The Royal Port Alfred Golf Club is one of four golf clubs in South Africa which have been granted the right to use the “Royal” prefix. The others are Royal Cape, Royal Durban and Royal Johannesburg & Kensington.
In the late 1890’s Dr WH Atherstone and a group of friends tried a game of golf over the east flats adjacent to the river and decided that a golf course would be a fine asset for the developing town. The Town Council declined the use of this ground but in 1906 agreed that some derelict erven in the undeveloped township of Saltvlei could be utilized for this purpose.
On 31 July 1907 a meeting was held in Dr Atherstone’s house and he and four others (W Stow, WH Vroom, GH Holloway and Dr CE Jones-Phillipson) agreed to donate £20.00 each to establish the club.
Dr Atherstone proceeded to lay out the first 9 holes with shell grit being used for the greens. The first AGM of the club was held at the Railway Hotel and Sir Walter Healy-Hutchison (The Governor of the Cape Colony) was elected President. The second President elected in 1910 was Leander Starr Jameson of Jameson raid notoriety! By April 1908 an additional nine holes had been designed and constructed by Dr Atherstone with the assistance of L Walters, a Johannesburg professional and on the 25 to 27 of that month the Opening Tournament was held with 5 professionals competing for the £30.00 prize.
The Golf Club was now firmly established and “Golf in Port Alfred” became popular with special train rates for golfing excursions. Many donated money to buy land and a new layout was completed in 1914 with grass greens, bunkers and hazards.
The new clubhouse was opened on 16 December 1916. A popular magazine of the time reported that “The Port Alfred Golf Club” affords golfers an opportunity of playing a course which has no equal in South Africa; there is nothing to prevent Port Alfred becoming the Mecca of South African golfers”.
During a visit to Port Alfred in 1921 by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Connaught, the wife of the Governor General and Queen Victoria’s grand daughter, a ceremony was held on the verandah of the club where she bestowed names on the holes of the course. 12 of these remain including that of the 17th “Connaught”. She was so impressed by her visit that she returned to the club on 6 April 1923 with her husband, Prince Arthur of Connaught who was to comment that “the links surpassed anything that ever I had ever expected”. Arising from this visit the “Royal” status was bestowed on the club by King George on 6 February 1924.
The publicity surrounding the Princess’s visit resulted in the SAGU holding the 1922 S.A. Open & Amateur at Port Alfred. The Open was won by Mr F Jangle & the Amateur by W.C. Stent. The 1927 Ladies’ Championship & the 1932 Men’s championships were also held at Port Alfred.
In May 1925 another royal visitor in the person of the Prince of Wales (later Edward V111) spent a week relaxing in Port Alfred and played several games on the links. He later presented the Prince of Wales Cup to the club through his Equerry PW Leigh to be played for in a challenge as decided by club members. Prince George (later Duke of Kent) arrived at the Kowie on board the White Train in May 1925 and played as much golf as possible during his stay.
From these early beginnings to the present day there have been numerous members who have worked tirelessly for the benefit of the club. One in particular, Hugh Kelly who was President from 1961 to 1994 (except for 1954) tenure was a pillar of support during his tenure. The present members are indeed most indebted to there predecessors for the efforts they made in developing such a fine club.