DURBAN GOLF CLUB – GOLFING FOR 85 YEARS 1928 to 2013
The Durban Indian Golf Club was formed in July 1928 and played at
Curries Fountain Sports Complex. Yes, Curries Fountain, the Mecca of non-racial Sport. The name was adopted merely because of the segregated society that was designed and imposed rigidly by the apartheid regime. However it did have some “Africans” as members although the majority were “Indian”. It is noted that Ceaser Skakane was one of four members to have “opened the course” at Springfield. When DGC was initiated it was the only non-racial golf club in South Africa. The club’s claim to antecedence at what is still regarded as the Mecca of non-racial sport in 5 A, is testament to the progressive thinking for which it has grown to renown. The golf course was opened in the first week in June by the late Advocate Albert Christopher under the auspices of the Durban Indian Sports Ground Association. DISGA, a properly constituted organization took control of Curries in 1925 after being formed to cater primarily for Football, Cricket, Tennis and of course Golf. The Durban Corporation granted eight thousand pounds (R 8000-) to PISGA to develop 20 acres for the four codes mentioned on a 25 year lease. As the ground was swampy and boggy a considerable amount of money was spent on French drains to clear the surface water and portions of the land that had to be filled with refuse and top soil dressing to make the fields playable. When the lease expired in 1950, DISGA under very challenging resources had then developed 6 football fields, 4 cricket pitches, 3 tennis courts and a 9 hole golf course together with a refreshment room and clock tower, the latter being a gift from Mr Doc:lasing in memory of his late wife. It is to the credit of DISGA that it provided all the amenities from its own resources mainly from gate takings. The golf course compromised just 9 holes covering a distance of 2093 yds. Par for the course was 34. It overlapped with the cricket, football and tennis playing fields which effectively meant that golf could only be played mainly on Sundays when it was free from the other codes not using the field. Membership enrolment fees were 2 shillings & 6 pence (25 cents). Monthly subscription fees were 1 shilling (10 cents). Mr T.S. rarbhoo had the honour of being the very first Club President. When the first Tournament was played there were 57 registered members.
An extraction from the minutes dated 10 October 1948, “Mr P Lally moved and seconded by Mr K l3adal that the Caddie Fee for 15 holes be one shilling & six pence (15 cents). Mr T M Naicker moved that the minimum fee be one shilling (10 cents) which was seconded by Mr C Chengiah.” In 1954 part of Curries was taken away mainly for educational purposes as schools were not enough for the growing Indian Community in Durban; our forefathers prioritising education as the best form of character building and a passport to a better future.
The Springfield Golf Course was opened on 16th December 1961, thus being the new “Home” course of PGC. At Springfield the Durban Corporation agreed to level the land, turf and drain the grounds while the necessary amenities for the different codes of sports will have to be undertaken by DISGA, a stupendous and gigantic task entailing an expenditure of thousands of rands. Once again the course consisted of 9 holes with no club house facilities. Players & officials conducted their respective affairs from their vehicles. Past President, Hassan Mall SC, in 1975 wrote, “Given that the Durban City Council spent little or no resources on the Springfield Flats Golf Course, the course was maintained by members of the Durban Golf Club. broken tractors, burst water mains, weeds, collapsing gang mowers and blunt green cutters were but some of the nightmares experienced but the Club managed each week to turn out a golf course of pride.” The course was maintained & run by PGC. Members had to overcome adversity in the form of broken down machinery such as tractors, mowers, green cutters together with burst water pipes & a host of other problems. Sometimes a special levy was imposed upon the general membership to accommodate maintenance costs.
