Wanderers Golf Club
Wanderers is one of the iconic golf clubs in South Africa due to having been the permanent host for 23 years of what used to be the country’s premier tournament, the Lexington PGA Championship. This annual showcase at the Wanderers from 1972 to 1995 drew large galleries to follow famous American and British golfers competing against South Africa’s finest.
The winners included five major champions – Gary Player and Ernie Els, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin and Corey Pavin. And many leading South Africans have their names on the trophy: Dale Hayes three times (1974-76), Hugh Baiocchi, John Bland, Bobby Cole, Fulton Allem, Tony Johnstone, Mark McNulty and David Frost. The PGA had such status that the winner was invited to the World Series of Golf at Firestone in Ohio.
Today the Wanderers remains one of Gauteng’s most beautiful parkland courses, its undulating fairways lined with majestic rows of distinctive mature trees, primarily oak, ash, birch, chestnut, elm, camphor and stinkwood. By modern standards it’s now a shortish course, yet tight enough off the tee to trouble most golfers.
A R2-billion development with Investec Property is planned for the Wanderers in 2021 which will entail the loss of the par-4 ninth hole bordering Rudd Road. A new clubhouse will be constructed and the course will be changed and upgraded, with new water features being built.
The golf club owns the property, yet for many years it was part of the greater Wanderers Club. It owes its prime position in upmarket Illovo to the foresight of Victor Kent, who in the 1930s purchased the land so the club could move out of central Johannesburg, and add golf for its members. The course opened with 10 holes in 1939, designed by Bob Grimsdell and club member Felix Oliver, with 18 completed a few years later.
Three of the original holes were lost when the Wanderers Stadium was built in the 1950s. The course has three par 5s, with a par of 71.
The course has changed since the halcyon days of the PGA Championship, having been upgraded in 1999 by Rob O’Friel, but still concludes with the famous uphill par-4 18th where many a tournament was decided on the final green. The downhill tenth is a fine risk-and-reward par 5, with water short of a green which stands in the shadow of the Wanderers cricket stadium. The course is defined by narrow and sloping fairways, several dogleg holes, and rewards those who drive the ball long and straight. The 11th is a superb dogleg left par 4, while the fourth is a short par 4 seemingly hemmed in by trees from tee to green.
The Protea Hotel Wanderers is across the road in Corlett Drive.
Range close to clubhouse with 200-metre distance. Large putting green in front of clubhouse; chipping green with complimentary warm-up balls.
Gareth Elfick & Tebogo Lefifi
Did you know?
1/ The busy social scene at Wanderers GC attracted famous international sportsmen and women as members. These included Graeme Pollock, Steven Jack (a former club captain), John Waite and Spook Hanley from cricket, Francois Pienaar, Hugh Bladen, James Small and John Robbie from rugby, and Pat Pretorius from tennis.
2/ Gary Player’s wife Vivienne was a Wanderers member, and famously had two aces in one round in 1978.
3/ There were two 61s in the PGA Championship at the old Wanderers by Fulton Allem (1989) and Rett Crowder (1993), while David Frost posted a record 72-hole score of 21-under 259 in winning the 1994 PGA (64-67-65-63).
4/ Dale Hayes shot 62 in the third round of the 1975 PGA, and that included calling a penalty shot on himself when his ball moved at address.
5/ The prizemoney for the first PGA Championship in 1972 was R25 000. It reached R100 000 in 1980, and R500 000 in 1993.
6/ The first co-sanctioned European Tour event held in South Africa was the 1995 Lexington PGA, the last one at the Wanderers. Ernie Els won his second PGA trophy and R220 000. Alfred Dunhill took over the sponsorship and the tournament moved to Houghton.
General manager / Dave Hansen
Golf director / Francois Spangenberg
Greenkeeper / Dean Whitson
Club captain / Chris Carrington
Chairman / Alan Kerdachi
Johannesburg / Gauteng
Four tees / Par 71
Yellow 6500 metres, CR74.1/140
White 6200 metres, CR72.1/136
Blue 5656 metres, CR69.3/128
Red 5348 metres, CR67.4/124
Blue women, CR75.7/145
Red women, CR73.5/140
Visitor green fees
Bob Grimsdell 1939, Rob O’Friel 1999
011 447 3311