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The oldest golf course in the city has an elegant new clubhouse, but it retains its distinctive charm and challenging course.
THE rolling green fairways of the Observatory Golf Club now overlook an elegant new clubhouse, which was officially opened by Executive Mayor Amos Masondo on 30 March.

 

Executive mayor Amos MasondoGolf is not only for the elite, says the executive mayor Amos Masondo“We gave the architect only three guidelines for building the new clubhouse,” said the club chairman, Peter Barnes. “Keep the atmosphere, ensure there is minimum disruption for members and stay in budget.
 

“The only one he didn’t stick to was the budget; I think he finished 3 percent over,” Barnes joked.

He pleaded with committee members to grow the club’s base, but warned them against making the cost of playing prohibitive, as it was at many other golf courses throughout the city. “We’ve got to find a way to make it a fun, welcoming experience, but an affordable one too,” he said.

The club enjoys its status as Johannesburg’s oldest golf course still operating from its original ground by retaining its old-world charm and warmth. It is this charm that has attracted a plethora of golfing legends who have contributed to the club’s rich history.

“Bobby Locke is the most notable South African golfer to have played here, which he did from 1949 to 1957,” said the captain, Tom Smyth. “He was playing out of Observatory as his home club when he won his four Open Championship [British Open] titles.”

Gary Player, another of the country’s celebrated golfers, also made his mark at Observatory. “[He] used to bunk school to come and practise here,” Smyth said.

The course had more than just famous golfers to be remembered for, though, mused Masondo. “There are the tree-lined fairways kept in immaculate condition by the green keepers,” he said.

 

Unveiling a plaqueUnveiling a plaque“Through the decades, Observatory has striven to remain true to its objectives, and with the City of Johannesburg and the golf club working together, we can demystify the notion that golf is only for the elite,” Masondo said.
 

He also spoke of the Joburg Open bringing exposure to the sport. “The City has been proud that, in the past five years, [it has] become a firm favourite on the calendar.” With it come opportunities for tourism and investment, which can only be a good thing for the sport and clubs such as Observatory.

Masondo has only high expectations for the future of the club. “What a great day it will be for Observatory and the City when a graduate of the course follows in Locke’s footsteps,” he said.

“I trust that the club and members will continue to grow and prosper in years to come.”

Golf was first played at Observatory in 1912 on a nine-hole course; it was officially established as a club in 1914 and was extended into the traditional 18-hole format in 1922. The layout has changed slightly over the years, but the course has retained its distinctive narrow fairways and small greens, making it a challenge for any player.

It is at 5 Steyn Street in Observatory. For more information, phone 011 648 9570 or visit the website.

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