Papwa Sewgolurn, Censer Skakarie, F L Paul & R Singh were the very first 4 ball to tee of on the new course. The D5GA & DGC continued their pursuit, for improved facilities to the then all white Durban City Council. After years, a loan was granted and a temporary Clubhouse was officially opened by Papwa on 30th August 1969. Our most famous member, amongst the many other accolades, won the Dutch Open 3 times & that famous Natal Open when he was presented his trophy outdoors in the pouring rain at Durban Country Club as he was denied entry into their Clubhouse merely because he did not have the right colour of skin. The golfer with the wrong way round grip, fascinated the golfing world and highlighted the plight of players of colour. Papwa’s plight during a career in which he was hounded by officialdom and prevented from earning what could have been a comfortable living will be remembered as one of the most unhappy chapters in this country’s sporting history. Papwa, a simple man who could neither read nor write was the martyr for his sport, He was regularly banned from participating in South Africa’s “white” tournaments. The green keeper then was Mr George Moonien, who played off a 4 handicap and interestingly revealed that during the many years whilst taking care of the golf course he had found at least ten corpses; some of them murdered while others found their demise through exposure; apparently the soft sand in the bunkers was regarded as a “hole in one”, Mr Lambie Rasool, Past President 1972, ’73, ’81, ‘&2 and 1983, held the record for the most “hole in ones” at the ninth hole on three different rounds. Prior to the closure, the Green Fees were two rand (R2-) for a round of eighteen holes. PGC celebrated its Golden Jubilee sponsored by National Mutual on December 1979 at Springfield Golf Course over 18 holes. Tournament Director, Mr Lambie Rasool, “So the National Mutual competition is wide open to the golfer who is consistent. All the golfers are well handicapped so no one has any undue advantage. My advice to the players is to relax and not take any chances. A cool and relaxed player enjoys a tremendous advantage over those who are not.” Entry fee was P 6-. Prize money: 1st = RSO-, 2nd = R40-, 3rd = R30-, 4th = R25-, 5th = R20- and 6th to 10th R10-. For the best, gross score, R25- cash was offered. A far cry from what is offered today; no cash but to the winner a voucher to the value of R150-, (Grown by 150% in 34 years). Then in April 1976 Springfield Golf Course was expropriated by the 5 A Railways. Although the Club was entitled to compensation of R 127 000, no compensation was paid. Various representations were made to SAP in the hope that DGC can play their golf there till Linear Park was ready. However on 1st February 1981 DGC was served an urgent notice to vacate. The Club having no golf course to play on had then opted to use the Windsor Park Golf Course knowing fully that no blacks were allowed to play there. The then Natal Provincial-Administration in January 1981 change’d it laws, after many representations, to allow all members of the Public to play there. This new facility brought about a new dimension as DGC, being a founder member of South African Council of Sports, was forced to withdraw its affiliation. “No normal sport in on abnormal society” was a key adage to SACOS both locally & globally. Sport in apartheid SA was a powerful medium which was used to achieve the ultimate objective for a non-racial democracy in the politics of liberation. “We often made the point that the Durban Golf Club was the first truly non-racial golf club in the country. We are proud of that distinction and we believe that it has been largely through our efforts and the unflagging resolve to fight racism at all levels that has led to formerly racially exclusive clubs to open their doors to people of colour.” Judge Thumba Pillay, Fast President, 1985, 1986,1988, On a very significant note, on 31st March 1954 the Club with very little hassle changed to Durban Golf Club. The Club had never been in a position to reject an application for membership in regard to race or colour. For the record, on 27th April 1980 it had accepted & welcomed a “White” who to date still enjoys his membership at DGC. It must be noted that many of our members and various other leaders who were engaged in the struggle for liberation displayed a deep sense of commitment and caring that had transcended years of harassment, bannings, house arrests, solitary confinement, detention without trial, torture, etc. by the evil system of apartheid merely in pursuit for a non-racial democracy. At about the same period the SA regime had changed their stance and were promoting the concept of “Multi Nationalism” because of international pressure and the eagerness of white sports persons to compete internationally. On 20th August 1975 PGC released the following statement: “Members must realise that it is not the ‘prize’ that counts but the principle and even if they have to play for `peanuts’12y standing loyal to DGC, they must show their undivided loyalty to the club that is doing everything possible to give all Hack golfers in SA equal facilities and the opportunity of merit selection. It 15 time our black golfers voluntarily and on their own free will refuse to play under subservient conditions. The Committee’s resolution merely makes it compulsory that DGC members do not take part in unapproved tournaments. Any member who still decides to play under subservient conditions , is letting himself down, he is letting his club down and is letting down the black golfer throughout the country. It is up to all DGC members to play the game.” Globally the campaign to isolate South Africa from participating from international events was led by Mr Sam Ramsarny & Mr Peter Hain from the office of SANROC based in London. On July 13th 1980 a campaign to ban golfers from SA competing in the USA had been launched with the Eisenhower Tournament in October as the first target. Access secretary general, Dr John Dommisse, quoted in the Wa6hington Post, “Golfers represent one of the most segregated sports in South Africa but have rarely been challenged in the USA in recent year Gary Player will also be a future target, though he would not be singled out for special attack.”
