A story of Waterman, Waters and too much water!
Towards the end of the First World War serious consideration was first given to the establishment of a Country Club in Durban. Country clubs were beginning to proliferate in other parts of South Africa and as Durban was already achieving a reputation as the leading seaside resort, it seemed imperative that such an amenity be attained – for residents and visitors alike.
Pressure was also mounting for the establishment of a second golf course in the town due to the problems facing the Durban Golf Club (now Royal Durban). The Durban Golf Club situated on a low-lying swamp at Greyville, with the race track running around it, was repeatedly subject to flooding, which often cancelled out all golf. A final straw was when floods made this course virtually unplayable for the 1920 South African Golf Championships and it was feared that Durban would not be asked to host the event again in 1924.
George Waterman accepted the challenge of building the course and was assisted in this endeavour by fellow professional golfer Laurie Waters – a four times winner of the South African Open. The difficulties these men faced were immense. All earth-moving had to be done manually. Giant sand dunes were flattened, dense bush and trees chopped down and carted away.
Durban Country Club was officially opened on December 9, 1922. After the Mayoress had formally declared the golf course open, course designer George Waterman had the privilege of driving the first ball down the fairway of what is now one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
The members were so delighted with the magnificent course which Waterman had designed that they contributed together to buy a golf trophy in honour of him. The Waterman Cup, played over 36 holes medal play, was first competed for in 1924 and has been proudly hosted annually ever since.
Much of the history of the game in South Africa has been enacted here at Durban Country Club, and most of the great players have made their pilgrimage to it. Sid Brews, Bobby Locke and Gary Player have had some of their greatest golfing moments at the Country Club.
The course saw Gary Player’s first South African Open success in 1956 with a score of 286. He returned in 1969 (having won the title another five times in the interim) to score a 273, which included a then record round of 64 (the Course record now is 62, held by John Bland). In 1998 Ernie Els won his third South African Open at the club, opening with a 64 that left him in a position of dominance that he was not to relinquish.
The course, overlooking the Blue Lagoon estuary and the Indian Ocean has hosted 16 South African Opens in total, more than any other club in South Africa, and is the proud host of the Centenary SA Open in 2010.
Overlooking the course is the classic Cape Dutch style Clubhouse, built by architects Wallace Paton and WG (Billy) Moffat with the recently built iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium providing a breathtaking backdrop. The Clubhouse, steeped in tradition, has recently undergone a significant refurbishment creating a modern, warm and open environment to be enjoyed by members and guests alike.
With acknowledgment to Joyce Wrinch-Schulz, for her informative historical account titled
The First 60 Years, 1922-1982