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Formation of a Golf Union - The First Moves

The first meeting of golfers from different centres around the country was in Kimberley in 1892 when invitations were sent to clubs around the country to attend the golf Tournament that was being arranged by the Kimberley GC as part of the Kimberley Exhibition and which was to include the inaugural national amateur championship. Very few made the trip. The fact is that in 1892 there were very few golf clubs. Be that as it may, visitors came only from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and there was disappointment that there were no representatives from Durban or Johannesburg.

The following year the Tournament was hosted by Port Elizabeth and responsibility for the running of the meeting rested with the home club. The success of the inaugural event in Kimberley was quite evident and in 1893 entries came from golfers and clubs from all the major centres. For some years the Port Elizabeth Golf Club continued to play a leading role and was very much responsible for the establishment of the SA Tournament as the major event on the golfing calendar. As the Tournament grew in stature so numbers increased and more and more the visiting golfers were roped in to assist with the organisation of the meeting. Thus, while the prime responsibility for the Tournament each year rested with the home club, nevertheless a gradual process of the visiting clubs being involved was taking place, a sort of informal union of clubs was being formed.

The programme and conditions of entry for the Tournament held at King William's Town in 1902 makes this quite clear.

"Handicaps are to be determined by a Committee consisting of Captains of the respective teams competing in the SA Teams Match".

But it adds:

"Times of play and all arrangements connected with the Tournament are to be in the hands of the Committee of the King William's Town Golf Club".

Of particular interest, however, is that the same 1902 programme states that the championship, meaning of course the amateur championship, was "to be played under the Special Rules decided at the Port Elizabeth Easter Meeting 1895". These Special Rules can only have been formulated and agreed by a meeting of golfers from all clubs present, not just Port Elizabeth.

Thus it appears that from the earliest years, certainly from as early as 1895, a meeting of representatives of the clubs present at the Tournament was an established feature with the responsibility of determining the rules governing the championships, both amateur and open, and to agree on such issues as the venue for the following year. It is on record that in 1903, again in Port Elizabeth, seven clubs were represented at the Annual Meeting, as it was now called. These were drawn from all the major centres in the country; Kimberley, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, King William's Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. In 1904 in Johannesburg reference is made to "the Meeting of the Captains of the several golf clubs in South Africa".

Thus it was that, when the concept of a national controlling body was mooted, there was a feeling that such already existed, that it worked and that there was no need for any formal structures to be put in place.

The more enlightened golfers saw otherwise and as far back as 1899 in Kimberley at the dinner given for the visitors R J Dick of King William's Town, in the course of a speech, pleaded for 'the formation of a golf union to regulate the championship'. The seed fell on stony ground.

In 1902 the Tournament was held in King William's Town, R J Dick's home turf where he was captain, and he again brought up the matter of the golf union. But, like in Kimberley, the ground was still stony.

The SA Open was inaugurated at the 1903 Tournament in Port Elizabeth and, in view of this important development, the need for a proper controlling body would seem to have been more necessary than ever. But it was still all talk with nothing being resolved.

EP Herald, 16 April 1903: "The question of forming a Golf Union for South Africa was again mooted and it was unfortunate that Mr Dick (King William's Town) was not present as he has taken special interest in this matter. The advantages of forming such a Union were agreed upon but no definite steps were taken."

The matter of the formation of the Golf Union continued to be much discussed to the point where the Cape GC decided to bring matters to a head and deputed C W M Kingsley to make a concrete proposal at the Bloemfontein meeting in 1905. There was little support for this initiative. He found a reluctant seconder for his motion "for the sake of argument" but, to use Kingsley's words, "proposer and seconder were the only supporters and the idea was turned down by a somewhat scoffing majority".


IT has generally been considered that the South African Golf Union was formed in 1515 at a meeting held at Rondebosch on March 31 of that year. At the Potchefstroom championship meeting the previous year the principle of forming a Union was passed, and the Hon. Hugh Gunn, A. B. Godbold and Francis Black were appointed to draft rules and constitution.

But thanks to the kind offices of H. B. Keartland it now transpires that a national union had been mooted, if not actually formed, previous to the usually accepted date. Mr. Keartland writes that a cutting from the Bloernfontein “Post” was made available to him, and he has taken a full note. The newspaper was dated April 24, 1905. That would be during the holding of the national championship at Bloemfontein, when J. G. Grey (pro.) won the Open and K. C. V. Nicholson won the Amateur Championship.

There was a meeting of delegates from many clubs, and the first resolution in connection with the matter read: “That it is desirable in the interests of golf that a golfing union be established in South Africa.”

Subsequently resolutions were adopted to govern the constitution. Amongst them were the following:

"This Union shall be called the South African Golfing Union"

“The Union shall consist of such clubs in the Cape Colony, Natal, Grange River Colony, Rhodesia and Transvaal as may from time to time be admitted thereinto. Clubs with a minimum of 30 members and playing on their own links being eligible.”

Other resolutions dealt with the appointment of officials, the management of the Union, voting powers and subscriptions, the holding of ,the annual meeting during the South African tournament and laying down that the annual tournament should be held when practicable during the week commencing Good Friday.

These resolutions are still the working basis of the control of the game today.

A further meeting was to be held to appoint a provisional committee. Unfortunately a report of this meeting is not available. Was it ever held? And did the body ever function as a Union?

Those present at the meeting were: Mr. Nesbit (East London: in the chair), C. W. M. Kingsley (Cape Town), A. Henderson, Richardson, Bedver B. L. Jackson, H. H. Dewar (hon. sec.) (Bloemfontein), R. Holmes (Maritzburg), McGregor (C.S.A.R.), Dickson (Jagersfontein), J. R. Southey, J. Munro, D. Hume, K. C. V. Nicholson (Johannesburg) , Solomon, Simpson, Dr. Briggs (Kimberley), Gebbie, Marsh, Wilson, Griffiths, Hales (East London), T. Barclay, J. Matthews, H. K. Pagden, J. Forbes (Port Elizabeth), Donald (Colesberg).

Making Golf History

SAGU - rules













A B Godbold who with Hugh Gunn and Francis Black
was responsible for drafting these rules

The Golf Union Formed

Following all those years without success, the first positive steps to form the South African Golf Union were finally taken at the Annual Meeting in Potchefstroom in 1909. A special committee consisting of A B Godbold (Cape), H Gunn (Bloemfontein) and F Black (Johannesburg) was appointed to draw up a constitution, a set of rules, for consideration at the next annual tournament. This was at the Cape GC, the first time that it had been held in Cape Town. There is no record of what went on at the Annual Meeting. One must assume that there was debate pro and con the proposals. All that is known is that the Rules as drafted by the special committee, and reproduced above, were adopted apparently exactly as drawn without amendment.

'Dormie' reported this historic event in the Cape Times on 12th April 1910:

"Then the Union was formed and this fact alone will render the Wynberg meeting historic. A very good muster of delegates was present on the Wednesday evening and the Union formed on a safe basis.

"It will doubtless interest my readers to know that the new Governor-General (Lord Gladstone), who is both a keen and good golfer, was elected President of the Union. Mr A B Godbold was elected Vice-President, an office he is peculiarly fitted to fill while Mr Francis Black of Johannesburg is the secretary.

"I will just conclude this notice by endorsing the sentiments of one of the speakers, who paid a graceful compliment to the manner in which the up-country delegates sunk their individual opinions in order to bring union about, and if the fine spirit shown on Wednesday evening is going to pervade the S.A. Golf Union, I have not the least doubt that it has a bright future before it."

