Club History

Kloof Country Club has a rich heritage that fills the Club with character, a little like proud grandparents looking down on the young ones who follow in their footsteps and good example.

The ‘club’ idea was originated by Tom Field, the landowner of the land on which the course would be built. Around 50 enthusiastic golfers formed the Kloof & District Golf Club in 1926.

They entered into a lease agreement with Field by paying a modest rental to the owner for the 50 acres on he had ploughed out 9 holes and added more than the usual hazards as he retained the right to graze his cattle on the course.

Field’s Hotel served as the meeting place, watering hole and function venue of the club in the early years, and the club’s membership swelled in just two years to 223. Notably, 134 of these members were Country members living beyond a 10-mile (16 km) radius of the course.

In 1929, the famous Stafford Vere Hotchkin was contracted to prepare a proposal to extend the course to 18 holes. Hotchkin, a retired colonel, had teamed up with Major Hutchinson and Sir Guy Campbell to form one of the great triumvirates of golf course architecture five years before, and their work is still held in the highest regard to this day. Their best-known example is Woodhall Spa, home of the English Golf Union and a course that has consistently ranked in the top 10 in England and in the top 50 in the world.

Hotchkin, on visits to South Africa, also left his mark on such courses as East London, Humewood and Mowbray in Cape Town.

During 1940, a new road was proposed that would run through the course, lopping off at least three of the holes and although delayed during the War years, the construction of the road went ahead despite vehement protests from the club. More of Tom Field’s land was made available, and inadvertently, the “road issue” as it was known, lead to the birth of our Country Club and the addition of tennis courts, a cricket oval and squash courts.

The redesign of the course necessitated by the “road issue” was entrusted to Bob Grimsdell and completed in 1951 who we understand did not rework the 6 holes that formed part of the original layout. Later, Peter Matkovich was commissioned to make further improvements which included the reconstruction of the greens and their surrounds and planting them with bent grass. This was completed in 1995.

Kloof and Champagne Sports Resort are the only courses in KwaZulu-Natal to have bent grass greens. Which has recently been joined by Cotsworld Downs Golfing Estate.

Kloof Country Club - A Historical Perspective

Part 1 : The Early Days

Fields Hotel

In any study of Kloof or indeed Kloof Country Club, the name Field features prominently. William Swan appointed his brother, John Coote Field to run the farm, and on William’s death in 1865, John Coote inherited the farm at a value of 1,400 pounds! He died in 1896 having sired twelve children, the eighth being Thomas Samuel Poor Field, affectionately known as Tom.

The idea of a golf course was first mooted in 1926, and Tom presided over the inaugural meeting held at Field’s Hotel. ( Demolished in 1995 and now known as the Fields Centre, the original hotel being the centre section.) It was agreed that 50 acres be devoted to the construction of a 9 hole course, a lease being drawn up between Tom Field and The Kloof and District Country Club, (as we were then known) at a rental of three pound per month. Green fees were 6p for men and 3p for ladies, and caddies.

No 4 Green with Fields Hotel in distance

were available at a shilling a round The course was opened in October 1927 by Sir John Dove-Wilson, Judge President of Natal.

Our first Captain was E. Ericson and an exhibition match was arranged between two professionals, namely the brothers Jock Sid Brews and two club amateurs, McMaster and Whyte. The following day, an open club competition for the Anniversary Cup, presented by Otto Siedle, was competed for. This is our oldest trophy. In early 1928, our club membership stood at 223. The decision was then made to extend the course to eighteen holes. In addition yoked oxen and scotchcart were replaced by machinery for course maintenance. The original 1928 course lay-out was as follows, for those who cannot remember!

