The Club House and Dormy House

As the course was being shaped, work commenced on the building of a Clubhouse, a “dormy house” for weekend accommodation of golfers, a men’s dressing room, the professional shop, three cottages and a swimming pool. No expense was spared.

The buildings, were the work of Mr J.H. Dickinson, a prominent businessman, building contractor and mayor of Vereeniging. The architect of the Clubhouse and Dormy House is unknown, but the design of the buildings incorporated many features of Mr J.H. Dickinson’s own home which was a copy of a Sir Herbert Baker design. There is also great similarity between the building material used in his own home and that used in both the Clubhouse and the Dormy House, which were also built by his company. Mr Dickinson’s house still stands today, little changed from the day it was built.

The Clubhouse and Dormy House were completed in late 1925, and were officially opened by Mr John Munro, who was the Managing Director of Vereeniging Estates, on the 20th February 1926 – an occasion heralded by much pomp and ceremony.

The inaugural meeting of the Club was held that same Saturday evening at 9 pm, and was attended by ten women and fifty three men. At the meeting, eleven life members were elected. A draft agreement was submitted between Vereeniging Estates Ltd and the Club, whereby the company inter alia, licensed and authorised the Club to enter upon and maintain the golf course and the Club’s buildings for a period of five years.

The Clubhouse consisted of a dining room/lounge, with a ladies’ dressing room on the one side, and a small kitchen, bar and men’s toilet on the other side. In the front, a large open veranda faced the 18th green. The small bar became quite famous as it was the scene of hefty wagering, hefty drinking and much roistering. In those days drinking was even more of a pleasure. Not only did a whisky and soda cost one shilling and three pence, but there were no tot measures and the bottle was handed over to the member to pour his own drink. This mind expanding attitude may help to explain some of the anecdotes related in later chapters.

The Dormy House consisted of a large dining room and kitchen with diagonal bedroom wings on each side. The east wing was for men only and the other wing for women and married couples. There were only communal bathrooms. At the entrance to the men’s wing was a small bar. The men, some dressed, and others in dressing gowns reportedly engaged in much drinking and crap dice. Many irate wives waited on the closed veranda to take their drunken spouses home. Dormy House also had a more sedate use as the Vereeniging Estates Head Office.

In the pre-war era Maccauvlei was a favourite weekend haunt for the elite of Johannesburg society. As mentioned earlier, Johannesburg was only accessible by an appalling dirt road, so the South African Railways were persuaded to provide a siding with a board marked “Maccauvlei” opposite the 4th fairway. The visitors would take a pleasant train ride from a crowded city, to the prairie peacefulness, free horizons, and bracing fresh air of the northern Free State. The train would cross the old railway bridge and puff its way up the cutting. At Maccauvlei, the visitors would disembark to enjoy five star hospitality at the Club’s Dormy House, a most agreeable introduction to the charms of the course. This was a place to be seen over the Christmas and New Year periods, one imagines very much in the “Great Gatsby” tradition.

The Maccauvlei station, no longer there to-day, was the first stop outside Vereeniging – hence the famous programme on Springbok radio of yester-year by the late Cecil Wightman – “Next stop Maccauvlei” – a sure sign that the name had entered South African folklore along with Groot Marico. As with any new venture, the personality and attitudes of the people who start the project leave an indelible impression and influence the way it is perceived by history. Maccauvlei was fortunate to have a number of strong and colourful people involved in its establishment and they laid the foundation to a famous Club.