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Excerpt (Page 150 – 154) from Mtunzini, A History, from Earliest Times to 1995. Volume 1.
Written by Albert van Jaarsveld. [Full copies of his book are available from Nakop Technology cc]
9.2.5 The Mtunzini Country Club
The Mtunzini Country Club is today one of the village’s most attractive assets, a fact which is confirmed the moment one first visits the magnificent clubhouse with its 18 hole golf course, and incredibly beautiful view over the lagoon and Indian ocean.
The history of the this club stretches back to 1958, when four prominent members of the community namely, T.A.G. (Harry) Hall, D.A. (Dave) Lawrie, F.B. (Hoppy) Hopwood and Arthur Wadman were forced to drive to Empangeni once a week to practice their favourite sport – golf. The idea of their own golf course in Mtunzini, apparently only struck them while they were on the nineteenth hole of the Empangeni golf course.
At the begininig of 1959 these four people invited all interested parties to a meeting at Hoppy and Joan Hopwood’s home at Lawrieson Estate to discuss the possibility of building their own golf course in Mtunzini. At this meeting an ad hoc committee was elected with Roy Kirkland as chairman and Joan Hopwood as secretary. Mrs. Hopwood was asked to immediately begin negotiations with the Natal Provincial Administration under whose jurisdiction the Mtunzini Health Committee fell, to investigate the possibility of hiring a piece of ground on which a golf course could be built. After successful discussions it was agreed that Mr. Joe Raaff and Eddie Smith could immediately begin with the laying out of the course on a piece of village ground south of Hely Hutchinson and north of Archibald Street53.
A formal founder’s meeting for the Mtunzini Country Club was held on 22 September 1959 during which Roy Kirkland was elected as president, and Maj. A.G. Strachan as secretary. Other founder members were A.D. Wadman, D.A. Lawrie, J. Raaff, H. Hall and F.B. Hopwood. The committee was requested to arrange for the financing of the laying out of the golf course, the construction of which had already begun54.
The building of the golf course was approached with great enthusiasm with assistance being given freely by the community. Roy Kirkland made the farm bulldozer used for sugar cane fields freely available, while grass was donated by many people. Labour was mainly provided by the sugar cane farmers for the project. History was made in that Harry Hall, Dave Lawrie, Hoppy Hopwood and Arthur Wadman were able to complete nine holes of golf, less than two months after the formal founders’ meeting of the club. Joe Raaff was honoured for completing the work in record tie by making him the life long honorary presidents. He took an active part in all the activities of the club until his death on 14 July 196355.
In 1960 the Mtunzini Country Club’s membership figures dramatically rose when the Mtunzini Tennis Club was incorporated in to the Country Club. This coincided with the plans for the erection of a new (the present) Town Hall for Mtunzini, which was to be built directly next to the old wood and iron hall, exactly where the tennis courts had been built. This meant that the tennis club had to get a new building, and that new courts, as well as pavilions next to the courts would also have to be built. The Country Club decided to begin negotiating with the Tennis Club as regards the pending incorporation, and made an offer to the Tennis Club. At the fifty second annual meeting held on 21 March 1960 the Tennis Club accepted the offer. The chairman of the Tennis Club, Steve Raaff, in reaction hurriedly began making arrangements for the erection of the new courts next to the envisaged new Country Club building. Within six months the area had been levelled, and gravel from the quarry on Cyril Powell’s farm was delivered to the club to provide a firm surface for the courts. Shortly after this the courts were completed56.
In the meantime the erection of the Country Club’s clubhouse had begun. Joe Raaff and Bob Brown drew the plans for the erection of a simple wood and iron structure, which during the course of 1960 was completed. The first annual general meeting of the Country Club was held in this building57. Karin Roberts (née Wadman), who was for many years the secretary of the Country Club until her death in 1993 had the following to say about the first club building:
“We have had such fun in our little club house. Despite inadequate kitchen facilities (our stove was a two burner gas plate – no oven and an ancient unworkable Aga!), our catering was well known throughout Zululand... We had a number of functions – a Chinese dinner, men’s mannequin parade, fondue evening and a cheese and wine (which I think I and a few others prefer to forget!) are just a few that come to my mind as I write!58”
The golf course was officially opened on Sunday 12 March 1961 by Joe Raaff, and was accompanied by an open tournament. About 150 guests attended this function. The membership figures for the club at this stage exceeded the 100 mark59.
