Fea­tures PARKVIEW TURNS 100

Parkview Golf Club will cel­e­brate its cen­te­nary in 2016.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - By Stu­art McLean

One of Jo­han­nes­burg’s old­est golf clubs cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary in 2016.

There is a sense of time stand­ing still when­ever I visit Parkview Golf Club. This old part of Jo­han­nes­burg is steeped in his­tory, and has stayed much the same since at least the 1930s. Only the sub­ur­ban traf­fic out­side the club­house en­trance, on the busy cor­ner of Em­mar­en­tia and Wick­low Av­enues, has in­creased in vol­ume. In an era when some golf clubhouses have be­gun to re­sem­ble bou­tique hotels in terms of size and lux­ury, Parkview’s re­mains as it al­ways has been, more like a wel­com­ing pri­vate home.

Stand­ing on that cor­ner, it’s easy to imag­ine a young Bobby Locke, just 17, strid­ing into the club each day dur­ing the 1935 South African cham­pi­onships, em­bark­ing on the for­ma­tive steps of his great adventure in golf which be­gan at Parkview with him hold­ing both the Am­a­teur and Open tro­phies at the same time.

The story of Parkview Golf Club, which cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary year in 2016, re­volves around both early Jo­han­nes­burg and Locke, who re­mains to this day a cel­e­brated per­son at the club. One of the first func­tions of the club’s cen­te­nary pro­gramme, in Fe­bru­ary, will be the un­veil­ing of a statue of the old mae­stro over­look­ing the club­house.

The first golf club in Jo­han­nes­burg was founded in 1890, so it was another 26 years be­fore Parkview en­tered the scene. Its creation dur­ing the mid­dle of the First World War, when many prom­i­nent golfers were fight­ing in the trenches in France, has an in­ter­est­ing cor­re­la­tion with the mod­ern day rise of golf es­tates in South Africa.The course was com­mis­sioned and paid for by the Transvaal Con­sol­i­dated Land and Ex­plo­ration Com­pany as a way of lur­ing early Jo­han­nes­burg res­i­dents to buy stands in the newly cre­ated sub­urb of Parkview. A hun­dred years ago this was largely tree­less veld rather than parkland, but the “Park” theme was trendy among early 20th-cen­tury de­vel­op­ers.

Golf was tak­ing root as a pop­u­lar sport among the mid­dle­and up­per classes, and the most ac­claimed golfer at the time in South Africa, Lawrie Wa­ters, was as­signed as course ar­chi­tect, just as Gary Player has been sim­i­larly cho­sen for so many golf es­tate de­vel­op­ments the last 20 years.

Wa­ters was a Scot from St Andrews who served as an ap­pren­tice to Old Tom Mor­ris, and for health rea­sons im­mi­grated to South Africa in 1894. He stepped off the boat in Port El­iz­a­beth, and the very next day played on the orig­i­nal PE Golf Club course. “I was shocked when told it was the best course in South Africa,” said Wa­ters, “and won­dered what the worst cour­ses in­land must be like.”

Nev­er­the­less, Wa­ters headed for the Highveld, and a new life which was to see him win four SA Opens, the last of those in 1920, and design cour­ses which over time have es­tab­lished great rep­u­ta­tions, among them Parkview, the West course at Royal Jo­han­nes­burg & Kens­ing­ton, and his best legacy, Dur­ban Coun­try Club. Wa­ters prob­a­bly wouldn’t recog­nise those cour­ses to­day, and in truth they have been con­sid­er­ably im­proved upon by the likes of more cel­e­brated de­sign­ers Bob Grims­dell and Stafford Vere Hotchkin.

Much of the de­tailed his­tory of early golf in South Africa is dif­fi­cult to ob­tain, so I am in­debted to Rus­sell Stu­art Wallace for his re­search into Parkview.Two years ago he pub­lished a book on the club, The Story of a Jo­han­nes­burg Golf Club. It paints a fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of Parkview in the 1920s and 1930s, record­ing the highs and lows of that era. “When Wa­ters was com­mis­sioned (in 1912) to design the Parkview course,” writes Wallace, “the fu­ture sub­urb of Parkview was on the very edge of what Jo­han­nes­burg­ers con­sid­ered to be their world. Stand­ing on West­cliffe Ridge, shortly af­ter the Boer War, the writer John Buchan de­scribed the scene: ‘A splash of mealies, per­haps, and an oc­ca­sional clump of eu­ca­lyp­tus. Oth­er­wise there was just the veld, the great in­ter­nal sea, quiet, po­etic, melan­choly.’ ”

Ori­gin of the sluit

Orig­i­nally, the club­house and first tee were not in Em­mar­en­tia Av­enue, but close to Zoo Lake, where the tram­line from the city stopped. A dusty road led to the club­house.

