Cape Town’s Jewish golf club fights for its life
For the past 60 years the Jews of Cape Town have enjoyed the fairlawns of “KD” (as they fondly refer to it). Located not too far from Cape Town International Airport, King David, established in 1956 to cater to the large Jewish community living in the Parow/Bellville area who were not really welcome anywhere else, became a hub, hosting social events, theatre productions and other sports like bowls and tennis.
But as the Cape Jewish community dwindled and other clubs opened up, KD started losing members and revenues. Golfers were also concerned about the location as it was not a safe area. It became evident that the club needed to find some solutions.
A proposal was put forward last year to sell King David’s land and merge KD with the more waspy, Wynberg-based Royal Cape Golf Club. Club members estimate that the land could sell for somewhere between R200 million and R300 million. King David’s members would move over to Royal Cape and King David would be required to pay Royal Cape a “dowry” of R56 million to merge.
While Royal Cape was amenable to the terms, there was a lot of dissension and heated debate among KD members and the proposal was voted down. According to members involved in the discussions, there was some dissatisfaction by a group about the way the merger talks had been conducted. Those not in favour also felt that R56 million was a hefty price tag and a decision was taken to look at alternative options.
Those in favour of the merger said they would explore the possibility of joining Royal Cape at a reduced price of R40m, but with the stipulation that Royal Cape would take on all the King David staff for a minimum two year period or make generous redundancy payments to those who elected not to come across. In addition, all KD members who transferred to Royal Cape would have two years free membership.
This group felt the sale of the land would bring vast amounts of money into the Jewish community once the dowry had been paid. This money could be allocated to other needy areas instead of trying to maintain a money losing entity like KD.
The “stay at home group” who did not want to wind up the club, undertook to try to raise the money elsewhere. They looked at the option of asking for significant sums from the members and they also talked to a well-known philanthropist who was considering the option of giving the club a R35 million loan. With these funds, the club could pay back Bidvest Bank the R11 million they had borrowed, they could use another third to fix up the club and fairlawns and the final third would be kept as capital. Members also felt funds would be needed to help beef up security.
Members agreed that the “stay-at-homers” had till January 21 to try and raise the money. The date came and went and despite the stay-at-homers’ best efforts to get the funds, the committee has now called time.
Members are expecting to hear in the next week or two about the chances of still putting an agreeable deal together with Royal Cape. The proposed new name would be the Royal Cape and King David Golf Club. In late February there will be a special general meeting to vote in favour or not.
The last option and probably the least popular, particularly for golfers who have played so happily together for all these years, is to just wind up the club