Durban Country Club
Natal, South Africa

Twelfth hole, 160 yards; This simple yet effective design of laying the tee and green along the spine of a dune has held the attention of golfers for nearly nine decades. Any tee ball pulled or pushed likely sends the golfer twenty feet below the putting surface, pitching uphill to a narrow target. The most famous incident involving this hole is also the one whereby it got its name, The Prince of Wales. During a morning round with Brews, the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of George V, missed the green, watching as his tee ball tumbled down the steep bank. His recovery shot was a touch strong, going across the slender green and down the other bank. From there, his next shot not surprisingly wasn’t hit firm enough and the ball returned to his feet. Several more such attempts ensued and eventually a score was registered that was higher than the hole number, never a good thing for a back nine hole!

The sight of the flag laying limp is an unusual (but welcome one!) when playing the twelfth. Judging the wind is crucial as the drop-offs on either side are evident.

The sight of the flag laying limp is an unusual (but welcome one!) when playing the twelfth. Judging the wind is crucial as the drop-offs on either side are evident.

Seventeenth hole, 405 yards; A fabulous hole, the sort that drives professional golfers crazy, as there is no clear way to play it across the heaving landforms. A tee ball is bounced around like a pin ball and the resulting stance for one’s uphill approach is in the lap of the gods. Along the high right side of the fairway, there is more level terrain but the bush has been allowed to encroach too close and the risk/reward for seeking a level stance is out of whack at the moment. Nonetheless, this is the exact sort of hole that can only be found at Durban and it adds to one’s appreciation that nature always features prominently in creating the world’s most memorable holes.

For fairway contour, you can search the world and not find any as wild and random as that captured within the seventeenth fairway at Durban. Give the Golden Age architects plenty of credit for embracing these landforms within the hole.

For fairway contour, you can search the world and not find any as wild and random as that captured within the seventeenth fairway at Durban. Give the Golden Age architects plenty of credit for embracing these landforms within the hole.

Eighteenth hole, 275 yards; Teasing half par holes are the author’s favorite kind of Home hole. The Old Course at St. Andrews set the benchmark against which all others are judged and this is one of the few in the world that is comparable, right down to its own version of the Valley of Sin off the right front of the green. From the start, this finisher has produced great excitement at the best events held on the continent. One of the first times was the 1928 South African Open. Syd Brews was already in the clubhouse, having completed his four rounds in 298. His brother Jock dropped a shot at the tricky seventeenth when he failed to get up and down. Needing a birdie to tie, Jock playing the ground contours perfectly and his tee ball took the left to right slope to finish in the heart of the eighteenth green. In front of the masses that thronged the green, Jock holed his putt for an eagle two and a most dramatic victory.

Located at the base of the clubhouse, the eighteenth green and its surrounds are full of character and have made for many an exciting finish. Durban's own version of the Valley of Sin snares either tee balls or approach shots that are a shade too weak and sends them well back into the fairway from where an up and down is no certainty.

Located at the base of the clubhouse, the eighteenth green and its surrounds are full of character. Durban's own version of the Valley of Sin snares either tee balls or approach shots that are a shade too weak and sends them well back into the fairway from where an up and down is no certainty.

Looking back down the eighteenth, this view captures how the hole was laid along the spine of the dune. The golfer in full command of his game relishes the prospect of playing a fade down the left of the fairway, having his ball take the left to right fairway slope, bound past the depression at the front right, and onto the green.

Looking back down the eighteenth, this view captures how the hole was laid along the spine of the dune. A tee ball that fades down the left of the fairway will take the left to right fairway slope, bound past the depression at the front right and onto the green.

Durban’s one of a kind dunesland holes have stood it in good stead since its inception. Apart from when the panelists for GOLF Magazine mistakenly confused Royal Durban for Durban, this course has always appeared on the GOLF Magazine world top 100 list. However, as new courses are being built with some like Sand Hills in Nebraska and Ballyneal in Colorado featuring great natural land contour throughout, it is Durban’s flat holes that need attention. If they don’t hold their head up high, then it is just a matter of time before the course (sadly) drops from the world ranking. The club would do well to study the high level architecture at courses like Pacific Dunes and Friar’s Head whereby holes set on disparate land are seamlessly tied together, thus ensuring that the course enjoys a cohesive feel. Fortunately, there is not a lot of guess work required as to how the flatter holes should have character retuned to them – the aerial from the 1930s in the clubhouse shows the way forward. Simply restorting the tenth, fourteenth and fifteenth holes to how they played in the Golden Age would immeasurably help secure this design’s stature in world golf.

Here is a fine long bunker that snakes into the fourteenth fairway. However, up ahead to the left is visible where other bunkers once were and they need to be restored to lend interest to the second shot at the 520 yard fourteenth.

Here is a fine long bunker that snakes into the fourteenth fairway. However, ahead to the left is visible where other bunkers once were, swinging the fairway smartly to the right and working in tandem with the bunker above to lend interest to the second shot at the 520 yard fourteenth. These missing bunkers need to be restored.

Durban with its hustle and bustle, diverse culture and strong Indian influence is a fascinating city to visit. The game of golf needs to be represented by a world class course on the African continent. Considering that Durban features more true standout holes than Humewood, it is the logical candidate. Thus it is fervently hoped that the club takes steps to return character that has been lost with time to the holes that lie out from the dunes.

Part of the unique charm of playing at Durban is the gallery!

Part of the unique charm of playing at Durban is the gallery!

The End