1st Hole

The tee box was where the present FNB building stands and the hole ran parallel with Umzwilili Road down to roughly where the present 4th green is located

2nd Hole

The present 5th

3rd Hole

The present 6th

4th Hole

The present 7th

5th Hole

The present 8th

6th Hole

The present 9th

7th Hole

The tee was about 30 metres from our existing Pro Shop and the hole was a par 5 running down the present practice fairway, across the dip through which ran a stream, to the present 10th green

8th  Hole

The present 11th

Hotel Vegetable Garden – now SPCA

9th  Hole

The present 12th

10th Hole

A par 5 from the 13th tee down to the 14th green

11th Hole

The present 15th

12th Hole

The present 16th

13th Hole

The present 17th

14th Hole

The present 18th

15th Hole

From the present 1st tee to the present 2nd green. There was no cricket ground or tennis courts and that area was fairly densely wooded

16th Hole

The present 3rd but there was no dam – just a stream guarding the green

17th Hole

A par 3 from the present 4th tee (across the present National Highway) to a green in the lower part of today’s Richmond Park.

18th Hole

The tee box located in the centre of today’s Richmond Park with the fairway running across in  front of the then clubhouse, being portion of the hotel where Kloof Spar is now located, to the green which was roughly mid-way between the existing Methodist Church and Field Centre

1st Tee & Public Tennis courts

In 1929 a Ladies Section was formed. In 1931 we entered two mens teams in the Inter Club League.

“A” Team: Siedle, Lea, Dolton, Burnhill.
“B” Team: Ericsen, Tod, Clothier, Martin.

Whilst the club was progressing well, a permanent clubhouse had yet to be developed as patently the use of portion of Field’s Hotel was undesirable. The use of the hotel contained a clause that all club catering was the responsibility of Luther (Skit) Field, son of Tom, who now ran the hotel. Skit Field, despite club protestations, was adamant that the catering clause was not negotiable. 1932 was the year of the Great Depression, so everything was placed on hold. Eventually an agreement was reached in 1933 whereby Skit agreed to build a clubhouse on land owned by him for the sum of 1,800 pounds with the repayment of the loan amounting to fifteen pounds per month. On completion of capital repayment and interest, the club could continue to occupy the building at a nominal rent until expiry of the lease in 1955, little realising how the war and subsequent National Road development would affect matters. The clubhouse overlooked the fairway of the par 5 18th hole, and at long last we had a proper golf course.

The building was completed in 1934 and our first AGM was held in 1935. Membership had now passed the magical 500 figure and a starting sheet was commenced for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. No doubt Saturday morning was considered a working morning. The club then hosted the Natal Ladies Championships and in 1939 also staged the Natal Amateur and Open Championships, duly won by Jock Verwey on a score of 300, (average 75 per round) a stroke ahead of Otway Hayes, with Sid Childs, the first professional on 303.

Sadly we lost our Patron and Landlord of the club, Tom Field, who in 1939, died aged eighty. As a mark of respect, the club was closed for two days.

Part 2: Kloof Country Club – A Historical Perspective

The dark clouds of war had gathered in September 1939. Finance, that ever-present bogey, once more raised its head. Bobby Locke made an offer to play an exhibition match against the best ball of the club’s leading three players. His fee? A modest 10 pounds which the Finance Committee declined in view of the parlous state of revenue.

In 1940, a bridge membership opened, under the grand title of “Contract Bridge Section of the Kloof and District Golf Club,”

In June of that year, with the young volunteering their services to the war effort, club resignations were heavy and income fell. An Emergency Committee was elected to oversee the financial constraints that resulted in continuing efforts to run the club. In 1942 it was resolved that six months notice be given to terminate the lease on the clubhouse, and, in view of war conditions, the club elected to play on a nine hole course only, suspending the other nine. No management meetings were recorded for a period of eight months and the club barely ticked over with a pulse rate that was best described as slow and weak, bordering terminal.

A Special General Meeting was held on 27 November 1943 to resolve whether or not the club should continue to operate during the forthcoming year. Our destiny hung in the balance, and a decision was made to continue subject to not making payment of rent after the existing lease had expired. This was agreed to, and somehow we struggled through, described by our Honorary Secretary Mr. Bagnell as, “ let us hope that the good work can be maintained until the return from active service of the younger members.”

And return they did! In 1946 the Emergency Committee was rescinded and the club resumed activity with a bank balance of 633 pounds. Membership totalled 204, but what a task faced them. Most of the machinery dated back to 1926. Two ox-driven mowers barely passed muster and if the club Captain, Mr McMillan, using his influence as Headmaster of Highbury School had not lent us the school lorry for use in cutting fairways, the course may well have been unplayable. Stability began to be re-established. A new tractor was duly purchased and the aged oxen put out to pasture or destined for the abattoir. During the course of that year, we gained over 100 additional members.

