Clubhouse at historic facility destroyed

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Less than two years ago, Saturday markets and steak evenings were among the community events that brought the Grahamstown public to the clubhouse of the former Grahamstown Golf Club. As a base for the town’s golfing community, the clubhouse was a hub of social activity, with weddings and special anniversaries celebrated in a venue that was comfortable and well maintained.

From a distance, the former clubhouse of the 125-year-old Grahamstown Golf Club looks as elegant as it did when it hosted weddings, anniversaries, Saturday family markets and steak evenings, and served as a social hub for the club. Photo: Sue Maclennan

Today, shattered windows, doors, window frames and bathroom and electrical fittings ripped out and sections of roofing disappearing greet visitors. Leather golf bags and clubs lie strewn around the clubhouse of the 125-year-old facility. With a dispute over the management of the old golf club only due to reach the courts in January 2019, and now open to the elements, the facility looks well on its way to being condemned.

Back view of the disused clubhouse on the Cradock Road. Vandals, and the weather have put it on a one-way path to being condemned – and no one is willing to take on the responsibility of stopping the decline. Photo: Sue Maclennan

One remaining section of the sliding door is shattered. The former clubhouse of the 125-year-old Grahamstown Golf Club has been left open for vandals and the weather to destroy. Photo: Sue Maclennan

The trashed facility is at the centre of a complex and ambitious proposal that interlinked the development of the new Belmont Golf Club, a land-swap with the Grahamstown Golf Club, a large housing development on that site, the development of the airfield into a fully fledged airport, the development of Grahamstown Station and a public-private partnership to upgrade the town’s sewage works. The latter was a requirement for the housing development.

A complex deal that interlinked a large housing development, a land swap for the new Belmont Golf Club and the upgrading of Grahamstown’s waste water treatment works, and involving the Belmont Development Company and other investors, with Makana Municipality, went sour. In these August 2016 photos, sewage overflows on to the road below. While government funding has since been sourced for the refurbishment, this is likely to start only well into 2018. Meanwhile, the spillage into the Bloukrans River, at various points along the sewer lines and from the works themselves, continues.

It came to a halt when investors in the Belmont Development Company accused director David Davies of breaching their agreement, and acting without taking their interests into consideration.

The investors won their 2015 bid to have the company placed under business rescue. Earlier this year, the shareholders, including Davies, agreed to shift the company’s assets to the shell company, LFDGT 2016 (Pty) Ltd.

In November 2016 Davies and others brought an urgent interdict against the business rescue practitioner Neil McHardy and Belmont DC (with Land Affairs as the fourth respondent) to prevent them transferring ownership of Erf 8045 – the old golf club land in the Cradock road.

Selling or transferring the land Davies said, contravened the terms of the business rescue.

It is this grievance that is set down for hearing in the High Court in Grahamstown in January 2019. Meanwhile, no one appears to be willing to take responsibility for securing the old clubhouse and preventing its further deterioration.

Replying to questions from Grocott’s Mail, McHardy said the local representative of the shell company, LFGDT, said pending litigation over the property included an interdict that prevents the current owner from developing the site or making any improvements.

“We had arranged for the site to be occupied but the person on site was robbed and hence is reluctant to continue staying there. We have made alternate security arrangements including armed response,” the company replied via McHardy.

Grocott’s Mail visited the site twice this week at different times and no security in any form was evident. Manager at Hi-Tec security company Andre Wille confirmed that Hi-Tec is not guarding the clubhouse.

“We are the only company that provides an armed response service in Grahamstown. Hi-Tec has not been contracted to provide any service at the old golf club. There is no longer electricity there so they couldn’t anyway,” Wille said. Hi-Tec had been asked to move the alarm system control panel to the new golf club around 18 months ago, he said.

Leather golf bags, clubs, sponsors’ banners and other paraphernalia lie strewn around the old clubhous, which is open to vandals and the weather. Photo: Sue Maclennan

Steve Birt, former Club Captain of the Grahamstown Golf Club – was club captain at the time they moved to the new Belmont Golf Club.

“I don’t know who [the facility]now belongs to. We notifed all members before the move. They came and fetched their property. The golf bags left there are ownerless,” Birt said.

“The club is over 100 years old so those bags could have accumulated over that time. We had 120 members when we left there.”

Grocott’s Mail’s query to McHardy about what armed response was being used were referred to Durban-based lawyer Vasie Chetty and went unanswered.

The new clubhouse at the Belmont Golf Club. 2015 Grocott’s Mail file photo

Daniel Gouws, General Manager Belmont Golf Club, said, “I don’t know too much about the old club or what’s happened there. As far as I know the other company still had an office there but seems to be gone now hence the destruction. The old club moved over with 142 members.”

Meanwhile, vandals and the weather continue to strip the building.

The club’s comfortable facilities used to be hired out for weddings, anniversaries and other functions. Already it would costs hundredsof thousands to restore the neglected and vandalised building fit for use. Photo: Sue Maclennan

Over a century of history

The move of the Grahamstown Golf Club to the Belmont Golf Club, ended almost 120 years of history which started in 1891.

The golf course, reputed to be the third oldest in the country, started as a 9-hole fairway on the Cradock Road Flats and was was somewhat further from town than the present course.

A second course which opened in 1904 was developed in the vicinity of St Andrew’s Preparatory and the lower part of Hill 60, straddling the railway line.

By the end of 1906 a third course was developed around the Cradock Dam with the 1st tee being near the old West Hill Station at the top end of Constitution Street and a clubhouse above the Cradock Dam on the side of the Settler’s Hospital.

The old club house, destroyed by fire in 1915 and replaced with a wood and iron structure, featured in a famous trial in 1907 relating to the death of nine-year-old Edith Pinnock whose body was found in the cellar.

The clubhouse’s caretaker, Thomas Henry Kerr, was charged and acquitted of the murder.

The move to the Cradock Road site happened in 1932 with the existing clubhouse, which has undergone much renovation over the years, being built in 1933.

  • Adapted extract from an article by Jock McConnachie for Grocott’s Mail.

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