Build­ing the course had been a back-break­ing project for those work­ing un­der Wa­ters, and it took nearly four years to com­plete the 18 holes be­cause most of the site was a large, marshy wet­land – a favoured spot for duck hunters. To drain the land, Wa­ters first had to ex­ca­vate a sluit, and this same deep sluit is to­day a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of Parkview’s lay­out. It en­ters the course be­tween the fourth green and fifth tee, and leaves it near the 13th green, ef­fec­tively split­ting the course in two. There are only a few points where you can cross.

Wa­ters, hav­ing grown up on the Old Course at St Andrews, de­signed Parkview with a nar­row out-and-back links in mind, util­is­ing the sluit as the prin­ci­pal hazard. By rout­ing holes on ei­ther side of it, he en­sured that it re­mained con­stantly in play through­out a round. When the course opened in 1916, though, the sluit was nowhere near the club­house. The open­ing two holes played down to where the 16th hole is to­day, and then con­tin­ued on that side of the sluit for three holes be­fore cross­ing over to the cur­rent first hole.The old ninth green (present fourth hole) was the fur­thest point from the club­house.

The Star news­pa­per de­scribed Parkview as “the pret­ti­est course on the Highveld,” and Joburg res­i­dents were known to ap­pre­ci­ate its at­trac­tive set­ting by reg­u­larly hav­ing pic­nics on the fair­ways! But it was also viewed with trep­i­da­tion by the golfers of that era who, wield­ing their hick­ory shafted clubs, found it the most chal­leng­ing and nerve-wrack­ing test in the coun­try. By 1928 it was 6 100 me­tres long, with a par of 78. In two 72-hole Transvaal Opens played at Parkview in the 1920s, the win­ning scores were 305 by Jock Brews and 308 by Ber­tie Elkin.

The mod­ern Parkview course we know to­day was es­tab­lished in 1930-31. That was when the golf club did a deal with the de­vel­op­ers to buy the land from


them and se­cure the club’s fu­ture. In ex­change they handed over the old club­house and four of the holes (1-2, 17-18) which the Com­pany wanted for hous­ing. Colonel Hotchkin, for­tu­itously in South Africa work­ing on the new Hume­wood links in Port El­iz­a­beth, agreed to design four new holes, the cur­rent 12th to 15th.

If you drive through the neigh­bour­ing sub­urb of Green­side, and know your golf­ing his­tory, you can­not help but no­tice that many of the street names were in­spired by golf. All be­cause of Parkview. The top UK links cour­ses are well rep­re­sented, such as Troon, Muir­field, Cru­den Bay and Hoy­lake, plus the names of Open cham­pi­ons – Sarazen, Cot­ton, Var­don, Hagen and Tay­lor. There are 26 streets in to­tal with golf­ing ori­gins.

Locke’s name is not among them – there is a Bobby Locke Road ad­join­ing the Rand­park Golf Club – but that was prin­ci­pally be­cause all the street names had been taken by the time he won his first Open in 1949. At Parkview he has not been for­got­ten though. The club hosts the Bobby Locke Fes­ti­val in Novem­ber each year, and club di­rec­tor Jerry Fraser in­forms me that the Bobby Locke In­vi­ta­tional will be up­graded to a 54- or 72-hole tour­na­ment in 2016 in or­der to at­tract the coun­try’s best am­a­teurs.

Locke’s his­toric tri­umphs

Wallace has un­cov­ered an in­ter­est­ing as­pect of how 17-yearold Bobby be­came the dar­ling of South African golf with his Parkview tri­umph in 1935. Fresh out of school, he had fin­ished sec­ond in the Transvaal Open ear­lier that year, and Bert Keart­land, a Parkview mem­ber and sports edi­tor of The Star, took a shine to the young­ster. Keart­land lived within walk­ing dis­tance of the course, and in­vited Locke to stay at his home for a month be­fore the cham­pi­onship, as well as dur­ing the cham­pi­onship it­self.

