June 2008

Royal Harare Golf Club

an oasis of excellence in the midst of political and economic devastation

Also in this issue • Outsourcing • Trees • PGA of SA • The halfway house • Fertilizers • Interview with Dr Ronny Duncan • Egyptian geese
A monthly business-to-business magazine for golf clubs, brought to you by Volume 4 Issue 6 Visit www.compleatgolfer.co.za for back issues of GCM

CONTENTS LEAD STORY Outsourcing a club’s non-core functions – make sure it doesn’t end up being a handicap TREES Points to consider before planting trees on your golf course THE PGA OF SOUTH AFRICA Can you afford NOT to have a PGA pro? HR LETTERS Reader’s questions answered COURSE MANAGEMENT Making the best of winter 5 STAR GOLF EXPERIENCE The halfway house


6 8 9 11 13

Outsourcing a club’s non-core functions – make sure it doesn’t end up being a handicap
As a follow-up to Tony Beart’s article on outsourcing in the February 2008 issue of GCM, Stuart Harrison, a director in the employment law department at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS) in Cape Town, outlines to readers the legal do’s and dont’s of outsourcing
Anyone who has been involved in running a golf club will tell you that it’s a hard enough job getting the core golfing function of the club working smoothly, before you begin to deal with some of the so-called non-core functions at the club, like security, cleaning and catering, and even the pro shop. Many clubs take the view that they should focus on what they know best – the golf – and leave the ancillary functions to outside experts. These clubs therefore look to outsource their non-core functions; something that many businesses face doing. Whether it is the best business decision for a club will depend on the particular circumstances of the club, such as whether the functions are working well in-house, how big the non-core functions are, what the members’ attitudes are and what can be afforded. Apart from the pure business considerations, clubs also need to be aware of the legal consequences of outsourcing as this alone may determine whether or not it is the right decision for the club. First of all, what is outsourcing? Outsourcing usually occurs when an employer decides to stop performing a function in-house using its own employees and instead contracts with a service provider to take over the particular function. For example, a club might decide that an outside catering company should provide all the catering for the club, run the half-way house, etc. Outsourcing will typically affect the

COURSE MANAGEMENT How to interpret the label on a fertilizer bag 15 BIRDIES & BOGEYS Snippets CLUB PROFILE Royal Harare Golf Club INTERVIEW An interview with Dr Ronny Duncan EGYPTIAN GEESE What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the golfer Cover picture by Andrew Wilson: The par 3, stroke 13, 15th hole at Royal Harare golf course. 17 18 20


existing employees employed by the club in the function in question (e.g. the cooks and waiters involved in the catering function) in that, through the outsourcing, the club will no longer need to employ them. How these employees are to be treated depends largely on whether, through the outsourcing transaction, the club transfers part of its business as a going concern to the outside service provider. If the outsourcing amounts Continued on page 5

■ EditoriAl ANDREW WILSON email: consultaew@iafrica.com cell: 082 575 3861 ■ AdvErtisinG SImON TuRck (PUBLISHER) email: simon@rsp.co.za cell: 083 252 8387 ■ AdvErtisinG TYRON mARTIN (ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE) email: tyronm@rsp.co.za cell: 083 235 7509 ■ AdvErtisinG JAmES FERRANS (NATIONAL SALES MANAGER) email: jamesf@rsp.co.za cell: 084 252 6373 ■ sUBsCriBE to GCM for r240 A yEAr. ContACt NATALIE ShEkLETON tel: 011 301 4448 email: natalies@rsp.co.za

visit our website www.compleatgolfer.co.za
A monthly business-tobusiness magazine brought to you by

Most golf clubs have outsourced their security, but what other outsourcing options are viable for clubs?
Golf Club Management June 2008 3

Continued from page 3 to such a transfer, then the employees will automatically become employed by the service provider on transfer of the function to them. This is a result of section 197 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which applies to transfers of a business (or a part thereof) as a going concern. Section 197 operates to preserve the employment of the employees in that part of the business that is transferred and enables the transferring employer to transfer the employees without having to obtain their consent. So how does a club know if an outsourcing that it is contemplating will amount to a transfer of part of the club’s business as a going concern, triggering section 197? Firstly, it doesn’t help to say that a club is not a business and that therefore section 197 does not apply to it. It has been argued before that an entity which is not a commercial enterprise is not a business and therefore that part of it cannot be transferred as a going concern for purposes of section 197. This argument will no longer fly however, as the definition of “business” in the LRA has now been widely defined to include the whole or part of any business, trade, undertaking or ‘service’. What needs to be asked, then, is the following: • Firstly, is the function a separately identifiable part of the club’s business? Indications that this is so would include if the function has its own management (e.g. a catering manager for the catering function), its own cost centre, goals, assets, customers, or if it carries any particular goodwill. In short, if the function comprises a number of employees and assets that are associated and managed together with the aim of achieving a particular objective, it will amount to a separately identifiable part of the business capable of transfer. On the other hand, a secretarial function, for example, that simply comprises two secretaries working in different parts of the business, will have none of the hallmarks of a separately identifiable part of the business capable of transfer. • Secondly, can the part of the business being transferred be described as 'a going concern’? The meaning of going concern has been the subject of much consideraThe highest standards of service, display and delivery can be achieved with outsourcing, providing the ground-rules are agreed in advance. tion in the Labour Courts and even in the Constitutional Court, which found that what must be transferred must be ‘a business in operation so that the business remains the same but in different hands’. The assessment in each case is not always easy and must be an objective assessment of the whole transaction. The following points are amongst the factors that may be considered in the assessment: – Will any goodwill be transferred with the function to be outsourced? – Will the function operate from the same or different premises? – Will there be any change in the customer base of the part of the business pre- and post- the outsourcing? – Is it intended that the employees involved in the function will work for the new service provider following the outsourcing? – Does the function have any assets attached to it and, if so, are these going to transfer? – Is the function going to be the same or similar after the transfer? – Will there be any disruption in the operation of the function, or will it be carried on without or with minimal interruption? The more that the outsourcing involves a transfer of goodwill, assets and staff to the service provider and the more that the function is to be carried on post outsourcing without meaningful interruption, etc, the more likely it will amount to ‘a going concern’ transfer, triggering section 197. Assuming then that the outsourcing by the club will trigger section 197 of the LRA, what does this mean in practical terms? • As indicated above, the employees in that part of the business being outsourced transfer automatically by operation of law to the service provider on the happening of the outsourcing, whether the service provider likes it or not. • The club cannot retrench the employees because of the outsourcing when the outsourcing amounts to a going concern transfer, unless this is by agreement with the employees. Otherwise, unilateral retrenchments in such circumstances will likely amount to automatically unfair dismissals that could result in employees being awarded up to 24 months pay as compensation by the courts. • The service provider is obliged to recognise the length of service that the employees had with the club and to provide them with terms and conditions of employment that are the same or on the whole not less favourable than those enjoyed by the employees with the club. The terms and conditions can only be worse if this is agreed with the employees. • Anything done before the transfer by the club in relation to the employees (including any unfair dismissals or unfair discrimination against the employees) will be deemed to have been done by the service provider, who will thus be accountable to the employees (in place of the club) in this regard. This will often mean that the service provider will require the club to provide it with an indemnity in relation to any payments it is found liable to make to employees, who were unfairly treated by the club pre-transfer. • The club and the service provider will not have to obtain the consent of the transferring employees in relation to their transfer and the club will not have to pay the employees severance pay. As can be seen from the important consequences of the application of section 197, clubs and service providers alike need to carefully consider their positions in any contemplated outsourcing that will trigger section Continued on page 7
Golf Club Management June 2008 5

