The Maccauvlei Golf Club owes its existence to Sammy Marks’s two sporting sons, Louis and Teddy Marks. They became hooked on golf, while they were on holiday at the coast, and conceived the idea of establishing a top quality golf course near the town of Vereeniging where, thanks to the efforts of their father, they held extensive industrial and agricultural interests.
The lay-out, development and planning of a golf course on Vereeniging Estates land officially named “Maccaw 1802” and “Maccaw Vlei 121” (farmlands), part of the original Maccauvlei property, was first mooted in the early 1920’s. This land was across the Vaal River from Vereeniging on the Orange Free State side.
The ground was a vast unspoilt area contained on the West by the Vaal River and on the East by the huge Maccauvlei forest. This land was a wilderness of sandy waste, patches of reeds, rushes and rank grass, growing waist high, broken only by two belts of blue gum trees and another clump of giant gums.
The original architect of Maccauviei
The man chosen to undertake the pioneering venture of turning this bare veld into a golf course was George Peck from Felixstowe in Suffolk, England, who was an artist and a landscape architect of fame, as well as a golfer. He was astute enough to see that nature had provided a site akin to a seaside links with ridges, dells and undulations situated on the highveld at an altitude of 1 500 metres, but over 500 kilometres from the nearest coast, a unique area in itself.The old golfer tramped the area for weeks visualising and planning, and then with the assistance of A.F. Tomsett, who was engaged as the Club’s first professional, and an army of workers, they set to work. Great scoops were made in the sand, and fairways were laid to grass. There was no problem in making the most of what ground could be had. The course was laid out after a wide survey of location and environment. With no boundaries imposed on the designer, features were made on a grand scale with generous greens. At the end of the day, the wisdom and foresight of the designer’s choice was evident at every turn. Incidentally, Peck was also responsible for the East London golf course layout.
A course in the woods to challenge the tigers
The final design and finishing touches of the course are, however, credited to Major SV Hotchkin, one of an illustrious trinity of British course designers. While visiting South Africa in July 1929 with the specific purpose of designing the Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth, he was requested by the Maccauvlei committee to prolong his stay in South Africa, to give them his views and advice on the re-design of Maccauvlei. For this he was paid the princely sum of 52 pounds and ten shillings (about a hundred rand at the original exchange rate). He duly visited Maccauvlei and after touring the course was enthusiastic about the possibilities it presented. Not long after his return to the United Kingdom his suggestions for the re-design were received. His report to the Club was as follows:
“It is rarely, if ever, that I have had the opportunity, and if I may say so, good fortune to see such a piece of golfing ground on an inland course as that on which Maccauvlei is laid out. It is a real “seaside” course though no sea is visible and much more of a “seaside” course than many of those termed such; and I can say that it is one of the best courses I have seen in this country”.
Maccauvlei became known as the only “Inland links” golf course in the world, and was often referred to as the “Queen of Inland Courses”. To this day, due to the Major Hotchkin connection, there is a reciprocity agreement between Maccauvlei and Humewood.
The one major improvement from his suggestions was a radical change to the original layout. The 17th hole, at that time, was a striking short hole with a tee shot over a waste of sand to a plateau green situated on a saddle in the sand dunes. “Here you can have one of the great holes of golf; a hole to challenge the tigers”, he declared.
He provided a plan for making the 16th a short hole by the river and the 17th, an exacting and challenging hole, in the form of a dog’s leg.
His advice helped Maccauvlei to enhance its reputation both locally and abroad and the course gained many new admirers.
The one major improvement from his suggestions was a radical change to the original layout. The 17th hole, at that time, was a striking short hole with a tee shot over a waste of sand to a plateau green situated on a saddle in the sand dunes. “Here you can have one of the great holes of golf; a hole to challenge the tigers”, he declared. He provided a plan for making the 16th a short hole by the river and the 17th, an exacting and challenging hole, in the form of a dog’s leg. His advice helped Maccauvlei to enhance its reputation both locally and abroad and the course gained many new admirers.
The inaugural meeting of the Maccauvlei Golf Club was held at Dormy House at nine o’clock on the evening of Saturday the 20th of February 1926. The meeting was chaired by Teddy Marks, and although Louis was away on business, Roy Lewis, Isaac’s son, as well as Roy and Teddy’s wives were there.
The list of people present includes members of many of the leading families on the Witwatersrand whose names have become part of history of the region including Mr S.J. Jeppe, Mr H.B. Keartland, Mr P.E. Busschau, Mr W.J. Buchanan (who was to play a leading role in the Club), Dr A. Campbell, Mr William Mallinson, Mr J.H. Donaldson, Mr J.H. Dickinson and Mr Sammy Goudvis, whose high flying approach to golf is recounted later.
In his opening address Teddy Marks extended a hearty welcome to all those present and outlined the work done one the course leading up to the formation of the club. He expressed particular thanks to Messrs William Mallinson, Roy Lewis, Dr A.G. Brinton, and to the architect George Peck and the professional A.J. Tomsett as well as the Secretary of the Club, Frank Grey, for their great contributions.
The opening page of the original minutes of the meeting are shown below, illustrating the meticulous way the records were kept.