The first secretary of the club was Maj. A. Strachan, while Karin Roberts was appointed as assistant secretary. In 1963 Maj. Strachan died in the old clubhouse, after which Karin Roberts became secretary, a position which she occupied until her death. Fanyan Hall was the first club treasurer, a position which was later taken over by Joan Boik. For a number of years the posts of secretary and treasurer were combined in a full time salaried position.
Due to the growing numbers and increasing popularity of the golf club, the old clubhouse rapidly became too small. Furthermore the building did not meet the requirements of the liquor law as regards the acquisitions of a new liquor licence. For this reason plans for the erection of a new, modern and more permanent clubhouse were made. Plans were draw up, and the old Public Hall Association, which was responsible for the erection in 1964 and management of the existing town hall which is still in existence, offered to help with the financing of the new clubhouse. The new Mtunzini Town Board was also extremely helpful in that the Board decided to make a number of acres of ground available for the cultivation of sugar cane to help finance the new clubhouse. This was the same ground from which money was generated for the erection of the town hall.
The two members of the Town Board instrumental in making this decision were Alf Weber and Doddie Roberts. A number of sugar farmers, who were members of the club, undertook to farm this ground free of charge for the club’s financial benefit. Plans were drawn up for the new clubhouse, and Bob Brown supervised the building, which was completed on 3 December 1966. At the same time the club’s first telephone (tel.79) was installed. On 11 February 1967 the new clubhouse was officially opened by Arthur Wadman. The function, which was attended by approximately 160 guests, was organised by Steve Raaff and Arthur Wadman, while Mrs. Pam Brown looked after the catering. The design and layout of the garden was done by Joan Hopwoood, Yvonne Brokensha and Shirley Murray60. A liquor licence was eventually granted in February 1968, and the was enlarged to its present size in 199861.
During 1972-1973 the committee decided that the club had grown to such an extent that it was now time to appoint a fulltime club manager and barman. A Mr. McKenzie was appointed, but after his resignation sometime later, it was decided to return to the old system of volunteers by club members, so as to limit costs and save money.
The next milestone in the history of the club was the erection of the squash court in 1977. Len Clarke and Andy Kirkland were the club members who were instrumental in this. Money for the courts was obtained from the club’s sugar cane fields. After the Public Hall Committee was formally dissolved in 1975, the contract for the renting of the ground was formally taken over by the club.
In the meantime the number of club members had significantly grown. Whereas in 1965 the figure had stood at 111 members, twenty-five years after its formation the membership figure was 368. In 1984 the club’s entertainment committee, under the guidance of Seaton Holmes and club president William Nel, held a function to celebrate the club’s twenty five years of existance62.
Since 1984 the club has gone from strength to strength. A fulltime barman, Mr Hentle Rautenbach was appointed, while the facilities (golf course, bar, tennis courts, squash courts and catering) still provided recreation for the residents and visitors. However during presidentshi of J.K. (Keith) Powell (1986-1994) and Eugene de Preez (1995-) the club experienced a fall in its membership figures as a result of the existence and thereafter competition, offered by the ski boat club (founded in 1987). At present (1995) there are 310 members, approximately 60 less than in 198464.
Financially this drop in membership numbers had an inhibiting effect on the club, which to a large extent depended in its annual subscriptions. However a great deal of loyalty exists in the community as regards the club. This loyalty to the club was revealed during the middle of the 1980s, when the Mtunzini Town Board, in a bid to generate income considered the possibility of moving the golf course and subdividing the existing grounds into erven for prime development. This short-sighted and unpopular suggestion released a chain of protest, and the Town Board was promptly compelled to abandon these plans. This, in turn, definitely contributed to the fact that a number of Board members lost their positions after the local general elections in October 1988.
53. Karin Roberts: newsletter from the Mtunzin Country Club, 10.10.1984
54. Zululand Times, 17.09.1959; Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club 10.10.1984
55. Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club, 10.10.1984
56. Zululand Times, 28.07.1960
57. Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club, 10.10.1984
58. Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club, 10.10.1984
59. Zululand Times, 06.03.1961
60. Zululand Tims, 16.02.1967; Mtunzini Mirror, March 1967
61. Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club, 10.10.1984
62. Karin Roberts: Newsletter of the Mtunzini Country Club, 10.10.1984
63. Jenny Scott-Barnes, 1998
64. For an Example see the Zululand Times, 24.09.1929