Points to consider before planting trees on your golf course
The environment and landscaping of every golf course is unique, and there are a host of considerations specific to the terrain and climate which need to be taken into account if you plan to plant new trees on a course. However, the following general guidelines apply to all golf courses and should prove helpful to greenkeepers and landscapers. Correct species Choosing the correct tree species for your golf course will firstly depend on your regional climate and secondly on the style or theme and size of the course. Every course also has a few differential micro climates to consider. An especially windy corner or a waterlogged area, are typical examples. A new course may want to consider planting trees that grow quickly. For instance, pioneer planting is used in coastal areas to establish young trees challenged by saltladen winds. Positioning Maintenance costs are a prime consideration in golf course design. Trees have a direct impact on the maintenance of the grass beneath them, so positioning is important. For example, limit the planting of trees on the northern side of your green, as the afternoon sun is very important to keep the grass healthy. An evergreen tree in any high traffic area such as a tee-box, will cause maintenance problems during winter because the shade will kill off the grass in its weakened state. Shade loving grass does not tolerate high traffic, while other hardier species of Una van der Spuy in her book “South African Shrubs and Trees for the Garden” quotes Cecil John Rhodes who used these words when he was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony over 110 years ago, ‘Whoever has the foresight to plant trees is creating a monument for himself and providing capital for his successors, while the gain to posterity is incalculable.’


In part one of a three-part series on trees, Bruce Stewart of Just Trees gives advice on what to consider before embarking on a planting programme.
grass tend to take a long time to become established. Do not plant thorn trees near the pathways on your golf course as this could be hazardous to golfers and spectators. However, thorn trees should not totally be discarded as they create attractive focal points on the course and attract birds. Plant them in low traffic areas or close to the fence of your golf course where they create a natural barrier for security. Tournaments and competitions Consider the timing of your next golf tournament or competition, and plan accordingly. You have to take into consideration the preparation and planting time. This is not a process that can be rushed at the last minute. The irrigation system of your golf course might have to be adjusted to suit the additional planting. Trees must be watered regularly after planting, especially during the summer season. Size of trees Consider whether the trees that you plant around fairways will be easy to maintain and prune if they present a problem. Consider the height and width that the tree still has to grow in the coming years when deciding on a suitable position for the tree. In Bruce Stewart’s next article on trees, he will be giving advice to GCM readers on choosing the best trees for your particular needs. For more information contact Bruce Stewart at Just Trees on (021) 8711595 or at info@justtrees.co.za Una van der Spuy went on to say, ‘Whilst landowners in England were beautifying their landscape by planting trees we, in South Africa, were despoiling our natural heritage by felling them, and not re-planting. It is indeed deplorable that we have for so long been oblivious to the necessity for tree-planting on a large scale.


June 2008

Golf Club Management

Continued from page 3 197 and they should conclude an agreement with each other regulating their respective obligations and liability in this regard. The club is in fact obliged to at least agree in writing with the service provider: (a) what the value is of the accrued leave pay, what severance pay would the employees be entitled to if they were retrenched and other payments that have accrued but have not yet been paid to the transferring employees, and (b) which of them is going to be liable to pay for these entitlements, how payment is to be made and, if the liability is to be shared between them, what the apportionment between them will be. The terms of this agreement will then have to be disclosed to the transferring employees by the club. In addition, the club must take any other measures that may be reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that adequate provision is made for any obligation on the service provider to pay for these accrued entitlements (this might entail, for instance, securing that the service provider pays the value of its liability to a trust account that will be used solely for payment of the entitlements to the employees as and when they fall due, etc.). There is an incentive for the club to do all of this as, if the club does not, for a period of 12 months after the outsourcing, it will be jointly and severally liable (with the service provider) to pay to any transferred employee the accrued entitlements referred to above if these fall due as a result of the employee being retrenched by the service provider in that 12 month period. If the outsourcing does not amount to a section 197 transfer, then the club would have to embark on a retrenchment exercise with the employees who would be affected by the proposed outsourcing. The employees would have to be consulted before any decision was made to proceed with the outsourcing and full compliance by the club with section 189 of the LRA (which details who the employer must consult, what the employer must consult about, what it must disclose to the employees, etc.) would be required. This process can take a couple of months. If a club takes into account the legal requirements in effecting an outsourcing and, importantly, concludes a decent agreement with the right service provider, clearly regulating the level of service required, how it will be measured and the like, outsourcing non-core functions can result in great benefits for the club and its members. If the club’s does not give attention to these issues, however, it can end up being a handicap that no member will like. For more information on outsourcing or other legal matters relating to employment, contact Stuart Harrison at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS) in Cape Town on 021 410 2500 or at sharrison@ens.co.za

World renowned brands, unparalleled grounds care expertise and nationwide dealer support. Wherever you need to cut grass, we’ll help you maintain a course to be proud of, keeping customers coming back – today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Exclusively distributed, serviced and supplied by
Durban Johannesburg Cape Town Port Elizabeth 031 705 3390 011 922 2000 021 380 2600 041 484 6240