Con­sid­er­ing that his fam­ily resided at Brak­pan, on the East Rand, this was a god­send for Locke, and he made the most of this stroke of for­tune. Each day, Mrs Keart­land would pick Locke up from the min­ing house where he worked in Jo­han­nes­burg, and drive him back to Parkview so he could fa­mil­iarise him­self with the course.

The Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship came first, and Locke won that in dra­matic fash­ion. In the semi­fi­nals, against Parkview’s ex­pe­ri­enced top mem­ber, Ar­mour Matthews, Locke was two down with three to play, and won on the 21st hole. In the 36-hole fi­nal he was in an iden­ti­cal dilemma against Frank Agg (who like Locke was to re­ceive Spring­bok colours), and again the match went to ex­tra holes, with Locke win­ning on the 38th.

The SA Open started the next day, and Locke opened with a 70 in chilly, win­ter con­di­tions (it was au­tumn). He con­tin­ued to lead through the next two rounds, but in the fi­nal round he fal­tered and was caught by Jock Ver­wey (Gary Player’s fa­ther-in-law), who had fin­ished a few holes in front of him. When Locke bo­geyed the15th he was ap­prised of the sit­u­a­tion. He needed a birdie and two pars over the clos­ing holes to beat Ver­wey. At that time the nines were re­versed, so Locke was fin­ish­ing on what is to­day the sixth to eighth holes. Un­af­fected by the pres­sure, the slen­der young­ster prompted to birdie all three of the holes, and win by three.

The Parkview com­mit­tee im­me­di­ately made Locke an hon­orary mem­ber, and he was to em­brace this priv­i­lege for the rest of his life. Af­ter his tour­na­ment days were over, he spent many happy hours on the course, and in the bar, be­fore his death in 1987. He was there on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. The SA cham­pi­onships never re­turned to Parkview, and per­haps their ab­sence have added to the lus­tre of Locke’s his­toric achieve­ment. It was the most fa­mous one-off in their his­tory.

Parkview can nev­er­the­less claim a strong cham­pi­onship pedi­gree. The club hosted the Transvaal Open in 1960 and

1966, at­tended by the best lo­cal play­ers, and on both oc­ca­sions Gary Player was a clear win­ner from Harold Henning. Parkview had by then also un­earthed another home-grown cham­pion, Dave Sy­mons, whose name is syn­ony­mous with the club. He joined as a ju­nior in 1952, and will be for­ever re­mem­bered as one of our great “true” am­a­teurs, loyal to Parkview all his life. He was SA Am­a­teur cham­pion, yet a vic­tory to trea­sure came in the 1961 Transvaal Am­a­teur at Parkview, when he beat Reg Tay­lor on the home green of a 36-hole fi­nal. Sy­mons won the club cham­pi­onship 16 times over four decades, be­tween 1959 and 1988, and served as both club cap­tain and pres­i­dent. His most fa­mous quote was “the golfer who can play well at Parkview can play well any­where in the world.”

Bat­tle of Parkview

Parkview has known mo­ments of drama and con­cern over the years. In 1922, dur­ing the gen­eral strike in Jo­han­nes­burg, Air Force bi­planes landed on the course (cur­rent fourth hole) when they came un­der fire from rebel min­ers.The pi­lots used the sluit as a de­fen­sive po­si­tion. In the 1960s the golf club was threat­ened with ex­pro­pri­a­tion by the city coun­cil, which wanted to build a high­way through the golf course. Parkview kept re­ject­ing the coun­cil’s of­fers, but did look north­wards for al­ter­na­tive prop­erty, at Bryanston and Four­ways, in the event of a worst-case sce­nario. Parkview was bal­anced on a tightrope for sev­eral years be­fore the threat re­ceded in the early 1970s.

To­day the club re­mains strong and fi­nan­cially sound as it en­ters its cen­te­nary year, yet 20 years ago it was seen as a club in de­cline. The club pres­i­dent at the time, Ge­off Sproule, in­formed the mem­bers that a “thor­ough over­haul” was re­quired. One of his sug­gested op­tions to mem­bers was to sell the course and merge with another golf club. Rather than take such a dras­tic step, Sproule favoured a prop­erty de­vel­op­ment on the course to re­gen­er­ate the fi­nances. Noth­ing was done about it un­til, in 1999, Parkview lost its greens due to a black frost.

