The early beginnings and subsequent development of Royal Port Alfred Golf Club were outlined in the memoirs of Walter Vroom, written for The Kowie Announcer, in 1962.
This is his story:
“In 1906 it was pointed out to Dr Jones-Phillipson that here was a good place for a golf course. He promptly applied to the Town Council for a grant of £50 to start a club, but they declined, and there the matter stood until the following year when Walter Vroom wrote to Dr Jones-Phillipson saying “Don’t give up the idea of forming a Golf Club – get the two Hotel Keepers to come in and I will give my share and we can start a Club”.
“Acting on this suggestion the Doctor arranged for a meeting to be held in his house. Those present were Dr C.E. Jones-Phillipson, Dr W.H. Atherstone, the two hotel keepers, Messrs. W. Stow ( Grand Hotel ), G.H. Holloway ( Railway Hotel ) and Mr W.H. Vroom ( Cove Mansions ). After some discussion, it was agreed that each would contribute £20 to make a 9-hole course and then form a club. William Stow gave his £20 although he said that he had never heard of anyone making money out of sport!
“William Stow who negotiated the acquisition of the land employed convict labour and cleared the land for a 9-hole course to be constructed, with shell grit being used for the putting greens. According to Walter, the hardest worker was Dr Jones-Phillipson, because when the ground was bought he got small loans from friends to pay for the land and he begged sneezewood poles and wire in order to fence the course.
Report of Mr A G Gray – Port Alfred, 26th July 1907
“On the 23rd, 24th and 25th July 1907, I visited Port Alfred in my professional capacity at the request of the promoters of the Port Alfred Golf Course. I spent 2½ days making a careful observation and in laying out the Course. My opinion is as follows: “The site is a picturesque and excellent one, commanding beautiful sea and inland views. At once it strikes one as a fine natural site for a Course. It is entirely covered with springy turf on a sandy soil, with natural bunkers. There is much variety. I consider the Course is the most sporting I have seen in this country, and should be included as a Championship Course. In about two years time there will be turf greens here; meanwhile, blue ground or shale greens are being prepared. I have no hesitation in stating that if the promoters are willing to spend sufficient money on their venture it will be a first-class Course, unequalled in South Africa”- A G Gray.
The course was ready in December 1907, so in that month a meeting of all those interested took place at the Railway Hotel when it was agreed to form a club and fix the fees etc. Walter Vroom let the club have a room at a nominal sum, received any goods sent for the club and lent them a cart and two oxen. It was also decided to add an additional nine holes and this was done by Dr Atherstone, assisted by Laurie Waters, the golf professional at the Royal Johannesburg Golf Club.
The full 18-hole course was completed and opened in April 1908 when professionals played for a purse of £30. They were George Fotheringham (the winner), Gray, Day, Wilkins and Laurie Waters. The Port Alfred Municipality agreed to a grant of £75 in 1909.
There are only four Royal Golf Clubs in South Africa – Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Alfred.