Can you afford NOT to have a PGA pro?
Duncan Cruickshank spoke with the executive director of the PGA of South Africa, Dennis Bruyns, to investigate.
There are many clubs these days that do not consider the benefits of retaining a PGA registered club professional, arguing that they are not “big enough” or cannot justify the perceived expense. But can any club in South Africa afford not to have a PGA registered professional if it wishes to thrive in today’s market? Take a look at exactly who the modern PGA professional is: and firstly, that word “professional” is very important – more so than just the fact that he or she is a nonamateur who plays golf quite well. The PGA professional of today is an expert in every aspect of looking after the amateur golfer in the club situation. They are highly and expertly trained through the PGA’s three-year education programme, which is recognised worldwide and is affiliated to the PGA of Europe. That training encompasses more than just the retail operation for which so many PGA pros have been best known over the years. In addition they are fully trained to teach the game expertly – from beginners through to club champions – and they are also expert on the rules of the game, running competitions and expertly setting up the course with the type of competition in mind. While the bar might be the centre of social life at any golf club, it should be the pro shop at which all things golf take place, Dennis Bruyns, chief executive officer of the PGA of South Africa, spoke to Duncan Cruickshank about the importance of employing a PGA professional.
8 June 2008 Golf Club Management


The PGA is dedicated to training and serving golf professionals whose principal aim is to offer a highly professional service to amateur golfers at a club, driving range, or other golf establishments. Its objectives are: • To promote interest in the game of golf • To assist members in obtaining employment • To protect and advance the mutual and trade interests of its members • To continue to train and educate members to international standards • To arrange and hold regular meetings and tournaments for our members • To effect any other objectives determined by the Association. from bookings to green fees, swiping of handicap cards, handing in of competition scorecards, seeking advice on equipment, rules queries and the list goes on. Why? Because the PGA professional quite simply is an expert at all these things. So then, what is that stops clubs from having PGA pros? There is a perception out there that if you have under a certain number of holes on your course, or under a certain number of members, you simply cannot afford to retain the services of someone so qualified. But in a time when there is more competition than ever to get golfers through the door, the wise committee will see that the opportunity costs of not having a qualified PGA pro are high. The obvious benefits of having a PGA pro are clear to see. Members have a “goto guy” for equipment and lessons; they will feel like there is someone who has their best interests at heart when it comes

to making their games more enjoyable and that is going to translate into more rounds played. Beginners will be encouraged to take up the game when they know that there is a qualified teacher available who can advise them on the best equipment at the right price, not to mention getting their swings into shape to get them onto the golf course without fear of ridicule. As mentioned earlier, the PGA pro’s operation will take care of all golf administration for the club, with a one-stop location for bookings, greenfees, competition fees and handicap-card swiping. So you have one location, one operation, doing away with the need for a bookings office, a cashier etc – allowing the general manager to get on with the running of the non-golf operation at the club. So, is this all affordable? Consider that just about every club has the capacity for more rounds and more members. If we accept that a better experience will encourage more spikes through the door, the answer must be a resounding “yes!” So, if your club does not have the services of a qualified PGA professional, is the excuse that it cannot afford this ‘luxury’? If your club is to thrive in today’s economic climate, if its membership base is to grow and thrive, this “luxury” must surely be an absolute necessity. For further information on the PGA of South Africa, please contact Janyne Marais, general manager marketing, professional development and operations, on 011 485 1370 or janyne@pgasa.com. Or visit www.pgasa.com

Reader’s questions answered
If you have any questions contact Andrew Wilson at consultaew@iafrica.com
A question from Riaan in Gauteng I have just discovered that one of my catering staff has been stealing food. During the hearing she indicated that a colleague of hers has been aware of what was going on for some time but has turned a blind eye, almost to the extent of condoning her actions. Given the circumstances of the repetitive and substantial theft, it would seem probable that this other staff member was aware of what was going on and has done nothing about it. What action, if any, can I take? GCM – There has already been case law to allow employers to take action against employees for failing to report incidents of misconduct. The legal name for this type of misconduct is derivative misconduct. There is an onus on employees to always act in the best interest of their employers, so by not reporting acts of misconduct by fellow employees, they are putting themselves at risk of being disciplined themselves. The penalty for this type of offence could even be dismissal. There are a couple of points of principle though which need to be thought through before taking action. Firstly it would be a wise move to include, in either your contract of employment or your policies and procedures, that there is an obligation on employees to report acts of misconduct by other members of staff to management. Secondly, you have to be able to prove, on the balance of probability, that the employee was aware of the wrong-doing.


It is not acceptable for employees to come up with the excuse that they just ignored what was going on for the sake of peace and quiet. Finally, you will need to prove that the employee failed to report what was going on and had no good reason for not reporting it. If you do want to take action against the employee who you believe was aware of the misconduct but did nothing about it, then you will need to hold a formal disciplinary hearing. If she is found guilty, you will have to base your penalty on the facts that emerge at the hearing. If this is the first time it has happened and you have nothing in your contract of employment or policies manual, then I believe that a warning or maybe a final written warning would be appropriate. ■

Making the best of winter
Mid-winter can often provide the golf course superintendent with an opportunity to deal with some important issues that remained neglected during the summer rush. Darren Berry of Golf Data looks into the winter ‘job box’.
Turfgrass growth has slowed and mowing schedules are conducted on an ‘as needed’ basis only. Many of the pressing summer issues such as heat stress or fungicide applications are over and the turf industry breathes a collective sigh of relief. The slow-down in the maintenance programme between May and August, can provide valuable time for the completion of many projects. This will help to ensure that you are making the best possible use of winter. The winter months are also often accompanied by a decrease in golfer traffic and any disruption to play can therefore be minimized. Here are a few examples of projects which can be undertaken during the cooler months of the year. Equipment maintenance The quieter winter period provides the perfect opportunity to park the machines for a few days and allow the workshop manager to spend some quality time with the equipment. Allowing the equipment to stand for a period will give the workshop technicians an opportunity to inspect every nut and bolt and check for any hidden signs of fatigue and wear. A comprehensive strip down, clean, grease, lube and service can be done in preparation for the summer work load. Winter also provides the ideal time to tackle any overhauls or major repairs or replacements which may have received temporary solutions during peak summer months. Golf course projects The slow-down in the maintenance programme will often allow time for those construction or renovation projects which the club has planned to undertake. The golf course staff may or may not undertake these projects, depending on their size and/or the crew’s capabilities. Even if an outside contractor is employed, the winter period will often provide the best


