Community Sport

Scenic golf course steeped in history

Frieda Paton

“This hidden gem outside the national monument town of Pilgrim’s Rest is a tranquil and forested nine hole, eighteen tee course. With its undulating fairways and challenging layout, it is more than just a stroll in the park. Tricky, surrounded by mountains, with plentiful birdlife and an atmospheric pub, this course is a must if you’re near Pilgrim’s Rest,” wrote Golf Direct on their website.

This scenic golf course is one of the oldest in the country. As was the general trend among mining companies, the course was built by the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates as a sports facility for their staff. Local historians have not yet discovered exactly when it was established but there is a reference to the course in the 1912 TGME letter book. In the correspondence, Arthur Leggett Neale who was general manager at the time, gave the Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Club permission “to make use of the Golf Course on the Company’s Farm, Ponieskrantz.”

In 1916 a new manager, Richard Allan Barry wrote: “If … you can find that there are sufficient keen golfers to warrant restarting the club, I shall be very glad to accept the presidency and do what I can to make it a success.”  It thus appears the club had fizzled out between 1912 and 1916 and this seems to have been a general trend because later documentation refers to the Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Club having been founded in 1932 and renamed the TGME Golf Club in 1945.

The golf course and club appears to have been going strong around that time as a new clubhouse was built in 1949. Maritz Spaarwater, in his book “A spook’s progress” writes about growing up in Pilgrim’s Rest in the 1940s and 1950s. “There were the usual sports amenities provided by the mine. There was a beautiful little nine-hole golf course with different tees making it into eighteen holes.  Accessible free of charge or at a pittance (one shilling and a tickey for a round of golf),” Spaarwater wrote.

In 1985, after Pilgrim’s Rest had already been transferred from TGME to the then Transvaal Provincial Administration to be developed as a living museum, the old clubhouse was demolished and replaced by a beautiful sandstone building. The building was originally the primary school building in Lindleyspoort, in the Swartruggens area. It was broken down stone-by-stone and the marked stones were transported to Pilgrim’s Rest where the building was re-erected and decorated to reflect the opulence of the early gold-mining

With the scaling down of the TGME mining operations, the club was once again renamed as the Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Club in 2002.  Despite dwindling membership, a dedicated few club members have kept the club going and the course well-maintained – often out of their own pockets.  The wheel appears to be turning again as the current holding company of TGME, Theta Gold Mining, has been awarded the tender to lease the golf course – although the final contracts are still under negotiation.

This very special golf course is a must-play for every golfer and even if you’re not a golfer you can enjoy a drink while sitting on the cool verandah and taking in the spectacular views. You can call 066 102 6203 for a booking or follow the “Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Course & Club” page on Facebook for updates on competitions.

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