In July 1982 PGC moved to Linear Park which comprised 9 holes with prefab facilities; consisting of an ablution block for ladies and men together with a half way house. The course was designed by Bob Grin-lodeII and Dill kerr and DGC enjoyed the privilege as being the resident club; here again we owe it to our noble older generation of committed members. It is truly a tribute that the Golf Course was fittingly named after its most Famous legend, Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course. The Half Way House was only opened over the week ends to provide refreshments to golfers and it was managed by casual labour appointed by DOC. From 1985 onwards the Half Way House was managed by Mr Amcor Radhella at his cost using whatever utensils that was purchased by DGC. It was not long after that when Amer found the need to open seven days a week as a fair amount of golfers were attracted to play the course on week days. At the end of 1990 construction of the new building commenced resulting in the existing pre-fab facilities being demolished. During the construction of the building a temporary container was provided by the Council and portable toilet facilities were in place. In 1985 the Club experienced a massive flood. Apart from other major damages to the golf course it destroyed the 14th Green completely and the lerth hole resulting in re-designing the hole from a par 4 to a par 5. In the beginning of
1991 the second 9 holes were opened, thus Papwa Golf Course was now a fully fledged 18 hole course. The holes and their respective strokes were then adjusted accordingly. Green Fees were RS-. The club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on 20th November 1955 at the Elangeni Hotel. The Diamond Jubilee of any club is not only an occasion for joy but also one for reflection. It is also cause for celebration, as it is not a distinction that comes by easily, 60 years in existence is no mean achievement,” presidential address by Judge -rhumba Pillay
The Guest speaker was Mr Ibrahim Patel, President of the South African Rugby Union. In his main address he focused on the then current international rugby tour, “SARU has consistently maintained that tours are a side issue. The urgent issue is that Special Awards -Diamond Jubilee Africans meet to solve their domestic problems. To this end, we are treating the present tour as we have every other tour. The Fact that this particular tour is generating a lot of emotion does not change the fundamental intention of a continuing struggle to eradicate apartheid.” On 17th March 1997 a large number of families squatting on private land off Derma Road for the past seventeen years were evicted by a contractor on behalf of the Landowner leaving approximately seven hundred people destitute and without shelter. The then Inner West Council provided shelter and food on an area close to the golf course as an interim arrangement. Sixteen years on, yet no permanent accommodation had been allocated and in recent years the club is undergoing challenges in regard to our club and cafeteria often being without power. On a very recent note, our 2013 Coke Tournament was reduced to just 18 holes (Sun only) as there was confrontation between Ethekwini officials and the locals. It erupted violently because the officials attempted to disconnect the illegal power supply; resulting in the closure of Siripat Road. A member of DGC, Mr 5yd Naidoo experienced a rare puncture; a bullet in his front tyre.