tion through fresh cuts to their limbs. General maintenance to out-of-play areas can also be done during this time. Mowing, mulching or burning of veld grass or debris on an annual basis can help to keep the golf course surrounds tidy and under control. Plan, plan, plan Those winter days in the office are best spent planning. I have always felt that one can never plan too much. The more variables one can take into account the higher your chances of success. Take the time during winter to update all of your annual fertilizer, chemical and cultural practice schedules. Write everything down, distribute the schedule to all stakeholders and put the plan up on a board where all your staff members can see what is in store for the year ahead. Included in this plan should be any preparation for major tournaments and spring treatments, such as hollow tining or scarification. Plan the logistics of your maintenance programme. Make a note of when certain items should be ordered and how they are likely to affect the budget. Give yourself plenty of time when ordering important items to avoid frustration or disappointment. Included in the planning process should be your annual soil analysis, upon which to base the fertilizer programme. A regular soil analysis and its results will also influence many other aspects of the operation including spring treatments, chemical applications and cultural practices. Used to its full advantage, the winter months can provide an extremely valuable time to pin down a number of important items, which can set things up for a smooth run through the rest of the year. Darren Berry of Golf Data can be contacted on 083 671 9399 or (044) 384 0680/3 or at Darren@gdmaint.co.za
Golf Club Management June 2008 11

Winter, the ideal time for workshop technicians to check every nut and bolt. Picture by Charl Blaauw of Golf Data. opportunity, with least disruption to golfer traffic. Projects could include the addition or renovation of tees and bunkers or the repair of cart paths. Drainage is a project which very often can only be completed during winter as this is when any issues are most apparent. Tree maintenance Winter is the best time to trim or prune the trees on the golf course. As the temperature drops, the trees naturally harden off and become less susceptible to disease or infecTIP OF THE MONTH Always remember, too much water is often worse than too little. This is especially pertinent in the cool winter months, when evapotranspiration is low and the risk of excess soil moisture is a constant concern. Excess moisture in the soil profile will displace valuable oxygen and could lead to black-layer and root die back. A 50/50 balance between oxygen and water should always be the target!

How to improve the halfway house experience at your club
In part three of an eight-part series of articles, Ian Leach, a 5 Star Golf Experience panel judge, identifies what clubs can do at the halfway house to improve the services, facilities and quality of experience they offer to members and visitors.
A number of years ago Compleat Golfer featured an article on the best halfway houses in the country and named Royal Johannesburg (prior to the merger) as having the best in the country with the caption “the closest thing to nothing”. In those days all that the club offered was tea, coffee or cold drinks served with sandwich wedges and assorted Bakers biscuits. That humble offering could not stand the test of time in a market that seemingly demanded a far more substantial meal. Halfway house meals, served in a facility built exclusively for that purpose, is uniquely South African. Love them or hate them they are here to stay and they do contribute to the overall experience enjoyed at any golf course. The halfway house accounts for only 5 % of the 5 Star Experience yet it is one of the most talked about activities at most clubs. Six criteria are considered by the panelists when conducting a 5 Star Golf Experience evaluation: • Physical facility • Location and proximity to closing holes • Ablution facilities • Menu variety and appropriateness • Quality of food served • Presentation of food service Physical facility Almost every halfway house facility is unique. They range from full meals served in exquisite restaurant-like rooms attached to the clubhouse, to sandwiches and fruit cake served in the open under the shade of a tree. Our panelists consider the physical facility in relation to the club where it is located. There is no right or wrong answer, but the facility must fit well with the atmosphere of the club. The facility should be bright and breezy as opposed to dark and dingy. It must have atmosphere and be appropriately decorated and furnished. Ideally it should have both indoor and outdoor seating capacity. Location and proximity to closing hole Most clubs have the halfway house adjacent to the clubhouse and serving players from both the 9th and 18th holes. A few new estate courses have chosen to locate the building remotely out on the course between the 9th green and 10th tee. This provides an interesting option although it works effectively only with a one-tee start. The important factor here is to avoid long, time consuming, distances between the closing holes and the facility. As it is, the halfway house stop causes delays in the round of golf, and this should not be aggravated by excessive distances from the closing holes. Ablution facilities We have often commented that the standard demanded by golfers is constantly rising. Having good, clean, hygienic and convenient ablution facilities at, or close to the halfway house is not negotiable. Menu variety and appropriateness Our appeal to clubs is to be creative with your halfway menu. The days of pies and gravy or yesterday’s sandwiches are past. Clubs need to cater for a variety of needs from the health conscious to the very hungry. While daily menus should not offer excessive variety they should also be changed from morning to afternoon and from day to day during the week. There is never a right or wrong way in the selection of a menu but variety is the spice of life. Some clubs seem to offer the same old “boerewors and pap” day in and day out while others continuously come up with bright fresh new ideas on a regular basis. It is always a good idea to conduct satisfaction


surveys of the halfway house but if you do, be sure to learn from the results and implement the recommendations made. Quality of food served This is another non-negotiable. Offer good quality food or close the facility down. Listen to your customers when it comes to quality. Use the good quality of your food to promote sales. Make it so good that players return to your club because of the quality served. Presentation of food service We have seen a great range in the presentation of food service at many clubs. There is no doubt that good presentation adds to the experience and can easily erase the memory of a three putt on the 9th. Take a look at the presentation at your own club and see how easy it might be to improve it. On the operational side of the business, the halfway house should also be a profit centre. If it is not, you need to take a close look at cost controls, shrinkage, volume of sales and pricing. While the halfway house accounts for only 5% of the Compleat Golfer 5 Star Experience it should not be overlooked as an important contributor. A bad experience will never be forgotten and will be criticized for a long time to come. A great experience will always be remembered and will be praised for a long time to come. We hope you will rise to the challenge and make your club the very best it can be. Ian leach, a 5 Star Golf Experience panel judge, can be contacted at Euphoria Golf Estate & Hydro on e-mail at ianleach@euphoriaestate.co.za or cell 082 892 8693 or at the office on (014) 743 2242/3759.
Golf Club Management June 2008 13

Agronomy of the job – the growing and knowledge of the grasses involved. You need to have the basic knowledge of how to grow grass, which is an application issue. 30% is having the best equipment to enhance the skill. Graham Corbett has been the greenkeeper at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club for 19 years. He started working at the club in 1976 and left after seven year to open his own business selling and distributing sod grass. After selling the business, he then returned to Royal after 13 years and has been back there for the past 12 years.