The following year, 1947, proved to be the most momentous and decisive year in our history, surpassing the trials and tribulations of the previous year. A new threat faced us, namely the proposed road linking Durban to Pietermaritzburg, (the new National Highway,) that would bisect our course. The club, represented by the Committee, together with our Landlord Mr. ‘Skit’ Luther Field, vigorously opposed the route of the National Road, to no avail. The subsequent expropriation would result in the loss of three holes, which meant that the remaining 15 holes would have to be redesigned to fit in three extra holes. Our clubhouse, which was in reality an annex to the hotel, was lost, so the club was now faced with building a new one, with very little money left in the kitty to do so.

The National Highway was eventually completed in 1950 and the new course ready for play in April 1951. Planning the new clubhouse was well under way, but money still presented a problem. What we really needed was someone with both drive and initiative to take control and we were very fortunate that Eric Mowat put his hand up. He took leave of absence from his firm for a whole year to devote himself to setting the club on the right road. The contribution made by him cannot be overstated and there is little doubt that without his efforts, we would never be in the position we are today.

To solve the financial problem, he put in place a scheme to raise money by selling debentures, a 100 pounds for men and 50 pounds for ladies. All debenture holders automatically became non-playing members without paying any further fees, and had the right to assume full membership by paying the annual subscription at the time, excluding the entrance fee.

Skit Field then decided that he was prepared to sell the land on which the golf course stood, to the club. Owning the course was a wonderful thought which members had dreamt of for years, but, like all good things, it came at a price. Eric Mowat, who knew Skit Field well – they had played in the same Natal cricket team some thirty years earlier – was entrusted with the negotiations and it was eventually agreed that the club would pay Skit Field 2,000 pounds per annum for the rest of his life. Of this amount, 1,000 pounds was secured by means of an annuity, and the remaining 1,000 pounds was to be paid from club funds.

This placed an additional burden on the club’s finances, but members were determined to see it through and redoubled their fund raising efforts with the ladies being heavily involved. It was estimated the clubhouse would cost 13,000 pounds and the annuity 12,500 pounds. Finally, after much hard work and anguish, the target was reached and the decision made to proceed. Skit Field had decided to create three completely independent trusts, into each of which a portion of his land would be transferred.

  1. The Fields Park Trust would receive the golf course for the exclusive use of the Kloof Country Club.
  2. The Luther Field Trust would receive the cricket ground and surrounding area.
  3. The S.P.C.A. Trust would receive the old homestead, together with the surrounding land.

Each Trust had a deed of constitution that placed limitations on land usage in order to preserve for perpetuity, the natural beauty and character of the area and the purpose for which the trust was created.

The clubhouse was eventually completed and paid for in 1952 and we were now in a position to move forward with confidence. Club membership stood at 700, and the course was in good shape. There were still a number of things needed, but these could be dealt with when funds became available. Over the next few years a bowling green, a billiard room and a swimming pool were added, together with various improvements being made to the clubhouse. A heraldic artist was commissioned to design the club crest that resulted in the leopard as the main motif. The motto chosen was “Avaunt Dull Care,” simply “Beyond Dull Care.”

In 1964 the club missed a golden opportunity to acquire an additional 12.5 acres of prime land. Skit Field offered to sell the land that runs adjacent to the present third fairway for R50, 000. After long and agonising deliberations it was decided that the club, unable to raise the funds, regrettably had to decline the offer. It might be added that at that time a decent house in Abrey Road could be purchased for R14, 000.

Skit Field had not been well for some time and died in 1965. He had been closely involved with the club since its inception and had been a great help in many ways. Indeed, without him we would not have a club.
Then in 1967 Eric Mowat died, thus closing a chapter on the early days of the club. Eric, described by his many friends as ‘the guiding light, mentor and a person of dynamic drive,’ was responsible with Skit, in making Kloof Country Club a reality. Eric, had been a member since 1933 and will always be remembered. His legacy today lives in our club after a room named in his honour.