A B Godbold Remembers

Commenting on his part in the formation of the Union, A B Godbold, retiring after 20 year in office, said:

"I well remember at our first meeting in Potchefstroom I was asked what possible good I thought a South African Golf Union could do; the game had gone on all these years without a union, and it was a most revolutionary idea. You must judge by results. At our annual meeting I gave a brief outline of some of the principal matters with which we have dealt during these years and I think we can claim that the formation of our union was justified. I think we are entitled to say the foundation has been well and truly laid and I leave the superstructure to you with every confidence that it will stand for all time while golf is played in this country."

He concluded:

"Remember that golf in this country is only at the beginning but, if we one and all try and act and live up to the wonderful tradition of the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews, I feel we should have done our small part for the game in South Africa."

Kingsley - 'A Memorable Occasion'

In 1928 Charles Kingsley was persuaded by SA Golf to write his reminiscences. As we have seen, he was an ardent supporter of the idea of union and he described the formation of the Golf Union as follows:

"Making South African Golf History"

"This meeting (at Potchefstroom in 1909) was a memorable occasion in the annals of South African golf for the seeds sown in previous years at last germinated, and the formation of a union was decided upon by a meeting of the captains of the various clubs represented at the tournament.

"The preliminary work fell on the shoulders of Francis Black and A.B. Godbold, who were the first secretary and president, and who drafted the constitution, the experience of the latter in the world of soccer being invaluable, for he had been President of the Football Association for many years.

"The formation of the Union has been of inestimable benefit to the game, the most recent example being the visit of the team from St. Andrew's, an event without precedent in the history of the game, for it was the first occasion upon which the R. & A. had sent a team to a Dominion, and this could not have been done had there not been a representative body here to conduct negotiations."

"Continuity of Policy Obtained by Union"

"It may be only a personal opinion, based however on a long experience, but I think that the camaraderie and good fellowship amongst the golfing community have increased to a marked extent since the formation of the Union. This may be due to the fact that more men are brought into contact with one another at the business meetings at each tournament than formerly, which has resulted in establishing a far better understanding of the viewpoints and difficulties of other centres, whilst a continuity of policy has been assured which was almost impossible under the old regime.

"I do not wish to infer for one moment that interclub relations used to be anything but cordial, for there was a marked absence of the feeling of jealousy between different centres of which there was an undercurrent in other sports as well as in wider spheres, a fact upon which golfers from other parts have agreed with me.

"The union has been singularly fortunate in its officers. Godbold has filled the chair with conspicuous success since the beginning, and now that he has more leisure, will no doubt be able to devote even more time to its affairs that he was able to spare from a busy life in the past."

Note that this was written in 1928, two years before Godbold's retirement from the Executive at the AGM in April 1930.

The New Union

There is nothing very remarkable about the Rules of the newly formed Union. Of interest though is the demarcation of the provinces defining membership of the Union, remembering that only the Transvaal Golf Union (1909) and the Western Province Golf Union (February, 1910) had been formed and that otherwise none of the provincial unions was as yet in place. There were eight member provinces suggested:

  • Transvaal
  • Natal
  • Orange River Colony and Basutoland
  • Griqualand West
  • Western Province
  • Eastern Province (to de Aar inclusive)
  • Frontier (to Aliwal North inclusive)
  • Rhodesia

It was anticipated that Unions would be formed in each of these regions. Where no local Union existed, the rules allowed individual clubs to be elected as members. It was some years before the other Provincial Unions were formed and in the interim it was indeed the individual clubs that affiliated to the SAGU.

Management of the Union was by a Council consisting of President, Vice-President and Secretary/Treasurer plus two delegates from each provincial Union, or where there was no Union, by two delegates appointed by affiliated clubs. The first President, as we have seen, was the Governor-General, Lord Gladstone, with A B Godbold as Vice-President. Gladstone's position was non-executive and de facto Godbold was the President from the outset, the senior executive member. Although only formally appointed President in 1919, Godbold is generally recognised as having held the office of President from 1910 through to 1930 when he stood down, 20 years in all. The first secretary/treasurer was Francis Black. Hugh Gunn left Sputh Africa for the UK later in 1910, never to return, and played no part in the future running of the SAGU.

Gladstone was followed as President by successive Governors-General, Viscount Buxton, Prince Arthur of Connaught, The Earl of Athlone and The Earl of Clarendon, all very illustrious gentlemen but head of the Golf Union in title only. The position was regularised in 1919 when the Governor-General, at that time Viscount Buxton, was made Patron and the title of President went to Godbold where it rightfully belonged.

Francis Black was from the Transvaal but with the head office being in Cape Town a secretary in Johannesburg was not ideal. That this was unworkable was soon realised and before the end of the year (1910) Black had been replaced by A E Bradshaw. Black was elected an Honorary Vice-President and remained involved with the running of the Union.

Changes to the Executive

It comes as no surprise that as the years went by changes were made to the structure and composition of the Golf Union Executive. There were bound to be teething troubles and changes to facilitate and improve the working of the Executive were inevitable. The change of the Governor-General's role from President to Patron is an example of this. There were a great many more changes in future years, as we shall see.

As mentioned it was in 1919 that Godbold was formally elected to the position of President. A further amendment to the Rules that year called for the election of two vice-presidents, W J Trembath and W B Calder being chosen. In 1925 the Rules were amended increasing the Executive by an additional elected member under the title "Member of Executive". The first such Member was C W M Kingsley. In the remaining years of Godbold's presidency the Executive was as follows:

  Vice-Presidents Member of Executive
1919 W J Trembath, W B Calder  
1920 W J Trembath, W B Calder  

W B Calder, A French

1922 W B Calder, A French  
1923 W B Calder, A French  
1924 T Barry, E C Hay  
1925 E C Hay, Sir Thomas Graham C W M Kingsley
1926 Sir Thomas Graham, D D C Murray C W M Kingsley
1927 D D C Murray, C W M Kingsley W C E Stent
1928 C W M Kingsley, G C Starkey W C E Stent
1929 G C Starkey, W P Barker W C E Stent


Godbold finally stood down at the AGM in April 1930 and W P Barker was elected President. From then on it was deemed expedient to have succeeding presidents serve for two years only in order that the honour should go around. Since then the only exception has been the presidency of E J Hunt in the WW2 years. He was in office from 1940 to 1946.

There were also several changes in the position of honorary secretary/treasurer in those first years. As we have seen, Black remained in office only until November 1910 when A E Bradshaw was elected. Bradshaw held office until 1914 when he resigned to be replaced by

C C Morgan, who in turn resigned in April 1919 to be replaced by E H Howes. Howes served for two years and at the AGM in 1921 H Conyers Kirby was elected. Bradshaw, Morgan and Howes were all members of Royal Cape and living in Cape Town, as was H Conyers Kirby, who was honorary secretary of the Golf Union from 1921 to 1946 when he was forced to retire through ill-health. Kirby was a legend in his time and more will be heard of him as the story of the SAGU unfolds. Important to remember is that the secretaryship of the Union was an honorary one and made demands on the time of the incumbents which was freely given. Clearly, however, there were out of pocket expenses to be met and in 1919 it was proposed and agreed that the secretary should be granted an honorarium of 25 guineas.