Interview with Graham Corbett
Greenkeeper at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club
Compleat Golfer Greenkeeper of the Year 2007
How does it feel to be voted as the best greenkeeper of the year by Compleat Golfer Magazine? It was a huge surprise. I think it’s a great idea for this award to be chosen by a panel of experienced judges such as John Botha. It’s a great honour for me to have been awarded this. It’s interesting that in America, awards like these are not recognised. They only recognise greenkeepers by state. Are there any big projects that you are busy with on the golf courses at the moment? We are undertaking a massive tree program at the moment. We’re taking out alien trees such as Poplar, Gum and Pine trees and replacing them with indigenous trees. Currently we are removing 330 trees on the West Course and planting another 450. This project is costing around R1.5 million with the project continuing into 2009. What are the major benefits you’ve experienced using the VENTRAC tractor? This machine does a fantastic job, especially at 5 o’clock in the morning when preparing the golf course. This blower is extremely quite and doesn’t disturb local residents. Also, the Aeravator, with its steel spikes is useful for walkway areas and allows us to plant and seed easily in difficult areas. We were lucky enough to be able to purchase three attachments, which gives us three times more productivity as well as versatility and flexibility. Courses should invest in good machinery to ensure better usage in the long run. How has the reliability been on your VENTRAC tractor? It’s still early days! We’ve only had the machine for a couple of months, but, so far so good. It’s worked well for us. Would you recommend VENTRAC to other golf courses? Absolutely! How has the service been from the VENTRAC agents? Again, so far, so good! When things start breaking, we’ll see! But the assistance in staff training has been great. What advice would you give to young up-and-coming greenkeepers in the industry? Don’t get into greenkeeping for the money! Be prepared to get rained on! Be prepared to be ‘kukked-on’ by the committee! How much of your job is skill and how much is thanks to the great machinery available today? 70% is the skill involved in the

The Ventrac equipment was launched in South Africa in June 2007. The Ventrac products have brought a new dimension to Versatility. The 4200 can be used With up to 30 different types of attachments, ranging any where from, mowing, blowing, trenching, to stump grinding, rotavating, excavating, and even as a loader. This unique versatility gives a green keeper or landscaper a more diverse range of equipment at a much lower cost. In the design stage, Ventrac is field tested to ensure that you will receive a top notch, durable machine that will work for you year-round. Ventrac is build with an all steel, heavy duty frame. Each unit is carefully assembled and inspected for quality. Warwich Flynn from Glendower purchased his first Ventrac 4231 with mower and trencher attachments, Dan Barwick from Contour Landscapes has also joined the Ventrac “family” and has done numerous trenching with his Ventrac unit. If you need more information regarding the Ventrac products , PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT: DAVID KELDER AT TURF EQUIPMENT SOLUTIONS 082-332-5499

David Kelder General Manager Turf Equipment Solution Cel : 082 332 5499 david@teqs.co.za

How to interpret the label on a fertilizer bag
Have you ever wondered what the greenkeeper is putting down on your golf course in order to get it in such a good condition? Murray Veitch of Turftek explains the basics of fertilizing.
Having worked on golf estates and being continually asked by home owners what fertilizer to use in order to achieve lush lawns, I realized that not everyone has a basic understanding of what fertilizers are used on the golf course and how to interpret what is written on a fertilizer bag. What follows is a very basic explanation of what the function of each macro element is and how to read the label on a fertilizer bag. There are three major nutrients which, if lacking in the soil, are most likely to restrict plant growth. These are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. NITROGEN (N) Nitrogen is an essential component of chlorophyll and other plant substances. By adding large amounts of nitrogen, a lush green growth is achieved. Too much nitrogen will result in excessive shoot growth which may open the grass to attack by various factors such as disease. Greenkeepers will always be very wary not to add too much nitrogen because it will result in the turf area thatching up which will then require further cultural processes such as verticutting to control the thatch. Nitrogen can be added in many forms. Applying LAN fertilizer is a sure way to achieve lush leaf growth of your grass. PHOSPHORUS (P) Phosphorus is primarily used in the metabolic processes of the grass plant. When planting new lawns it is recommended that a fertilizer high in P is added in order to help with the establishment of root growth. A fertilizer such as super phosphate or 2.3.2 can be used. Phosphorus does not leach out of the soil very easily and it is also stored in the grass plant so large amounts of additional phosphorus are not always needed. POTASSIUM (K) Potassium is important in the production of various plant components. Potassium also helps regulate many physiological processes. By adding potassium the turfs wear-tolerance is improved as well as its ability to withstand environmental stresses such as drought. Maintaining a balance between potassium and nitrogen of 2:1 in the plant tissue is a desirable rate. A fertilizer such as 5.1.5 is commonly used to achieve a balanced fertilizer application of N and P. During times of high stress a 3.1.5 type fertilizer will be considered. UNDERSTANDING WHAT 5.1.5 MEANS In a 5.1.5 fertilizer there is a ratio of 5 parts nitrogen, 1 part phosphorus and 5 parts of potassium. Similarly in a bag of 2.3.2 there are 2 parts of nitrogen, 3 parts of phosphorus and 2 parts of potassium. To somebody who is involved in agriculture the ratios are common sense but I am asked by people what the ratios mean. For a greenkeeper it is vitally important to record how much of each element he or she is putting down. Most fertilizer bags will tell you exactly what percentage of the bag is actual fertilizer. A bag of 5.1.5 (36) contains only 36% actual fertilizer, the rest is carrier. So to work out how much actual nitrogen you are adding when you use a 50kg bag of 5.1.5 you would work it out as follows: • 36% x 50kg= 18kg (only 18kg of the 50kg bag is actual fertilizer) • 5/11 x 18kg= 8.18kg of actual N is in the 50kg bag of 5.1.5.


