Golf in South Africa

SA’s Leisure Sport

©Roger de la Harpe
©Roger de la Harpe

In the world of golf, it seems that South Africa is definitely a force to be reckoned with. With multiple major star players with a number of prestigious titles under their belts, SA is one of the top golfing countries in the world. We have the world-class golf courses and esteemed annual competitions to prove it!

Golf was first introduced in South Africa in 1885, when a round was played by Europeans in Waterloo Green, Wynberg near Cape Town. Two years later, the country’s first golf club was formed called Cape Golf Club (now the Royal Cape Golf Club). As the game spread throughout SA, it gained quite a bit of popularity and became known as a gentleman’s sport.

The first national championship was held in Kimberley in 1892, and the first Open Championship held in Port Elizabeth in 1903. The South African Golf Union was established in 1910, and the South African Ladies Golf Union in 1914. 

South Africa is home to an array of stunning golf courses in all 9 provinces promising locals and tourists alike a worthwhile game of golf. Holiday-makers will be delighted to know that SA boasts world-renowned courses in both Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal, where international competitions are held regularly. 

Golfing Legends

©Roger de la Harpe
©Roger de la Harpe

During the 1950’s, golfing surged in SA when the Commonwealth Golf Tournament took place at the Royal Johannesburg Club. This gave South Africans the opportunity to learn from international players and better the game, so to speak.

One of the country’s earliest golfing legends in none other than Bobby Locke, who was instrumental in promoting SA golf on a global scale. He won 13 tournaments, the British Open four times and the South African Open at the tender age of 17!

Almost all local sport fans will know the name Gary Player; he is one of SA’s most famous sporting stars who made a name for himself in the golfing world in the 1960’s. He is a nine-time major winner, with 163 career victories and a long list of sporting awards, his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and SA’s "Sportsman of the Century" in 2000. 

Ernie Els is a local golfing legend in his own right, having won top spots several times at both the European and US PGA Tours. He is a popular sportsman in SA, known for his lazy-looking swing that somehow propels the ball over 300 metres down the fairway.

How to Play

©Roger de la Harpe
©Roger de la Harpe

Golf is relatively easy to play, if you have the right gear, a bit of patience, and if you’ve got your swing down. Here is a quick guide getting you on the course:

Test the waters. Visit a driving range and hit a few balls before you invest in the sport. It might be for you at first glance, but you never know until you hold a putter in your hand and swing it. Don’t be shy to practice the sport a few times before you get into the swing of things.

Choose the right equipment. Whether you buy it brand-new or second-hand, equipment plays a big role in helping you get started. Start with a set of five clubs - ones that are made for beginners, like the 7-iron, 9-iron, gap wedge, sand wedge and putter. They are your basics and will get you far on your journey from novice to pro. Just put new grips on your clubs, and you are ready!

Get a second opinion. Talking to someone from your local pro shop or golf store will help a lot! They are knowledgeable enough to offer advice and discuss your goals, so that you know you have a solid plan going in. 

Comfort is key. Wear comfortable, breathable clothing when you play, as you’ll most likely be walking a lot and sweating. Golf shoes are obviously best, but a pair of good sport shoes will also work fine.

Work your angles. Whether you play to be social, to improve your game or you simple want to partake in a fun activity, golf is the perfect leisure sport that can be played anywhere around SA. Take your time to visit any one of the beautiful golf courses the country has to offer, especially on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. 

By Carla Lottering