© 2018 The Author(s). Clusters of galaxies gravitationally lens the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, resulting in a distinct imprint in the CMB on arcminute scales. Measurement of this effect offers a promising way to constrain the masses of galaxy clusters, particularly those at high redshift. We use CMB maps from the South Pole Telescope Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) survey to measure the CMB lensing signal around galaxy clusters identified in optical imaging from first year observations of the Dark Energy Survey. The cluster catalogue used in this analysis contains 3697 members with mean redshift of z = 0.45. We detect lensing of the CMB by the galaxy clusters at 8.1s significance. Using the measured lensing signal, we constrain the amplitude of the relation between cluster mass and optical richness to roughly 17 per cent precision, finding good agreement with recent constraints obtained with galaxy lensing. The error budget is dominated by statistical noise but includes significant contributions from systematic biases due to the thermal SZ effect and cluster miscentring.