Golf club a ruin
Old Grahamstown golf course may be developed for student housing
THE derelict state of the historic Grahamstown Golf Club is causing a stir among Grahamstown residents who are scratching their heads at what has become of the once prestigious amenity.
Broken doors, shattered windows, torn and ripped out materials lie strewn in what was once a beautiful clubhouse. In 2015, Grahamstown Golf Club “moved” to Belmont Golf Club, ending almost 120 years of history. The Grahamstown golf course is reputed to be the third-oldest in the country and is fondly remembered by many past presidents, club members and Grahamstonians as a centre point for social activities.
Part of the move was a land swap deal which saw the Grahamstown Golf Club becoming Belmont Golf Club and the land at the old golf course rezoned with a plan to be developed into a multi-million rand private residential estate. The proposal by company Belmont Development was for a development consisting of 627 houses, three apartment blocks, and a shopping complex with 750 parking places.
While the development of Belmont Golf Club went smoothly and it has established itself as a world-class facility, problems arose between Belmont Development and international and local investors regarding the “old golf club”. In December 2015, the investors, James Williamson and Norwegian investor companies, Dolphin Management, Robert Iversen Holdings, Jemi Holdings, Arne Frostad Holdings, Geni Holdings and Stale Invest won a high court judgement against the director of Belmont Development to put the company under business rescue. The investors alleged that director of Belmont Development, David Davies, conducted the affairs of the company in a manner that disregarded the interests of the other stakeholders and was in breach of an agreement with them.
Since then, no development has taken place at the Cradock Road golf course and it remains a mystery to many who remember the now neglected facility with fond memories. Past president and member of Grahamstown Golf Club for more than 60 years, Bob Keeble, said it was heart-breaking to see the clubhouse in the state that it is. “It’s a mystery, a lot of us are wondering what is going to happen, if anything,” he said.
Keeble recalls that the clubhouse was a venue for many social activities outside of the game of golf including a popular Sunday market, a monthly steak evening which attracted hundreds of students, weddings and other functions.
TotT’s Grahamstown correspondent Sid Penney visited the clubhouse on Wednesday and described a scene of total neglect. “The destruction and vandalism to the clubhouse is far worse than any photo can depict,” he said.
In November last year, Davies applied for an interdict against the appointed business rescue practitioner Neil McHardy and Belmont DC, to prevent them transferring ownership of the land.
Selling or transferring the land would be in breach of the terms of the business rescue.
The interdict also prevents the current owner from developing the site or making any improvements.
A bit of light was shed on the mystery when Davies, in a telephonic interview with TotT, said there are significant plans for the land of the old Grahamstown Golf Club.
He said he was currently in
negotiations with Transnet to build and establish a technical college at the Grahamstown station aimed at training students for priority skills.
“Ultimately I would like it to be the same size as Rhodes University,” he said.
The land intended for the mass housing development will be rezoned and developed for student housing and amenities.
As to a timeline for when the project will be under way, Davies said he has to wait to reach an agreement with his partners. “Hopefully we can start as soon as an agreement is met,” he said.
Davies said, although it’s not official yet, that he was envisioning naming the training college as Mandela School of Engineering. “It would be significant to have an icon of South African history at opposite areas of Grahamstown,” he said.
With regards to the current clubhouse, Davies said it probably will be bulldozed as soon as development starts.
Makana municipal spokesman Anele Mjekula was asked to comment about the state of the property and the proposed development but failed to respond by the time of going to print.
VANDALISED VENUE: The front entrance of the old Grahamstown Golf Club clubhouse is a shadow of its former self, with broken windows and doors
ONCE A CLOAKROOM: The men’s cloakroom at the old Grahamstown Golf Club with several golf bags and parts of the ceiling and cupboards strewn about