The Executive in the 1930's and through the war years was as follows:

  President Vice Presidents Member of Executive
1930 W P Barker P Granger B L Wymer

C W M Kingsley

1931 W P Barker B L Wymer E Eriksen C W M Kingsley
1932 J G Hirsch E Eriksen E C Hay C W M Kingsley
1933 J G Hirsch E C Hay R J MacWilliam W A M Beard
1934 C W M Kingsley R J MacWilliam W A M Beard J G Hirsch
1935 C W M Kingsley W A M Beard T Pollard J G Hirsch
1936 W A Morison Abel T Pollard A S Leith J G Hirsch
1937 W A Morison Abel A S Leith P G Stiebel W A M Beard
1938 W A M Beard P G Stiebel EJ Hunt C W M Kingsley
1939 W A M Beard  E J Hunt C A M Elliott C W M Kingsley
1940 E J Hunt C A M Elliott C A M Elliott H E P Watermeyer
1941 E J Hunt C A M Elliott C M Bettison H E P Watermeyer
1942 E J Hunt C A M Elliott C M Bettison H E P Watermeyer
1943 E J Hunt C A M Elliott P Wenban H E P Watermeyer
1944 E J Hunt C A M Elliott P Wenban H E P Watermeyer
1945 E J Hunt C A M Elliott E Cave H E P Watermeyer
1946 E J Hunt C A M Elliott T Pollard H E P Watermeyer

Bettison and Watermeyer were both on active service and as such were given leave of absence. Bettison was killed in action in 1943. Wenban took his place on the Executive until his death in 1944. His place was taken by E Cave

The arrangement with respect to the vice-presidents was that each year one would be re-elected for the following year and one would resign. This pattern repeated itself until 1940 when it was proposed and accepted that the office bearers, president as well as vice-presidents, should stay through the duration of the war years. In later years there continued to be two vice-presidents, one senior and one junior, with the senior vice-president moving on to be president. Through the 1930's this was not the case and in fact the presidents were not necessarily chosen from the vice-presidents at all. Examples are Hirsch and Morison Abel, neither of whom was ever vice-president. Regarding the election of the Member of Executive there seems to have been no particular pattern, except to say that they were all respected names in the golfing community and their opinions carried much weight. From 1925 right through to 1946 and beyond, with the exception of J G Hirsch, all were members of Royal Cape.

The Golf Union at Work

Following the formation of the Golf Union the most important role played by the Executive was the organisation of the annual SA Tournament. By 1911 this comprised four major national events, the SA Open, the SA Amateur, the Inter-Centre Teams and the Inter-Club Foursomes. Later, in 1923, the Professionals' Match Play was added. These events fell fairly and squarely under the control of the SAGU, but important was the assistance they were given by the home club. The home club had the particular responsibility of running the several competitions played off handicap and also of organising the social activities that were such an integral part of the annual get-together of the country's golfers.

Grass Tees and Greens: There is very little on record regarding the work of the Golf Union in the years before WW1. The most important and much quoted decision was made at the Kimberley meeting in 1913 when it was ruled that the SA Championships would not in future be held on any course that did not have grass tees and greens. Nor has it ever been. This was the historic Meeting when Jimmy Prentice won both the Open and the Amateur championships.

The SA Tournament, Durban 1919

During the war years 1915 to 1918, championship golf came to a standstill and it was not until 1919 that things returned to normal and the SA Tournament was resumed. A copy of the 1919 programme and the minutes of various meetings have survived and give a clear indication as to how the Tournament, in this instance hosted by the Durban GC, was run and managed.

To set the ball rolling a General Meeting of the Executive was held in Cape Town on 7th January 1919 at which it was agreed that the Tournament, now called the SA Championship Meeting, should be held in Durban at Easter. It was further agreed that "a sub-committee be empowered to arrange the programme for the forthcoming Tournament in conjunction with the officials of the Durban GC". This latter sub-committee met on 15th January, also in Cape Town, and the programme of Championship events was finalised, starting on Friday 18th April (Good Friday) and ending on Thursday April 24th. If starting on Good Friday was not acceptable to the hosts, the programme would be delayed to the Saturday. The handicap events were left entirely to the Durban Golf Club.

Referring back to the 7th January General Meeting, it was also agreed that a formal meeting of the Executive should be held in Durban on 17th April immediately prior to the Tournament to appoint:

a) A Sub-Committee to control the Championship events (i.e. Amateur, Open, Inter- Centre and Inter-Club)

b) A Green and Bye-Laws Committee

c) A Rules of Golf Committee

Finally, it was proposed and carried that the programme of events should be submitted to this meeting "for final ratification". It appears that golf on Good Friday was not in fact acceptable and the Tournament started on Saturday the 19th April.

The Rules and Regulations governing the Tournament were spelt out for the competitors in the Programme (see Rules 1. and 2. below). Important was the role of the Green and Bye-Laws Committee, with powers to approve and implement these rules. The role of the other two committees mentioned above is not defined. The Green and Bye-Laws Committee was renamed the Tournament Executive Committee in 1925, a name which perhaps carried far more authority.

The cost of running the annual tournament was not inconsiderable and affiliation fees paid annually by the member Unions and clubs was nowhere near enough to cover these expenses. The only way to find the money was to levy the affiliated bodies and this was duly done each year, a sort of belated affiliation fee. The balance sheet for 1919 is not available but that for 1928 follows.

Of particular interest, apart from the receipts and payments schedules, is the list of affiliated Members. There are no real surprises amongst the provincial unions, but why no SWD Golf Union? SWD was certainly affiliated at some stage. Instead in 1928 that region was represented by the Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn Golf Clubs  -  but where were George and Knysna? Also interesting are the clubs in Elizabethville, Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Lourenco Marques. They seem a bit remote to be able to enjoy the benefits of affiliation to the SAGU. The complexities of the affiliation process are dealt with later in this history.

The annual levy to meet the costs of the Tournament stayed in place until 1939 when it was decided to charge an entry fee to watch the championships. This was a successful move, as we shall see, and enabled the Golf Union to do away with the levy.

The Gentlemen vs the Players

At the General Meeting of the SAGU held on 17th April 1919 in Durban, W B Calder, a Vice-President of the Union and member of the Durban GC, raised the question of the professionals having access to the bar during the tournament What was described as “the longest argument ever” took place! Those were the days when at major cricket grounds in England there were separate gates onto the field for the ‘Gentlemen’ and the ‘Players’. In the newspaper reports of golfing events the amateurs were Mr A B Smith and the professionals simply A B Smith. Calder said that the Durban GC was quite content to leave the matter in the hands of the delegates to the General Meeting. According to the minutes of the meeting, “It was eventually decided to relax the restrictions usually imposed and to grant the professionals the privilege referred to." It would be interesting to know when these restrictions were lifted once and for all in South Africa. On the international scene Walter Hagen was the great champion of the professionals’ rights in this regard. In this day and age it seems incredible that there should have been any restriction at all.

The Prentice Bequest

Of importance to the Golf Union in 1920 was the matter of the J A W Prentice Bequest which needed to be resolved. Prentice was killed in action in the first months of WW1 but before going on active service he bequeathed 60 pounds to the SAGU for the purpose of encouraging the youth of South Africa to play golf. The wording of the bequest is as follows:

"That a sum of 60 pounds be handed to the SAGU for the encouragement of golf amongst the youth of South Africa to be divided thus: 10 pounds to be retained by the SAGU, 10 pounds to the WPGU or Royal Cape Golf Club, 10 pounds to the PE Golf Club, 10 pounds to the Durban Golf Club, 10 pounds to the TGU or the Johannesburg Golf Club and 10 pounds to the Kimberley Golf Club.

"I leave it entirely to the recipients to decide the manner in which the monies shall be utilised.

"If used in a competition, then give the weaker player a chance by making it under handicap conditions and also don't confine it to a certain club or clubs. Let it be thrown open to all young golfers.