Durban Golf Club Trust. In the late 1990’s the General Membership decided that a Trust be formed so that its capital funds are managed and assist the DGC Management Committee whenever it needed running costs. The management and control of the Trust and all its assets and funds are vested in the Trustees who have complete control of the Trust. Thus in 1958 the PGC Trust was formed. DGC in July 1994 received the tender to manage the Cafeteria. A Proposal was presented to the general membership for the running of same; 5 applications were received. After much deliberation, the tender was awarded to Hashmuk Patel. Amongst the many conditions that were requested, he was asked to consider the general membership’s religious beliefs by not Club House – Springfield -1966 preparing and serving Beef or Pork and its related products which has been adhered to date. The Cafeteria opened its doors on 1st August 1994, In 1995 the Executive Committee debated the need for a paid full-time Secretary to accommodate the increasing work load as a result of an increasing membership. Miss Nazarana Gaff oor was the first Secretary, It must be appreciated that prior to this engagement all the administrative duties and other office functions was done voluntarily by the incumbent elected Officials, On the 18th October 2003, PGC celebrated its Seventy Fifth anniversary at the Royal Hotel, The celebrations which culminated in a banquet, a sumptuous dinner and dance was graced by His Worship, The Mayor of Ethekwini, Councilor Obeid Mhlaba and the then Deputy State President , Jacob Zuma After a long, frustrating and difficult negotiation with the Durban City Council to improve the facilities at the Durban Golf Club, the Executive Committee was given the opportunity to manage the course in 2005. This was indeed a major achievement in the long history of the Club and a true testament to the unwavering support, persistent hard work and enthusiasm and our Founding Fathers and not forgetting the others that followed subsequently. The contract entailed total control of the Golf Course, in respect of maintenance and upkeep and the collection of the green fees, The initial contract was for a period of six years with an option to renew for a further six years, A monthly subsidy was to be paid by the Ethekwini Council, in addition to a 207fl share of the total collected green fees.
To legalize the contract, the Club formed The DGC Development Company whose shareholders consisted of the PGC and its Trust. It must be remembered that the contract was awarded soon after sensitive negotiations were held between The Divine Life Society and The DGC in respect of the establishment and location of the Ghat in the area of the previous 13th green. The purchase of all the machinery and related material, the hiring and placement of ground staff was now, all under the control of the Management Committee. The Golf Course immediately improved in respect of the Greens, Tee Boxes and Fairways; a welcome change from the previous “Goat Tract” so much so that in 2008, a Mr. Alistair McLeod of Fro Teaks Golf Architects paid a fitting tribute to a tremendous improvement of the Course that he had personally noted from the previous years. The late Papwa Sewgolum, a self-taught Golfer, a world Icon and a legend in our time must surely be resting in peace now, now that the Golf Course, named after him, is being maintained by his distant fellow Colleagues and others that cherish the game of golf. At the present time the current management contract has been extended to December 2014 after which the tender process will begin once again. We are confident that the Durban Golf Club will grow from strength to strength with the continued enthusiasm and interest that is the Hallmark of its Membership,
The Committee, early in 2005 addressed a request from some aging and medically disadvantaged members regarding the introduction of Golf Carts. Thus four carts were purchased at a cost of R 36 000- each. Currently they are very popular requiring playing members to book well in advance.
In 2004 the Clubhouse Bar was designed and opened for business. During the term of Mr Siva Padayachee’s Presidency in 2007, through his generous contribution, the Sun Deck together with the parking for carts was designed and constructed. He also undertook the responsibility to initiate the Driving Range. In December 2008 the Driving Range was opened with the late Mr Links Poonsamy being appointed as our local Pro.
The National Lottery, after some very strong motivation from the then Exco decided to offer U5 R 450 000 in September 2010 which was utilised for the fencing of the first nine holes. Noted that also in September 2009, Royal and Ancient donated an amount of 10 000 pounds (R 121 755). DGC used the funds to pay for a Bore Hole, eager to reduce the high water bill which then averaged R 60 000. The current situation i5 that unfortunately it was discovered that the Sore Hole does not have enough water to supply the irrigation system resulting that we still mainly depend on Municipal water.
Very recently, in 2012 the course experienced another natural disaster, unlike the one experienced in 1988, apart from other areas being damaged from a very severe storm, the fifth hole fairway became unplayable and the sixth hole was adjusted to a par four. However Papwa in recent years is enjoying many bookings regarding Corporate Golf Days and Charitable Organizations; bookings are averaging sixteen days a month. The golf course and our function room together with bar facilities are sure an attraction. It is indeed gratifying to note and behold its popularity amongst golfers.
Finally this chapter ends reflecting on the comments made at our Diamond Jubilee celebrations by the former President of Durban Sports Ground Association, Mr Abbas Rasool, “Developing and fostering it amongst people of all colours — setting players to match their skills against the elements which never relented. There has been the political obstacles in their path but they blasted themselves out of the rough, negotiated the unsuspecting pitfalls of discriminatory laws which hide out in the fairways and cautiously took to the green to make sure that principles were not compromised.”