Similarly you can work out what the actual amounts of P and K are in the 50kg bag of fertilizer. SOIL SAMPLING Carrying out soil sampling is a vital element to any successful fertilizer program. Without knowing what is available in the soil, a lot of money may be wasted on unnecessary fertilizer? Knowing what type of soil you are dealing with will influence your choice of fertilizer. It is vitally important to first “fix” the soils in order to achieve a desirable up-take of subsequent fertilizer applications. A lot of money is wasted applying fertilizer to soils which can’t utilize the fertilizer due to underlying problems. An example would be a heavy clay soil which may hold on to the fertilizer and restrict plant up-take of the fertilizer. SOIL PH The ph of the soil affects the availability of nutrients to the plant and can also influence various other turf problems such as disease tolerance. When planting a new lawn it is worthwhile spending a bit of extra money correcting the soil by adding compost and other soil conditioners which will all help with the up-take of fertilizers by the grass plant in the future. Adding organic matter such as compost will help create a living soil which is able to use the added fertilizer more efficiently. For more information on turf-related issues, contact Murray Veitch of Turftek on 012 807 7282 or at leonette@turftek.co.za

Golf Club Management

June 2008


"Your complete media partner in golf"


Euphoria Golf Estate & Hydro appoints Natalie van Blerk as sales and marketing manager
The Annika Sorenstam designed golf course, Euphoria Golf Estate & Hydro, two hours north of Johannesburg, has appointed Natalie van Blerk as Sales and Marketing Manager effective 1st April. This now completes the management appointments as the estate gears up for its opening in the first week of June. Natalie has been in the golf industry for eight years, having recently left Sun International’s sales department where she worked on major events such as the Women’s World Cup of Golf and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Natalie can be contacted on 082 805 6643 or at natalievblerk@ euphoriaestate.co.za Alternatively visit their website www. euphoriaestate.co.za

Talk about taking “looking after your club pro” to a new level!

GCM workshops and Compleat Golfer awards evenings

Following Roy Yates’ recent ‘PGA Club Professional of the Year Award’ which he received at the Compleat Golfer annual awards dinner in February, Blair Atholl held a small golf day in his honour. The day was extremely well supported and over 90 members and guests came out to share his day with him. The highlight of the day was the handing over of the keys of a Mercedes CLS 350 to Roy, from Gary Gillard of Gillard Auto Investments. Roy will have the use of the sponsored vehicle for the next year. For more information phone Blair Atholl on 011 996 6300 or visit their website www.blairatholl.co.za

The South African Golf Summit
April saw the gathering of the golf clans at Fancourt for the 2008 South African Golf Summit. The only problem was that the PGA was the only golfing body represented at the Summit. This was unfortunate, mainly because, for the third year running, a concerted effort was made to establish a unified voice for golf in South Africa, especially when making representation to government. Riaan Gous, executive director of Arabella South Africa Holdings, outlined for delegates the work and research carried out by the task team over the last year and proposed the formulation of a section 21 company to be called ‘The South African Business of Golf Association’. Kwakye Donkor, marketing director at Fancourt, then put delegates on the spot by presenting a three year operating budget for the association in excess of R5m. Delegates were asked to

pledge financial support for the initiative and Dennis Bruyns of the PGA pledged his organisation’s support with an opening offer of R10 000. By the end of the summit R100 000 had been pledged. The critical factor will be whether the new association can solicit the support, commitment and involvement of the remaining golf bodies that were not represented at the summit. GCM intends giving a more detailed up-date on the progress of the South African Business of Golf Association in our July issue.

Diarise these dates • Western Cape: Monday 2nd June, venue Steenberg Golf Club. • Gauteng: Monday 23rd June, venue Blair Atholl Golf Club. • Durban: Monday 14th July, venue Durban Country Club. Compleat Golfer and GCM will be holding a series of regional GCM workshops followed by the Compleat Golfer regional course awards presentations. The workshops, which will start at 15h00, will follow the format of an open discussion to identify the issues that are currently relevant to golf clubs and course management. We will also be seeking feedback on your views and suggestions with regard to the quality and relevance of content being covered by GCM magazine. It is hoped that as many club captains, managers. greenkeepers and Pros as possible will be able to attend these regional workshops. Immediately following on from the workshops, starting at 17h30, will be the awards presentations. This will not only include the regional course ranking awards but will also include the handing over of the 5 Star Golf Experience Awards plaques and other special course awards. For more information on the workshops and awards evenings check out the Compleat Golfer website www.comlpleatgolfer.co.za

Website of the month

Kwakye Donkor, marketing director, Fancourt.

The preservation of water is a hot topic at the moment and is likely to remain so for years to come, to the extent that many futurists believe that the next major war will be fought over water resources. Golf clubs are really under the spotlight due to their reliance on large amounts of water to survive. An interesting website to check out is the one put out by Rain Bird, www.rainbird.com Of particular interest is their ‘water conservation tips’ for golf course irrigation professionals.
Golf Club Management June 2008 17

Royal Harare Golf Club,
an oasis of excellence in the midst of political and economic devastation
The GCM team visited Zimbabwe in February of this year and discovered that Royal Harare Golf Club was flourishing in spite of the political turmoil. We chatted to Ian Mathieson, the general manager of the club, to find out more about the challenges they were and are facing. Here is what Ian had to say.
GCM: Firstly Ian, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Ian: I have been at Royal Harare Golf Club for the past 11 years having initially joined them as the golf course manager. I joined Royal after leaving South Africa for the purpose of reshaping the golf course with Nick Price and American golf course designer Steve Smyers. The construction was to be completed and the course ready for play in time for the club’s centenary celebrations in April 1998. Having completed the re-design successfully, I was asked to take over as general manager of the club in 2001 and train someone to manage the course, with me overseeing the operations. I am now part of the furniture! GCM: What are some of the challenges you have had to face? Ian:You must realise that Royal Harare has huge traditions to up-hold. The first meeting of the club was held in The Avenue Hotel on the 19th September 1898. The current members are rightly very protective of our history and traditions, so initially I was subjected to a barrage of questions and criticisms from over 1800 members who all knew how the club should be run. I was on a very steep learning curve but was also determined to show the members that I was willing and able to take hold of the reins. As you are probably aware, Zimbabwe is in the grip of hyper-inflation, running currently at 110% per month and at 100 000% per annum. Added to this, the population of golfers is dwindling and the gap between spending power and affordability is widening. The
18 June 2008 Golf Club Management


