The Tide Turns in the Eighties

When Gilbert Steyn retired in 1984, he was succeeded by Taffy Greenwood, the manager of Anglo American’s New Vaal Colliery which had started extensive coal mining operations near the Club. Anglo Coal started taking a vested interest in the fortunes of Maccauvlei and a general improvement in the Club’s facilities took place. The tag ascribed to the Club by a journalist that “a once proud club with a fine pedigree, was becoming one of the forgotten courses in South Africa”, was destined to change. Sadly, Taffy Greenwood stayed only for a year, but started a process of “help” from the mine that has continued to this day.

The decade was not without setbacks. One of the worst decisions made by the committee was to affiliate itself with the Western Transvaal Golf Union in 1980. By doing this, Maccauvlei lost all its status and prestigious trophy events on the Southern Transvaal Golf Union calendar. The Club was thus unable to attract top golfers to play in the two top amateur events. The honours boards for these events read like “Who’s who” of South African golf. Winners of the Vaal Amateur include Dennis Hutchinson in 1959, Arthur Walker in 1960, 1962 and 1963, Bobby Cole in 1965 and 1966, Hugh Baiocchi in 1970 and Mark McNulty in 1971. The event was traditionally played over the Easter weekend and in 1969 the prize allocation for the winner was R30, the best nett R5 and the best morning and afternoon gross R5. Winners of the Harry Oppenheimer Trophy include Dave Symons in 1964 (the inaugural event) and David Frost in 1980. Entry was by invitation, the qualification being that the golfer either had to have played for his country or province.

Affiliation to the Western Transvaal Golf Union lasted only two years, during which Maccauvlei lost in the finals of the Western Transvaal Handicap League, before the Club returned to the STGU.

Bobby returns and ‘putts’ on a fine show
In 1982, Bobby Locke returned to Maccauvlei, 44 years after winning his first South African Open on the course. Although in the twilight of his career, he showed why he was always regarded as the best putter in the game, with ten one putt greens. Some of his genius must have rubbed off on Maccauvlei members as in June 1984, Maccauvlei won the Southern Transvaal handicap league beating Southdowns 8-0 in the finals. It was the first time the title had been won by a Vaal Triangle club.

Meanwhile, the Club was not letting the grass grow under its feet and an experimental winter grass green (the practice green) was introduced, setting in motion the move towards permanent bent grass greens. The switch to permanent bent grass greens was completed in 1988/9 at a cost of only R120 000.00, along with a new watering system which was sponsored by AECI.

In 1988, the FW de Klerk Bridge over the Vaal River was opened and Maccauvlei gained a new entrance with a waterfall feature over the old railway bridge. The course underwent tremendous change. Water holes were introduced on holes 2, 7, 8, 13 and 14. These changes were due to the vision and skill of the greenkeeper, Ron Seiler, and the enormous support he received, in kind, from Chimpie Steyn of New Vaal Collieries.

Eric nearly makes a half century
On the 31st September 1982, a special gift of appreciation was handed to Eric Lavenstein at his last official appearance of the playing of his trophy event. Eric holds the record for the most appearances in the Maccauvlei Club championships having played in every single one from 1932 to 1981, the last one at the age of 81!

Provincial tournament peps up Maccauvlei’s profile
Rex Witte, Secretary of the STGU, was asked to try and drum up a tournament to boost Maccauvlei’s image nationally. In December 1989, the inter-provincial tournament was organised and comprised of 21 teams from all over the country. Known as the Nashua SA National team championships, it has now become an annual event staged at the Club. Accommodation for the players is provided at the magnificent facilities offered by the Maccauvlei Conference Centre.

Replacement and Improvement Fund
Having learnt the lessons of history the Club moved to try a prevent any future financial crises. In May 1985, Taffy Greenwood addressed a letter to all governing committee members regarding contingency reserves being made to provide for unplanned items of essential expenditure particularly in lean times.
In 1989, Harvey Reid secured a pledge from three companies to donate R15 000.00 each annually to Maccauvlei for a period of five years. This money was to be used solely for the replacement of course equipment. Vereeniging Refractories, New Vaal Colliery and African Cables were the three generous contributors.