"I make these provisions in order that an incentive be granted to young players who have had little encouragement in the past."

It was decided that the most suitable way to carry out Prentice's wishes was for each centre to purchase a floating trophy and to hold an annual competition under terms as laid down by the bequest. A further suggestion was made by Conyers Kirby to the effect that clubs should be requested to invite five or more youths each year to become members free of subscription until reaching the age of 20. Both of these proposals were put in place much to the good of junior golf. Many were the youngsters who enjoyed 'Prentice Membership' of clubs all round the country and many too were the young golfers who came through the ranks of the 'Prentice Memorial Competitions' on their way to greater things as they grew older. The first Prentice competitions took place in 1921.

The SA Amateur - Stroke Play or Match Play

A constant debate at the meetings of the SAGU, and amongst golfers generally, was the format of the Amateur Championship. The SA Open was straightforward. From 1903 through to 1907 the format was 36 holes stroke play and then in 1908 it was increased to 72 holes, as it has remained right through to the present day The SA Amateur was something different, the debate being over the relative merits of stroke play vis a vis match play. There was a strong lobby on both sides. Many were of the opinion that 72 holes of stroke play was the ultimate test of the champion golfer; others quoted the British and US Amateur Championships as being the standard on which the SA national title should be based and both of these were match play.

At the AGM in 1921 the Transvaal GU proposed:

"That the SA Amateur Golf Championship for the year 1922 and thereafter be decided by Match Play.

"That, in the event of their being more than 16 entrants, then an eliminating round of 36 holes under stroke play shall take place."

An amendment was tabled:

"That the championship be played as at present, four rounds of medal play."

The amendment was carried by nine votes to four.

The Transvaal GU was not so easily put off and again the following year (1922) they put a motion to the AGM that 'the Amateur Championship should in future be competed for under match play conditions' – this time with success. The meeting approved of the principle of playing the championship under match play conditions but added that it was not practicable at the present time to have it so. But change was in the wind and the switch to match play was to become the reality.

Strongly opposed to the match play format was the Western Province lobby and at the AGM in 1923 a resolution put by the WPGU and adopted by the meeting read: "That a plebiscite of all golfers in South Africa who are eligible to enter for the South African championship be taken as to whether the SA Amateur Championship should be played by match play instead of by stroke play as at present." The motion was carried but how the plebiscite was implemented and what the outcome was are not recorded. Suffice to say it can have had little influence on the outcome of the debate and certainly did not achieve the end that the WPGU had hoped for.

At the AGM in 1924 motions were put by the Transvaal GU as follows:

"That it is desirable that the Amateur Golf Championship of South Africa should be competed for annually under match play conditions".

"That two meetings be held annually, one to decide the Amateur Championship and another to decide the Open Championship."

The first motion was carried by nine votes to seven, indicating how closely divided opinion was on this matter, and from 1925 through to the present day the SA Amateur has been played under match play conditions. The motion to separate the Open from the Amateur was not carried on this occasion but the time would come. The proposal was adopted a few years later when the two events were played at different venues in 1931, '32 and '33. However, this separation was not a success and in 1934 the two championships were united once again.

Opposition to the match play format did not, however, end with the 1924 resolution. A last ditch stand was mounted by Natal with the support of Western Province and at the AGM in Port Elizabeth in 1926 the NGU moved "That after this year the conditions for the SA Amateur Golf Championship shall be seventy-two holes medal play, and shall be played in conjunction with the SA Open Championship." Only Natal and WP voted in favour and the motion was lost.

Other Business for Attention by the Union

Amateur Status: Other business at the 1921 AGM was the question of the payment of out-of-pocket expenses to golfers vis a vis the amateur status rules as laid down by the R and A. It was considered 'too delicate a matter for the Union to deal with' and was referred to the

R and A. The reply was that 'it was quite permissible for a centre or a club to pay expenses to an amateur when he represented his organisation'.

Bye-Laws: Also debated were various rules and local rules pertaining to the SA Tournament in Port Elizabeth that year, particularly the stroke and distance penalty for a ball out of bounds. The opinion was expressed that distance only was a fairer option and that a local rule to this effect should be introduced. The matter was put to the vote and the meeting was divided, seven votes for and seven against. The Chairman, W P Barker, gave a casting vote in favour of stroke and distance. The stymie rule was also discussed in the light of moves in the US for its abolition but, as reported in the press, 'there could be no question at present of tampering with the R and A rules'.

Balls: Then, as now, there was concern regarding the distances that were being achieved with the rubber-cored balls. The matter was receiving the attention of the R and A to the point where their Rules of Golf Committee contacted the SAGU with a request that competitions be held in South Africa with golf balls unrestricted in regard to weight but with size of approximately 1.7 inches in diameter. The feeling was that, if a large ball was brought into use, it would achieve the object which they desired to attain, namely, to reduce the power of the ball. A supply of these larger balls had been sent out to South Africa and it was decided to ask the professionals to play with them in an exhibition competition. What the outcome was is not recorded.

Steel-Shafted Clubs: Some years later in 1928 the TGU proposed that the SAGU should approach St Andrews for permission to use steel-shafted clubs. There were good arguments in favour of this move. Wooden shafts were brittle and easily broken on the hard surfaces encountered on the country's inland courses and repair facilities often too far removed to be of any help. In addition by this time steel shafts were being allowed in the US. The motion was defeated 8 votes to 19 against; again no tampering with the rules. The following year the TGU put the same motion with a similar result. But golfers did not have long to wait and in 1929 steel shafts were allowed by the R and A.

Prize Money: Referring again to the 1922 AGM, another motion put by the Transvaal GU that the prize money for professionals in the Open Championship was inadequate and that the Union should increase it was deferred for further discussion. Notwithstanding this decision, the first prize was increased from 25 pounds to 50 pounds.

SAPGA: The SA Professional Golf Association was formed in 1922 and the newly-founded Association made a request to the SAGU at the AGM the following year that consideration be given to the idea that any professional who is not a member of the PGA be debarred from sharing in any purse or prize money (other than the championship prize money) put up at a championship meeting, i.e. under the control of the SAGU. This applied particularly to the Professionals' Match Play which had only just been introduced in 1923 at the SA Tournament at Royal Cape. The matter was referred to a sub-committee and was the subject of much debate the following year in Port Elizabeth. Of major concern was the possibility of victimisation, a professional being debarred from membership of the Association or expelled and, therefore, prevented from participation in the match play competition. The PGA request was approved but only on condition that the right of appeal to the SAGU would apply both in the case of rejection by or expulsion from the Association.

At the AGM in 1930 the PGA again approached the SAGU this time with a request that its constitution be amended to state "That Professionals who, in the opinion of the Executive, are acting against the trade interests of Club Professionals, shall not be eligible for membership". The SAGU was still concerned about the possibility of victimisation and the request was granted but on condition that any professional refused membership should have the right of appeal to the SAGU. Of particular interest, and quite strange in the modern context, is that it appears that the PGA was very much under the overall control of the amateur body, namely the SAGU, and needed their sanction for any changes they may wish to make to their rules.

With further reference to the PGA an unexpected item in the minutes of the 1934 AGM of the Golf Union is a report "that the South African professionals were desirous of re-forming a South African Professionals' Association". Arising from this, three members of the Executive were elected to meet with the professionals as a preliminary to the re-forming of this body. There is no doubt that the PGA was in existence and operational in 1930. What happened in the four years between 1930 and 1934 is anybody's guess. Did this have anything to do with the Professionals' Strike in Bloemfontein at the OFS Championships in 1929? The story of the strike is fascinating and needs to be told.