The beauty of trees and shadows enhances the splendor of Royal Harare golf course. earning power of the member is fast diminishing as the gap between the haves and have-nots widens. The procurement of products consumes a large part of our time, as regular deliveries are rare which means that the black market trade is thriving. A huge amount of our time is also spent on capex. We are also suffering with power shortages just as you are in South Africa. If you CLUB STATS: Total members .............................. 1838 Full members ............................... 1171 Senior/Service members ................ 200 House ............................................. 143 Honorary .......................................... 16 Student ........................................... 156 Absentee ........................................... 92 Rounds per year ........................ 40 000 Meterage off the white tees ......... 6 402 Staff working on the course ............. 16 rely heavily on functions to sustain your cash flow, then alternative sources of power are essential. I have seen things in the country deteriorate and the people of Zimbabwe steadily suffer more and more. It’s not all gloom though! Zimbabweans in the main are proud, friendly, resilient and enjoy peace. It will be these characteristics that will help us to see through our current crisis. GCM: How are you addressing some of these challenges? Ian: The most critical thing to get right is to develop a short and medium term plan for the club and then to stick to it. You then need to ensure you have the right staff and committees in place to help you to achieve your plans. Those involved should know and understand the club and all its traditions. It is worth taking time to ensure that all traditions are documented. It is also important to ensure that all committees, members, management

and staff are aware of what is going on and why. Only that way will they feel secure and committed to what you are trying to achieve. It will also help to build team spirit and a service ethic. The staff can only have a pride in their work if the feel that they have ownership for their actions. Staff morale can also be enhanced by applying appropriate incentives and bonuses within agreed time limits and budgets. It is always better to communicate directly and in person. When this is not possible however, and especially when dealing with a slow postal system, email, Internet and SMS’s are by far the best tools to use. Another important criteria is to know your members. Find out what businesses they are in and the positions they hold in their companies. Build a membership database which will enable you to understand how you can help them to get more out of their membership, while at the same time you will be able to analyse how they can possibly help you in the running of the club. In Zimbabwe the brain drain is huge, so companies are trying to give as many benefits as possible to hold on to good employees. Many are therefore paying their employee’s subscriptions and in addition, these companies are an excellent source of sponsorship. An example of this is to get the doctors and nurses, who are willing, to run regular clinics at the club. This has helped the staff, caddies and their families to deal with their illnesses, as visiting a physician is a massive expense for employees. I believe that with friendly cheerful staff, that have their basic needs met, mountains can be moved and members and guests will always be made to feel welcome. It is also essential for clubs to have a strong marketing team to sell the facilities to the members and public for corporate days, functions, training seminars, and birthdays, all of which give the club revenue and sustainability. The best marketing tool though is ‘word of mouth’. If members and clients feel that they are getting more than their money’s worth through efficient and personalised service, they will always come back for more and hopefully tell their friends as well. As I have already mentioned, we are suffering from an unreliable source of energy and subsequent power outages. As functions are a critical part of our revenue, we have to rely on generators. Generators are expensive to run so it is important to chose the right size. A +/- 100 Kva unit consumes large amounts of fuel and if the club only requires back-up power for their computers and tills, a smaller option should be considered. One of our biggest challenges in Zimbabwe at the moment is to manage ever-changing prices and exchange rates. This demands your full attention as you need to be aware of your prices all the time. You also need to constantly monitor your bank balances as, under our circumstances, cash is not king. Whatever local currency you have should be turned into hard assets as soon as possible. This also brings in to play the barter system. As manager of the club, decisions need to be made without delay, as bargains and opportunities can be won or lost in a matter of hours. Finally, I would encourage continuous learning for both management and staff so that the whole team can keep up-to-date with changes and developments. For more information on Royal Harare Golf Club contact Ian Mathieson, their general manager at ianm@royalharare.co.zw or on +263 4 702927-9. Final comment from GCM: John Botha, Compleat Golfer columnist and convener of the 5 Star Golf Experience panel, believes that Royal Harare golf course would still compete favourably with the top 20 courses in South Africa. This is in spite of Ian Mathieson and his team having to overcome incredible hardships. Whatever the medium to longer-term outcomes of the recent election debacle prove to be, golf in Zimbabwe is on a knife edge. In South Africa we often don’t appreciate how lucky we are. We really are the land of plenty in comparison with our northern neighbours. If there are any clubs out there who feel that they can help in any way with the challenges that Zimbabwean golf is facing then they can contact Ian Mathieson at ianm@royalharare.co.zw Even if it is just to offer him and his team words of encouragement, it will be greatly appreciated.

An interview with Dr Ronny Duncan
Willie: How did you get involved as an academic in the turf industry? Dr Duncan: I spent my initial academic career working on grass (grain sorghums) stress-related problems (drought, soil acidity, pests). In 1993 I had an opportunity to start working on turf with a very salttolerant grass. My expertise in plant breeding, genetics and stress physiology was a natural turfgrass move. I started putting management strategies together with the basic salinity science. I knew that irrigation water quality and quantity would be driving the turf industry in the 21st century and refocused on that part of the turf industry. Willie: What provided the impetus for you to start your Paspalum breeding programme? Dr Duncan: Quite frankly, I was a non-turf industry person coming into the turf industry trying to compete for funds to do research, and yet be able to work with a grass species that could have a significant impact globally. I literally stumbled onto seashore Paspalum with the help of Dr. R.N. Carrow at UGA. I put together a world collection of Paspalum vaginatum, moved rapidly into an intensive breeding and evaluation programme dealing with individual environmental stresses, started formulating site-specific management programmes, and began teaching salt, water, and grass management workshops for golf course superintendents in 2000. Willie: I know that you mentioned to me some time ago that it was a very salt-tolerant grass, but was not the cure-all for salinity problems. What then are the limitations to
20 June 2008 Golf Club Management


