinner to celebrate the event, even Errol had to admit that this was, perhaps, out of the ordinary.
The magic date is actually 9 December, so you have time to emulate the head of the R&A in paying your respects. The best way to do that, of course, is to book a round of golf. A quarter of a century ago I was fortunate enough to play 18 holes at DCC with the great Denis Hutchinson. While I chopped my way around, Hutchy serenely beat his age and shared tales of the old days of DCC.
He played at the notorious Natal Open of 1965, when Papwa Sewgolum was presented with the trophy outside in the rain. These days you can read about Papwa on the walls of DCC, but in 1965 non-whites were not allowed across the threshold. If you want to find out more, read Barry Cohen’s biography of Papwa, Let Me Play.
As with many of our golf clubs, DCC has been through some tough times over the past decade. Errol tells me things started to look up just before lockdown, when the decision was made to rent out some of the rooms of the grand clubhouse as office space. I can imagine a few bodies spinning in their graves with that news, but it has unquestionably rejuvenated the old lady.
The presence of businesspeople immediately increased the turnover of the catering section and the extra income from food and rental funded attempts to return the course to past glories. The direct consequence of which was the recent Jonsson Workwear Open, the first major event to be played at DCC since 2013.
I spoke to Nick Jonsson, the CEO of the company that bears his family name. Nick has been a member at DCC for 40 years and his grandfather was one of the founding members in 1922. Old man Jonsson, said Nick, was a late convert to golf, after moving down from the family farm in the Midlands. Such was his belated devotion to the dimpled ball, however, that he won the club champs at DCC and Royal Durban in the same year.
It was Nick’s idea to host the press conference on the 2nd tee box, from where it was difficult to disagree with his statement that this was the best view in Durban. May I be the first, but by no means the last, to wish DCC a very happy centenary.
– This column first appeared in the March 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!