Letter dated 22 June 2006 from Peter Sauerman to Brandon de Kock, editor of Compleat Golfer, in connection, firstly, with the founding date of the SAPGA and , secondly, with the Professionals' Strike at the OFS Championship in October 1929. The letter was never published but makes interesting reading.



I found the supplement "Inside the PGA" interesting and informative but it once again emphasises the need for and the desirability of establishing a proper archive/museum where the history of the game in South Africa can be properly documented and recorded.

When was the SAPGA Formed?

The lead article on the history of professional golf in South Africa states that 'the PGA of South Africa was formed in 1925'. The January 1928 issue of SA Golf carries an article on Willie Smith who was the pro at Royal Cape at that time and in the closing paragraph it states: 'By way of conclusion, and to show with what confidence Smith is regarded by his fellow-players. The Professionals' Golfing Association was formed in 1922. Harry Peck, then at Orange Grove, was the first President, Smith being elected the following year at Wynberg - and he has held office ever since.'

So when was the PGA of SA formed? 1922 is probably correct and ties up with the appointment of Smith as President in 1923 when the SA Open was played at Royal Cape. It seems that he remained in office until Easter 1929 when the SA Open was next played at Royal Cape and when he was succeeded as President by Bert Elkin. RG Fall, editor of SA Golf, was much biased towards the amateur game and, other than the reports on the major open championships around the country, little was said in the pages of the magazine on the activities of the PGA. In fact, in the 1920's no further mention is made of the PGA in the pages of SA Golf at all, nothing further that is until the OFS and Basutoland Championships of October 1929. That was the occasion of the professionals' strike and is an interesting story that needs to be told.

The Professionals' Strike

Amateur golf, indeed all golf, in the Free State was controlled by the OFS and Basutoland Golf Union and much to their credit they had introduced in 1923 an OFS Open Championship, a 72 hole stroke play event run concurrently with the OFS Amateur. The Open was a popular event, attended each year by many of the country's leading professionals, including Sid Brews and Bert Elkin, both of whom were three-time winners. A picture of the pros attending the 1925 event is included in the "Inside the PGA" supplement. The 1929 event was to be the seventh staging of the championship. As an added attraction for the pros and to make the journey to Bloemfontein more worth while, a professionals' match play knock-out had been introduced some years earlier, limited naturally to professionals only and held in advance of the OFS Open.

At the annual meeting of the SAGU in Port Elizabeth in 1926 the PGA requested that entries for the Professionals' Match Play Tournament, an event that had been instigated by the SAGU in 1923, should be limited to pros who were members of the PGA. This was agreed subject to consent by the sponsors from year to year and a right of appeal being vested in the SAGU. The arrangement seemed to work. At the SA Open in 1929, played at Royal Cape over the Easter weekend March/April, three professionals who were not members of the PGA were in fact debarred from the match play knock-out event, with the consent of the sponsors, the United Tobacco Co., and with the acquiescence of the SAGU.

The original constitution of the PGA included a rule that 'unattached' professionals, unattached that is to a recognised golf club, were ineligible for membership of the Association. In the light of the agreement reached regarding 'professionals only' tournaments, it was felt that this rule had the potential of creating problems and at the same 1926 meeting an amendment was proposed. The rule was accordingly altered to allow a professional of 12 months standing who was not attached to any recognised golf club to be eligible for membership of the PGA.

Archie Tosh won the SA Open at Royal Cape in 1929 and was an early entry for the OFS championship in October. Tosh was not a member of the PGA nor was he attached to a golf club. He was in fact the pro at the newly opened indoor golf school at Logans Sports shop in Cape Town. His entry was accepted as always by the OFS and B Golf Union and nothing more was made of it. That is until the pros arrived in Bloemfontein for the championships. Tosh was not a member of the PGA and unless his entry was withdrawn, the pros would not play in the match play event. Choosing to forget the amended rule regarding eligibility for membership of the PGA, Bert Elkin, now President, also raised the matter of Tosh being unattached. The Golf Union stood their ground. Their knock-out event had never been restricted to any type or class of pro, nor to any association of professionals, and Tosh's entry had been accepted in accordance with precedent. Nor had any intimation been received until a couple of days before the actual date of the competition that it should be restricted to PGA members. An impasse had been reached. Eventually three of the competing pros crossed the picket line and allowed their entries to stand, R May (Royal Port Alfred), D Guthrie (Pretoria) and J Macintosh (Bloemfontein). The knock-out went ahead and ironically enough was won by Tosh who beat Guthrie in the first round and May in the final.

Such is the nature of golfers that the very next day all the professionals, together with 49 amateurs, teed up quite happily for the 72-hole OFS championships. This was not a 'professionals only' event and there was nothing, therefore, to prevent their doing so. The troubles were soon forgotten and the rest of the tournament went off without the slightest hitch! The winner was Bob Grimsdell on a score of 296 while the amateur title went to the current SA Amateur champion, C Hunter of ERPM, on a score of 307. How Tosh fared in the main event is sadly not recorded.

Inevitably there were repercussions. Many professionals who were not in Bloemfontein dissociated themselves from the action that had been taken while amongst amateur golfers right round the country the PGA was severely criticised. Lodge a strong objection – certainly; but refusing to play - unacceptable. This was seen as a slap in the face to the OFS and B Golf Union who had done so much for professional golf. That they had blundered was soon apparent to the PGA and a sincere apology was made to the OFS and B Golf Union some months later at the SA Championship meeting in East London the following Easter. This was surely the end of the matter.

But, sadly, the story does not end there. The PGA in their wisdom chose to expel May, Guthrie and Mcintosh. They did themselves no favours by so doing. The sympathy of all golfers in South Africa was with these three who were seen to have been unfairly victimised by the Association. All three were re-instated some time later, exactly when is not known, but the damage had been done. Important to remember is that at that time all golf, both amateur and professional, was controlled and run by the provincial golf unions under the umbrella of the SA Golf Union and it was not in anyone's best interests to cross their authority. This has since all changed but it does raise the question as to whether the formation of a single controlling body for all golf in South Africa would not be in the best interests of the game. But that is for another time and another debate.



R and A Team to South Africa: In 1925 Percy Barker and Charles Kingsley were entrusted by the SAGU with a mission to St Andrews with the idea of persuading the R and A to send a visiting team of amateurs to South Africa. The good work done by these two was carried on by Harry Fraser and Ned Hay with the result that in the summer of 1927 the R and A sent out a team of four. The tour was a resounding success, not least financially. There was a surplus of 570 pounds from the visit of the British golfers and needless to say there was much discussion at the 1928 AGM as to what to do with this considerable sum of money. In the end it was given back to the provincial unions and clubs pro rata to the contributions that had initially been made but not before some of the money was used to purchase a trophy which was called the Freddie Tait Cup in honour of Tait, a British Amateur Champion, who was killed at Koedoesberg near Kimberley in the Boer War. The decision was taken that the Cup should be presented each year to the leading amateur in the SA Open. It was won for the first time by Bernard Wynne in 1929 and has continued to be presented at every Open Championship since.

Changes to Constitution: In the earlier years of the SAGU the Transvaal was represented by a single Golf Union and as a result enjoyed a huge numerical advantage over the other Unions when it came to numbers of affiliated clubs and golfers. There was always a feeling that the Transvaal should enjoy greater representation on the SAGU Executive because of this and it must be said that this feeling was shared in some other quarters as well. In 1924 the TGU took the bull by the horns and proposed "That a sub-committee be appointed to consider the amendment of the constitution of the SAGU to provide for representation of affiliated unions on that body as far as possible proportionate to the number of golfers comprised in each constituent member." The motion was not carried but, again, the seed had been planted and change was coming.