It was de­cided to re­build the greens to USGA specs, and fi­nance the up­grade by sell­ing land ad­join­ing the fourth hole (The Wallers) for hous­ing. The Park­town and West­cliff Her­itage Trust ob­jected – the last thing the res­i­dents of the area want is to lose the pre­cious green lung that the golf course pro­vides – but the de­vel­op­ment turned out to be one of qual­ity, and hardly in­tru­sive.

Golf Data were com­mis­sioned to up­grade the course, pri­mar­ily be­cause Golf Data owner Rob­bie Mar­shall agreed to work in con­sul­ta­tion with the com­mit­tee. Late Parkview mem­ber Alan Fieldgate was the project man­ager, and did an out­stand­ing job en­sur­ing that the up­grade was done to the club’s brief.The “new” course was opened in Jan­uary, 2002, and it is one of the best ren­o­va­tions of an old, clas­sic design that I have seen in my years at Golf Di­gest.

Golf Data up­grade

This is what I wrote at the time. “The Golf Data team, headed by Rob­bie Mar­shall and Sean Quinn, have buffed up a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing parkland clas­sic and dis­cov­ered gold un­der­neath.” They not only built new greens, but in­tro­duced mod­ern bunker­ing, swales and mound­ing, and trans­formed the par-3 15th into a sig­na­ture hole through cre­at­ing a wa­ter hazard in front of the green.

Be­fore then, Parkview had not come close to mak­ing Golf Di­gest’s an­nual list of the Top 50 cour­ses, but in 2003 it en­tered the rank­ings at No 37, tes­ti­mony to the ap­proval it re­ceived re­gard­ing the changes. Even with all the many new cour­ses that have en­tered the rank­ings since then, it still re­mains in the Top 50, at No 48 in the 2014 rank­ings. Penn A4 bent grass was planted on the greens, a first for Gaut­eng at the time, and they are still as su­perb as ever. Course su­per­in­ten­dent Rich Met­calfe has kept the course look­ing as good as it was fol­low­ing the up­grade.

An out­stand­ingly well-pre­sented course is im­por­tant these days in at­tract­ing new mem­bers and en­sur­ing that vis­i­tor rounds stay healthy, but Parkview’s prin­ci­pal al­lure over the years, for Locke, Sy­mons, and its many mem­bers, has been its won­der­ful club spirit.The so­cial side has al­ways been just as im­por­tant as the golf. That spirit has waned at many golf clubs around the coun­try in this new mil­len­nium, but it con­tin­ues to thrive at Parkview. The club­house has as much to do with that, as have the kind of peo­ple who join the club. When you walk through the front door, it’s only a few short strides to the bar or locker room, or down­stairs to the putting green and pro shop. It’s im­pos­si­ble to get lost here.

The club­house was ren­o­vated for the 90th an­niver­sary in 2006 – a spa­cious new ve­ran­dah over­look­ing the 18th green be­ing one of the ma­jor im­prove­ments – but noth­ing dras­tic was done in terms of changes to the tra­di­tional 19th-hole bar. By pop­u­lar de­mand it was re­tained as it al­ways has been. In days gone by it used to be a reg­u­lar “wa­ter­ing hole” for mem­bers on the way home from the city, and on com­pe­ti­tion days it is still packed with golfers, who pre­fer to stand with their mates, or sit on bar stools, rather than de­camp to the lounge.

It’s def­i­nitely less rowdy than it was in days gone by, though. One story about the Parkview bar dates back to the 1960s, as recorded by Wallace in his book. On a cold win­ter’s night the bar­man couldn’t get rid of the re­main­ing mem­bers who were drink­ing in front of the fire­place, so he said farewell, leav­ing the club pres­i­dent, Willoughby More­ton, in charge of the bar. How­ever, as the night went on, and the mem­bers be­came colder and more ine­bri­ated, they re­alised they were short of wood for the fire. No prob­lem to More­ton. Six bar stools were bro­ken up and thrown on the flames. When he came to re­place them, he could not find any square topped stools, so bought round topped stools in­stead.

“For many years the bar sported six non-match­ing round-topped stools among the more nu­mer­ous square tops – a me­mo­rial to More­ton’s night of ex­cess!”


FLY­ING THE FLAG The Parkview club­house, with its front ve­ran­dah im­me­di­ately be­hind the 18th green.

CLAS­SI­CAL LOOK The clean lines of the Golf Data re­design are ev­i­dent here, around the green of the par-4 tenth hole.


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