From Rugged to Royal - South Africa's First Golf Club

The history of Royal Cape had its beginning on the 14th November 1885 when a meeting, chaired by Lt General Sir Henry Torrens, was held at the Castle "for the purpose of introducing the game of golf and starting a club for the same". Thus the Cape Golf Club, the first in South Africa, was born.

It was on Waterloo Green at the Wynberg Military Camp that the Club established its first home

The layout of the course is not known and it is certain that playing conditions, at their best, were rough and ready.

The first medal competition was held in August 1886 at Wynberg and a photograph of this historic occasion, showing General Torrens driving off, has survived and hangs in the Clubhouse. The General went on to win with a gross 94.

With increasing numbers of civilians taking up the game, it was decided to leave the Wynberg course to the military and in 1891 the Club moved to its second home on the Rondebosch Common. A new era in the history of the Cape Golf Club had begun. From this time the history of golf, not only at the Cape Club but throughout the Peninsula, was one of continual and rapid growth.

Many illustrious names in the early history of South African golf, and of Royal Cape in particular, began to appear on the membership list, including no less than four SA Amateur champions - Denholm Walker, winner of the first national championship played at Kimberley in 1892, Bob Law, Elbert Steyn and Gordon Stewart.

This is probably the oldest known photograph of golf being played in South Africa.
Almost certainly taken in 1886, it shows Gen. Torrens driving on the Waterloo Green Links, watched by Dr. David Gill, in the brown suit and Colonel Curtis, Officer Commanding H.M. Cavalry in Natal. Printed on porcelain, the photograph was presented to the Club by Dr. Gill shortly before his return to England in 1906.

In 1893 the Club employed its first professional, Walter Day, whose responsibilities included the upkeep of the course. Much improvement was shown and bogey for the course, which had been over 100, was gradually reduced to 88.

Notwithstanding Day's efforts with the course, the Rondebosch Common was glebe land open to the public for recreation. To maintain the course in any sort of condition with horses galloping across the greens and football being played on the fairways was well-nigh impossible. It had become essential that the Club find premises of its own.

And so a third, and dare we say final, home for the Club was found and in 1905 the move was made to the site which the Club occupies to this day. The official opening took place in 1906. By modern standards the course was pretty rugged, the spiky reeds in the rough being particularly fearsome, but with proper care it improved in leaps and bounds and in 1910 played host to the SA Open and Amateur Championships for the first time. It was in this same year that the title "Royal" was conferred on the Cape Golf Club by H M King George V in commemoration of the visit of H R H The Duke of Connaught who represented the King at the opening of the first Union of South Africa parliament.

The layout then was very different to what it is today and three holes were situated on the far side of the railway line that now forms the eastern boundary of the property. Later, however, following the acquisition of more land, this unpopular feature was eliminated and the course was redesigned very much to the layout we know today. The "new" course was opened in 1929.

Since then many improvements have been made without changing the essential nature of the course and the Club has remained on the roster of major championship venues. The South African Open has been hosted ten times, the first in 1910 as mentioned and the most recent in 1996 when Ernie Els birdied the last three holes to win by one shot. Gary Player won in 1965 when he became the first player to break 70 in all four rounds. His four-round total of 273 (69 68 67 69) was also a record for the event.

In the years 1999 to 2002 the Club hosted the Vodacom Players' Championship, the winners including Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman and Mark McNulty.



Rules of reciprocity allow full or five day members of reciprocal clubs the right to play golf at Royal Cape for the period of one week per year at a preferential green fee rate. Reciprocal members may not introduce guests to Royal Cape and are advised to make advance bookings for golf in the summer season. All golfers claiming reciprocity rights must have an up-to-date letter of introduction from their home club giving their membership status and handicap. Members of reciprocal South African clubs need only produce their SAGA membership card.

Royal Cape has reciprocal arrangements with the following clubs:

Royal Perth Golf Club
Royal Fremantle Golf Club

Royal Colwood Golf Club
Royal Ottawa Golf Club

Hong Kong Golf Club

Blackwell Golf Club
Denham Golf Club
New Zealand Golf Club
Prince’s Golf Club
Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club
Royal Blackheath Golf Club
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club
Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club
Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club
Royal Wimbledon Golf Club
Royal North Devon Golf Club

Royal Homburger Golf Club

Royal Dublin Golf Club

Royal Selangor Golf Club

Royal Wellington Golf Club

Royal Belfast Golf Club

Royal Aberdeen Golf Club
Blairgowrie Golf Club
Bruntsfield Links Golf Club
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Royal Durban Golf Club
Royal Johannesburg Golf Club
Royal Port Alfred Golf Club

Real Club de Golf Las Brisas

Royal Porthcawl
Royal St. David's, Harlech

Royal Harare Golf Club
Leopard Rock Hotel Golf Club


Chairman: Tinus Slabber
Captain: Bevin Ely
Vice-Captain: Duane Fisher
Finance: Herman Wessels
Committee: Christie Cloete & Dr Andrew du Toit
Captain: Sally Smith
Vice-Captain: Jane Brown
Secretary: Lynne Rowan-Parry
League Secretary: Gaby Terhaag
Committee: Finngerd Clark & Shushy Hugo-Hamman
General Manager: Cassie Viljoen
Golf Director & Operations Manager: Tony Louw
Marketing & Communications Manager: Robbie Scott
Membership / Advanced Bookings: Wendy Raeburn
Creditors: Nazley Payne
Reception: Danni Matthee
Starters: Justin Walker & Simon Nqothe
Caterers: Bertanja Catering (Andre and Gys)