Five years later (1929) at the AGM held at the Civil Service Club in Cape Town the TGU, persistent as ever, put a motion "That a sub-committee be appointed to revise the present constitution of the SAGU with view to a more equitable representation on the Council of the SAGU". The argument was that, whereas the Transvaal only had one union and hence three delegates, the Cape Province with its three unions and two clubs had 11 delegates. It was decided that a sub-committee of three be appointed at East London the following year. The 1930 AGM saw a number of changes to the constitution, as we shall see.

Tournament Venues: A regular item of business at all AGM's was the decision regarding the venue for the Tournament the following year or venues for several years ahead. There was a certain amount of parochialism on this issue and there was often a keen debate and difference of opinion as to where the Tournament should go. For example at the AGM in 1925, on the question of deciding the venue for 1928, the Chairman, A B Godbold, 'put in a strong plea' that the new course at Vereeniging (Maccauvlei) be included in the rota of championship venues. The principal argument was that there was a need for more inland courses, particularly in view of the fact that Potchefstroom had been neglected and there was no course in Bloemfontein with grass greens. Godbold was supported by the OFS&BGU whose representative, L Oates, had been given a mandate to propose that the 1928 championship be held at Vereeniging. The meeting voted 14 to 4 against this happening.

At the AGM the following year, 1926, this decision was reversed. A Special Committee appointed by the SAGU reported very favourably on the suitability of Maccauvlei as a championship venue and, conditional on Port Alfred being asked to host the 1928 event, it was agreed that Maccauvlei should host the 1927 Tournament. As it turned out, this proved to be an excellent decision. Also vieing for inclusion on the rota was East London GC, preferably for the 1929 event. But with Port Alfred getting the nod in 1928 and being right next door to East London, it was felt that the Tournament should be held in the Western Province and it went to Royal Cape. East London was awarded the 1930 Tournament, 'the delegates being all enthusiastically in agreement'. East London had not hosted a Tournament since 1906, the reason being that for many years they had done nothing about converting to grass tees and greens. Eventually in the early 1920's they did and were thus eligible once again to be on the championship rota. Sadly for Port Alfred they had to turn down the 1928 event. Severe drought had almost destroyed the course and a different venue had to be found. The Durban CC was chosen.

In 1928 the TGU proposed that the rota of championship courses be fixed on the basis of provinces and not clubs. This was defeated but again change was on the way.

Affiliation to SAGU: An important part of the annual business of the Golf Union was to consider applications for election from Unions and Clubs applying for affiliation. This was not always as obvious as it would seem; sometimes downright confusing.

At the AGM in 1919 Durban GC withdrew from the list and application was made by the Natal Golf Union for affiliation. This is all very odd because the record shows that the Natal GU was formed in 1915. The simple explanation is perhaps that the NGU, although formed, had chosen not affiliate until four years later. In addition the hope was expressed that the Eastern Province would soon have a Union.

At the same meeting, and pending re-organisation, the OFS and Basutoland GU was temporarily withdrawn to enable the Bloemfontein Railway Institute GC and the Kroonstad GC to affiliate as separate clubs - why not through the OFS&BGU is anybody's guess. Some months later in January 1920, applications were accepted from Bloemfontein GC and from Mossel Bay.

In 1921 Walmer GC applied for election and was accepted with a degree of reluctance and only after a vote had been taken. Port Alfred GC and Port Elizabeth GC were already affiliated and it was felt that a better way forward would be the formation of an Eastern Province Union. This was in fact done some months later on 23 August that year and the EPGU duly affiliated to the Union. There is evidence that an Eastern Province Union had been in existence before the SA Union was founded but that a few years later it was dissolved. Instead the region in the first years was represented by the Port Elizabeth GC which had been affiliated from the beginning.

At this same 1921 meeting application was made by the King William's Town GC for affiliation but, on the basis that in the Rules of the SAGU provision had been made for a Border GU, it was suggested that they get together with East London, Queenstown and other courses in the area to form a local Union. This was done under the title of the Frontier Golf Union, later changed to Border GU, and affiliation was duly granted.

Then it was the turn of the Oudtshoorn GC to apply, at the same time applying for acceptance of the South Western Districts GU. This latter was duly admitted with two member clubs, namely Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn. It seems, however, that the SWDGU did not last long.

Windhoek GC applied and was accepted later that same year, namely 1921, and records show that in 1923 other clubs affiliated to the Union were Kimberley, Salisbury (indicating that there was no Rhodesian GU at that time) and Elizabethville. The 1925 list includes six provincial unions and nine clubs, with the newly-formed Rhodesian GU being proposed for election. These nine clubs include Bulawayo GC, Walvis Bay, Golfe Club da Polana, Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn. The levy statement on page 9 of this document, which is for 1928, includes seven provincial Unions, now including Rhodesia but not including SWD, and seven clubs. The Nyasaland Golf Union was elected to membership in 1932 and the South-West African Golf Union in 1937.

With the exception of the TGU and the WPGU, determining the exact founding dates of the other provincial unions is not as clear-cut as one would think. Mentioned above are Natal (1915) and Eastern Province (1921). It seems that the Border GU was also founded in 1921. Records show the OFS&BGU to have been founded in 1923, some years after their withdrawal from the SAGU in 1919, and the SWDGU, after a few false starts, to have finally been established in July 1936. The saga of the SWDGU goes on. Application was made for election to membership at the 1938 AGM of the Golf Union and was refused. It was pointed out that they had been elected in 1921 and then, in 1923, had asked to be released for financial reasons. There were arguments for and against but opinion was that the creation of new affiliated Unions was not advisory and that the SWDGU should be a sub-union of either WP or EP. But neither WP nor EP wanted them! Nothing daunted, the SWDGU applied again the following year (1939), but in an amendment to the motion a proviso was added to the effect that they should only be allowed one delegate as opposed to the three of the other Provincial Unions. That being so, and in spite of continuing muttering about sub-union status, the SWDGU was duly elected.

SA Golf Magazine: SA Golf magazine had started publication in June 1926 under the editorship of R G Fall and for some time Fall had been talking to the SAGU regarding the possibility and benefits of the magazine being the official mouth-piece of the SAGU. There had been a degree of reluctance to start with, not least because there was a suggestion that the Union might be called on to finance the magazine to some extent, but at the 1929 AGM the journal was unanimously made the official organ of the SAGU. That being said, delegates were urged to get their fellow club members to become subscribers in order to ensure the success of the publication and its meaningful continuation.

Greens Section: A motion was put to the 1929 AGM by Western Province "That the SAGU should consider the establishment of a Greens Section". The motion was proposed by Dr C M Murray who at the time was perhaps the leading expert on the cultivation of grass and grass varieties, particularly cynodon or fine kweek. When most clubs around the country believed that grass greens were not practicable and that sand greens were the only way to go in South Africa, Murray had other ideas and was able to demonstrate that grass tees, fairways and greens were eminently possible and were in fact the only future for courses throughout the country. It was thanks to his endeavours that the decision was made in 1913 that only courses with grass tees and greens would be used for the SA Championships. The meeting agreed to appoint a sub-committee to report back the following year. Murray was also the first person in South Africa to make a study of golf course design. Of interest is that at the 1929 AGM E C Hay put forward a strong plea for the engagement of an overseas golf architect. This lead to Major Hotchkin being invited and many courses around the country had the benefit of his knowledge and experience as a designer.

