International Recognition

The stature of the club can be gauged from the fact that the Governor General of South Africa was its first patron, and the list of members included many leading business and political figures of the day.

The widespread popularity of the course at that time has given it connections with many famous people and landmarks – for example a few monthly committee meetings were held in the original Carlton Hotel. Its fame rapidly spread beyond South Africa’s borders and this was reflected both by a surprisingly large overseas membership and the fact that in 1927 the Club hosted a visit from a British golf team. The group, all members of the Royal and Ancient of St. Andrews, arrived at the Club in December of that year on the first official visit by such a team from overseas to this country.

Indeed, belonging to Maccauvlei became such a cachet that by the 19th of September 1930, four and half years after the opening of the Club, the total membership boasted 1004 (men 634, women 370). And not long afterwards membership reached a peak of 1200.

During the early 1930s the admission of new members to both the men’s and women’s sections was closed and waiting lists were introduced. A strict record was kept of visitors playing at the Club on Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays, as they were only allowed to play at Maccauvlei once a month and had to be accompanied by a member.

The largest golf club membership in the world

Despite the large membership, the Club was not very busy during the week as most of its members were from Johannesburg and even overseas. At that point in time, Gilbert Steyn tells us, Maccauvlei was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having the largest membership of any Golf Club in the world. The Club’s fame was such, that Maccauvlei silk ties were on sale, and a prized item, at the Tie Shop in Burlington Arcade, London.

There were very few local members and when Gilbert Steyn joined the Club in 1938, he was only the twenty third local member. Only a few other golf clubs existed on the reef at that time so Maccauvlei continued to prosper. Indeed, the weekend parties at Dormy House were so popular that the accommodation was generally taken up every weekend, despite the atrocious dust road from Johannesburg, not made any easier in the early days by sundry farm gates, although the informal piccanin toll system did apply.

The First Club Championships

Ironically the first Club Championships at Maccauvlei were only held on Sunday the 25th of April 1937, some ten years after the first South African Open Championship had been held there. The Club Championships tournament was played over 36 holes and those taking part required a maximum handicap of 8 to enter.

From the start the Maccauvlei golf club showed an awareness of its obligations to the community, even though many members came from other areas and even foreign countries. The first outside competition or sponsored day ever held at Maccauvlei took place in July 1932. This was in response to a request from the SPCA to augment its funds, and was open to members and visitors. The Club agreed and donated one box of golf balls as a prize.

Initially, the Maccauvlei Golf Club was affiliated to the Orange Free state and Basutoland Golf Union, as the Transvaal Union adjudged that it could not grant Club affiliation on geographical grounds – since the course was on the wrong bank of the Vaal River. This status was subsequently changed, but the Vaal River has never forgotten this slight and over the years the river has made several attempts, some of them quite successful, to cut off the Club from Gauteng as we shall see.