Changing the Guard - East London 1930

From the point of view of the Executive perhaps the most important happening at the 1930 SA Championship Meeting was the retirement of A B Godbold from the Presidency of the Golf Union and the election of W P Barker in his stead. Barker had for many years been on the Executive of the Transvaal GU and was a worthy successor to Godbold.

But of major important for the governance of the game in South Africa were the changes to the constitution of the Union that were being proposed. The lobby for change, particularly as it affected the Transvaal, was strong and it was just a matter of how this change could most painlessly be achieved and what the changes would comprise. The 1930 AGM of the SAGU was the arena where this would all be resolved.

The motion put by the Transvaal was that an alteration should be made to the Constitution whereby the basis for representation should be changed: firstly, that representation should be by centres only and not by clubs and, secondly, that centres should be represented as follows:

  • Transvaal Western Province and Natal 5 each
  • Eastern Province 4
  • Border and OFS&B 3 each
  • Rhodesia Mozambique and Belgian Congo 1 each making 28 delegates in all.

An amendment to the TGU motion was put by Eastern Province to the effect that, firstly, representation should be by Provincial Unions, secondly, that Provincial Unions be entitled to the following number of delegates: Transvaal 5 and each other Provincial Union 3 and, thirdly, that districts in which there is no Provincial Union be eligible for membership but shall not be entitled to any representation.

Following correct procedure, the amendment was voted on first and was carried by 22 votes to 3, a huge indication of support for the Transvaal's concerns and acknowledgement that the matter of representation needed changing. The TGU motion was then automatically withdrawn.

In the meantime Eastern Province had also tabled a motion for consideration by the meeting. Their thought was that the SAGU should be run by a Board of Control made up of President, Secretary and five annually elected members. But, following the overwhelming acceptance of their amendment to the Transvaal motion, Eastern Province withdrew their tabled motion and a happy compromise was reached.

Separate Venues and Dates: Another important issue decided at this meeting was that the Open and Amateur Championships should be separated and played at different venues and at different times. There was concern that participating in the full programme of the Championship meeting was asking too much of the leading amateur golfers and that moving the Open to another venue at another time would greatly alleviate this problem. The stroke play lobby argued that playing the Open and Amateur concurrently as in the past achieved the same result. Whatever the arguments, the decision was taken to separate the two events. It was also agreed that centres staging the Amateur must in their turn stage the Open as well. That being so, it was confirmed that the Amateur Championship was to be decided purely by match play with no qualifying rounds no matter how many entries were received; and with respect to the other major competitions, it was proposed and carried that the Inter-Club competition revert to foursomes match play as in earlier years and that the Inter-Centre be decided by stroke play over 36 holes teams of four all scores to count, a somewhat formidable format!

The separation was not generally considered to be for the better. At the AGM in 1932 the Border GU put a motion "That the separation of the Amateur and the Open has not proved to be a success. It is therefore in the interests of golf that these events be held at one and the same meeting as soon as practicable". It was argued that the 1931 championships held at Johannesburg (Amateur) and Port Elizabeth (Open) had both been extremely successful and that in the longer view the separation had not yet been given a fair trial. The issue regarding the physical demands on the leading amateurs was repeated. When the motion was put to the vote it was carried by 13 votes to 10. The venues for 1933 had already been committed and so the first practicable date for implementing this decision was 1934. The separation was thus in place for only three years. It was not until 1965 that the two events were again played at different venues and at different times, the Amateur at Easter as before and the Open at a time to suit the ever-growing professional summer tour.

Interesting comment on the re-uniting of the two championships was made by RG Fall in SA Golf. 'Candidly we regret very much the decision to " unify" the two big annual tournaments again; it means that each centre will have to wait such a terribly long time for each successive meeting, and this cannot be good for the game of golf. That is the main objection to the amalgamation scheme. And then to try to crush so much into a few days is asking a great deal from our leading amateurs. That the two meetings will one day have to be divided again is one of the certainties of life. The question is: When?'

Format of the Amateur: By the early 1930's the argument of match play vis a vis stroke play had long since been resolved in favour of the former but still there were issues concerning the Amateur that every year at the meetings of the Golf Union occupied the time and attention of the various factions. One group was of the opinion that, no matter how many entries were received, the Amateur should be decided by match play alone. The other lobby supported the concept of two qualifying rounds (36 holes) with 32 players going through to the match play stages. The argument was that the Inter-Centre Competition could run concurrently with the qualifying rounds and, by so doing, reduce the number of days required to complete the full programme. The matter came to a head at the AGM in 1933 and the latter format carried the day. It was also proposed that this method of playing the Amateur should be fixed and not subject to review for another five years. The motion was carried unanimously!

Other Businees at the 1933 AGM: The main item under the heading Other Business at the 1933 meeting was the programme for the re-united championships which were to be staged at Humewood in 1934. Also dealt with was a resolution on the rota of venues for the championship meeting in the years to come, which was decided on the basis of provinces as follows: 1935: Transvaal 1936: Western Province 1937: Border 1938: Orange Free State 1939: Natal 1940: Eastern Province. The choice of courses was now being left to the hosting province. In addition it was proposed that the British system of standard scratch scores and handicapping be adopted 'with a view to securing uniformity of handicaps throughout the country' (were different systems in place in different provinces?) and also, with reference to the Prentice Cup competition and in order to give it more importance, it was agreed, subject to a suitable date for all provinces being found, that it should be played on the same day throughout the Union and on identical lines.

Handicapping: The discussion regarding handicapping and the British system is interesting. The minute states: "The Chairman stated that the adoption of the standard scratch score system of handicapping could only be made possible by the consent of Provincial Unions". It was apparently up to the Provincial Unions individually and independently to decide whether they were prepared to adopt the system, with or without amendment. In view of the fact that all provinces were represented at the AGM by their full allowed quota of delegates, it seems surprising that consensus could not be reached there and then on this important issue. It appears that different systems of handicapping were indeed in operation in different provinces. For example Natal was already applying the British system; none of the other provinces was doing so.

All Provincial Unions were supplied with details of the British system and were asked to report back to the AGM in 1934. The minutes state: "The replies received can hardly be described as satisfactory". The main difficulty facing the decision-makers was the tremendous difference between the playing values of courses inland vis a vis on the coast, and in winter vis a vis summer conditions. Climatic differences round the country seemed to make the adoption of the scheme almost impossible and a decision was postponed for a further year.

It was at the 1935 AGM that agreement was finally reached and the standard scratch score method was made compulsory for all clubs affiliated to Provincial Unions as from 1st January 1936. "After January 1st 1936 entries for SAGU events will be accepted only from players who are handicapped on the above system".

The 1935 AGM: The programme for the Championship Meeting in 1935 did not include any handicap events and the omission was cause for concern for some of the delegates who were anxious that this should not set a precedent for the future. The handicap competitions were such an integral and popular part of the Meeting and their omission needed explanation. Parkview GC was the host and as such responsible for arranging them. It seems that it was not possible to hold these events at Parkview, why is not explained, and that three such handicap competitions were to have been held on other local courses but were cancelled due to insufficient entries. Also minuted was the reference by W P Barker to the formation of a Senior Golfers' Association in the Transvaal, the first of many that were to follow all round the country.

It appears that by 1935 a Transvaal Porfessional Golfers' Association had been formed and it is minuted that representation was made by them to the SAGU on the matter of clubs employing professionals from overseas. Fingered were Royal Cape and Maccauvlei. The Union was urged to give every encouragement to clubs to appoint local professionals and assistants otherwise 'assistant pros in this country are likely to find themselves in a blind alley occupation'. The submission ends on a somewhat strange note: 'Knowing that your Union has always encouraged professionals to employ white assistants, we are etc etc ..... Of what concern would it have been to the Golf Union who was employed??

SA Amateur Team to Britain: In December 1935 a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Golf Union was received from the Secretary of the R and A. It read;

I am directed by the Championship Committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to invite your Union to send over a team of four players with a Manager in the season of 1937.

It is not the desire of my Committee that they should engage in any matches of an 'international' character, but rather that they should play friendly matches with the various clubs and societies in this country as was done for example when teams sent by this club visited South Africa.

This letter was tabled at the AGM in 1936 and, needless to say, it was decided to accept the invitation without further debate. A possible problem was finance but all Provincial Unions offered to do their bit in this regard and a motion that the SAGU contribute 300 pounds from accumulated funds was passed nem con. As with the R and A tour to South Africa in 1927, this tour to the UK was a great success.

The 1937 AGM: Routine matters of business at the 1937 AGM were the decision to hold the 1938 Championship Meeting at Maccauvlei and the 1940 event at Humewood and the election to membership of the newly-formed South-West African Golf Union. C W M Kingsley stood down as the Elected Member of the Executive and W A M Beard was elected in his place. Of perhaps greater importance was the decision to amend the Rules so as to provide that all ex-Presidents become members of the Executive.

The team to tour the UK had been selected and the meeting was asked to confirm the action of the Selection Committee in inviting Messrs. F O L Agg, O Hayes, A D Locke and C E Olander to be members of the team of amateur golfers to visit Great Britain that year as guests of the R and A. Conyers Kirby was the first choice as Manager but, as he was unable to make the trip, J G Hirsch was asked to fill that role. There was still a small question mark over the financing of the tour, principally because the Provincial Unions had not all met their promises, but the shortfall was small enough to ignore at this stage.

Admission Fees: Another important item raised at the 1937 meeting was the matter of admission fees to watch the play at championship meetings. The feeling was that, if admission fees were charged, the need each year to levy the Provincial Unions to pay for the Tournament would fall away and it might also be possible to build up a fund to pay for future overseas tours, both to and from South Africa. A motion was put by W P Barker to this effect and was carried unanimously.

Finances: Little has been said so far in this history about the finances of the Golf Union. From the inception affiliation fees were ludicrously low and, as we have seen, the annual SA Tournament had to be funded ex a special levy imposed on all the Provincial Unions and separately affiliated clubs. Officers of the Union held honorary positions and none of the expenses of the Executive in attending meetings and championships were met. The Secretary received a small honorarium but that was all. Extraordinary events such as the visit to South Africa by the R and A or the return visit made by the South Africans to the UK were funded ex special contributions made by the clubs affiliated to the Provincial Unions. Sometimes these contributions were adequate, sometimes there was a shortfall. The proposal to charge an entry fee to watch the national championships was a sound one and the 1939 financial report shows that gate receipts at the Durban CC that year amounted to 231 pounds. After deducting expenses relating to the collection of this money, it was split 50/50 with the home club.

An interesting reference in the minutes of the 1939 AGM is made "to the custom of deducting 10% of the sweepstake pool for Union funds" and the opinion is expressed that, in view of the collection of gate money, this deduction was perhaps no longer necessary. What was the sweepstake and how was it managed? It was obviously a well-established feature at the Championship Meetings. Would the R and A have approved? It would be interesting to find out all about it!

The Amateur Championship and the Godbold Cup: The conditions appertaining to the Amateur Championship had been agreed in 1933 and by 1939 the five year moratorium on change had expired. It was decided that these conditions should remain in force for 1939 and the suggestion was that they should remain in force for another five years. This was agreed to.

The Godbold Cup had been inaugurated in 1931 and played under handicap conditions by the leading 60 players in the qualifying rounds of the Amateur Championship. It was not a popular event and attracted few entries. It was therefore decided to change the conditions, in 1939 on an experimental basis, and for the cup to be played for in a match play knockout format by the next 32 players who did not qualify for the Amateur Championship proper. The move was a success and this format was adopted for many years to come.

The 1939 AGM: The importance of a detailed and studied approach to greenkkeeping was being acknowledged more and more as being essential to the development of good golf courses and a considerable amount of time was spent during the 1939 AGM on these issues. Motions were put to the effect that the principal of greenkeeping research be approved and that proper funding be put in place. The inevitable sub-committee was formed as a result of these debates to consider the best means of furthering this objective.

The question of clubs not affiliating to their Provincial Union was raised and a resolution was put to the effect that no golfer who was a member of a club that had not affiliated to the local union should be eligible to compete in any South African Championship. There was some doubt as to the political correctness of this idea which, in effect, was an interference by the national body in the affairs of the local authority. The motion was amended to read that "that no entry shall be received from a player whose club had not had its course assessed under the Standard Scratch System". A subtle change but enough to have the motion passed. The introduction of a uniform handicapping scheme for the whole country as adopted at the 1937 meeting was still apparently not being effected and ways and means of implementing the system were discussed. There was certainly no mention of any back-tracking on this issue.

The rota of Championship Meetings was agreed from 1941 through to 1946. Little was it realised that there would be no championship golf during that period.

World War 2:

At the AGM in April 1940 it was business as usual and very little talk of war. Delegates from nine Provincial Unions elected office bearers, E J Hunt as President, C A M Elliott and C M Bettison as Vice-Presidents and, for the second year, H E P Watermeyer as Member of the Executive. To everyone's delight Jack Watermeyer went on the win the SA Amateur title. Financial matters, greenkeeping research and money raised for this purpose, the role of the SWDGU as a possible venue for the Championship Meeting in 1947, the sweepstake and the 10% deduction, handicapping, championship conditions, venues, all were discussed and debated as if life would go on as usual. Before the meeting ended W P Barker did make reference to the war and the need for the SAGU to do something towards contributing to the war effort and the suggestion was made that the Union should raise funds to buy an ambulance.

There the meeting ended. But soon things started to change and in the face of the gathering war threat championship golf and the activities of the Golf Union took something of a back seat. Watermeyer and Bettison joined up and being on active service were both given leave of absence. The routine business of the Golf Union continued and annual meetings were held right through the war years but the meetings were something of a formality and little meaningful business was transacted. In 1941 a resolution was passed that the office-bearers should remain in office while the war lasted. A feature of golf was the staging of exhibition matches to raise war funds and Bobby Locke played a big part in these endeavours. The 1942 AGM heard that the Transvaal were fast approaching 10 000 pounds in the raising of war funds, all of which had been donated by clubs affiliated to the TGU. It was also reported that one tournament in the Western Province had raised 700 pounds.

During the war years the supply of golf balls came to a standstill and the supply of new and/or reconditioned balls was clearly going to be something of a problem. The matter was raised at the AGM in 1944 and the question was put as to whether it would be possible for the Executive to ensure an equitable distribution of balls when their importation was resumed. It was agreed that some sort of control was essential and that the SAGU should become involved when the time arrived. Distribution through the provincial unions pro rata to the number of clubs and affiliated golfers was considered to be perhaps the best way to handle the problem.

Finally the war ended and the report of the Executive for the year ending 31 December 1946 opened with the following statement: "The year under review saw the long awaited resumption of our Championship Meetings." Things were back to normal!


This ends the history of the South African Golf Union in its first 35 years from 1910 through to 1945.