Willie Pretorius of Golf Course Solutions interviewed Dr Ronny Duncan, past professor of crop & soil sciences at the University of Georgia, at the Golf Industry Trade Show held in Orlando in February of this year. Dr Duncan is known as the “breeder and management care-taker” of the new Paspalum cultivars everyone is talking about.
Paspalum usage under these salinity stress conditions? Dr Duncan: The biggest issue in providing guidance on how to manage seashore Paspalum correctly with an increase in salinity is to get managers to understand that the grass tolerates salts, but does not remediate salts that have accumulated in soil profiles. Even if you have the most salt-tolerant warm season grass in the world, but don’t manage the salts properly, you will overwhelm the grass to the point that it cannot grow—you will sterilize and shut down the ecosystem. I try to put common sense and reality back into the equation, and get people to realize that you are dealing with a dynamic and constantly moving ecosystem that has to be continuously managed. The grass gives you the flexibility to put water, salinity, and Paspalum turfgrass management in place, thereby achieving whatever level of grass performance that you might desire on a specific site. Willie: In South Africa we are now finding facilities in the transition zones which are not a true warm season climate, but more of a Mediterranean climate. What sort of adaptation problems are they going to find in these transition zones that do not have a true warm season climate? Dr Duncan: If the temperatures never get below freezing, then it is not going to be an issue. We evaluated the Paspalums for chilling tolerance. There are genetically controlled differences among the Paspalum cultivars. Paspalum is actually closer to cool season creeping bentgrass in the chilling tolerance response than Bermuda grass. If you keep the frost off Paspalum, it will not desiccate or lose colour (drop chlorophyll). Willie: So you are not likely to see a serious dormancy situation developing in these cool season areas? Dr Duncan: Certain cultivars, will mimic the Bermuda grass declining temperature response, but I target those Paspalum ecotypes that sustain colour and do not shut down physiologically during transition into cooler environments. We also understand more now about amendments that can be used as tools to prepare the grass for this transition.

Dr Ronny Duncan belives that irrigation water quality and quantity will be driving the turf industry in the 21st century.

Willie: Can we look forward to some more cultivars coming out of your stable? Dr Duncan: Yes, I am always looking in the grass developmental programme for new and improved cultivars. Seashore Paspalum has five inherent stress tolerances under genetic control. There are over 1000 genes involved in salinity tolerance alone. I am constantly searching and evaluating for improvements in salinity, drought, acidity, water logging/ low oxygen, reduced light intensity/shade, and traffic/wear tolerances. Infuse the pest challenges from insects and diseases. Then you have the biggest challenge of all: the characteristics of the specific cultivar itself (colour, leaf texture, growth rate, water use efficiency, nutrient uptake and utilization efficiency, height-of-cut attributes, etc). I take new candidate cultivars to golf courses as soon as I see potential, based on initial side-by-side comparison with the top cultivars in the market. There is no perfect grass, but the challenge is always there. I am also looking at other grass species. Willie: In how many countries will we find your Paspalum cultivars ? Dr Duncan: Great question. Not sure. This whole Paspalum revolution has happened much faster than I ever anticipated. Unquestionably, water quality and quantity are driving global recreational turfgrass projects. This grass is being planted on golf courses where, more than five years ago, no one would have considered building a golf course because of salinity challenges or access only to saline water. This grass has opened up some quite beautiful venues in formerly remote locations for golf play. As more courses are forced to use reclaimed (recycled effluent) irrigation water, we will see those courses plant Paspalum. Interestingly, some of the natural turfgrass traits are now adding to the criteria for consideration of planting the grass, namely, the shiny dark green Kentucky bluegrass cosmetic look, the prominent striping after mowing, reduced nitrogen fertilizer requirements, and ‘no grain’ in the greens. With a dedicated effort on refining management tools, I do not see the Paspalum revolution slowing down and I believe that we will gradually see more renovations planting this grass in the future. I have felt for a long time that the ultimate legacy of this grass will be its environmental sustainability attributes. Willie: Which two Paspalum cultivars were developed first ? Dr Duncan: They were ‘Sea Isle I’ and ‘Sea Isle 2000’. I always use the top cultivar on the market for comparison to document ‘new and improved’ attributes. I used ‘Salam’ as the benchmark for releasing ‘SeaIsle 1’ and ‘SeaIsle 2000’. I used SeaIsle 2000 as the benchmark for releasing ‘Supreme’. Recently, Supreme was utilized to release the new ‘Platinum TE’, which is the first cultivar emerging from Turf Ecosystems, LLC. ‘Platinum TE’ was launched into the market in February 2007 at Anaheim, California and became available for grassing in October 2007. We have one international licensee (Phillip Jennings Turf Farms, LLC.) exclusively for the grass and will be licensing domestically in the USA in 2008. The emphasis is grass integrity and quality. I have developed a management guideline’s manual specifically for ‘Platinum TE’, and I am developing a website that will have a members only section that has an exclusive club, the ‘Platinum TE Members Club’, for anyone who contracts and plants the grass on their golf course. You will get information on that site that no one else is privy to. Any new specific ‘Platinum TE’ management developments will be uploaded on that exclusive ‘members only’ section on the website, and you will have direct communication access to me at any time. Willie: How do you become a member of that Club? Dr Duncan: You contract the grass to be planted on a golf course and actually plant the grass, and that opens the door to getting the password to that ‘members only’ section. We will be putting priority emphasis on SERVICE with ‘Platinum TE’ that is unparalleled in the turf industry. For more information on Dr Ronny Duncan and Paspalum cultivars contact Willie Pretorius at Golf Course Solutions on 021 913 2913 or 083 458 9854.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the golfer
Is your course being over-run by platoons of goose-stepping invaders? If it is, you are not alone. GCM investigates what initiatives are taking place to tackle the increasing problem.
Professor Phil Hockey of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT wrote in the April/May issue of Africa Birds and Birding that “there are three things in the world that Egyptian geese really like: grass, water and trees, pretty much the same three things favoured by golfers. And all together in the same place? Goose heaven! The problem the Fitztitute and its collaborators are trying to tackle is how to turn goose heaven maybe not in to goose hell, but at least in to goose purgatory.” The Fitztitute, as the FitzPatrick Institute is commonly known, is currently carrying out a survey in the Western Cape to establish the breeding patterns and lifestyles of the geese. The survey has been commissioned by The Club Management Association of South Africa and is being led by Harry White, chief executive officer at Steenberg Golf Club. The CMASA has now received the ‘review of mitigation measures and their effectiveness in reducing the nuisance of geese on golf courses’, being the first phase of the project. Interested clubs can contact Beryl Acres, the general manager of the CMASA on 011 482 7542 or e-mail her at gm@clubmanagement.co.za should they wish to make use of this review. The problem with most interventions that have taken place to date is that they are either illegal or ineffectual. Once the Institute can discover and understand the environmental circumstances of each course, they can then start to investigate why a particular course is favoured by the geese over other courses in the area. The establishment of a golf course changes the balance of nature in the first place; the aim of the Fitztitute and Harry White’s initiative is to find a sustainable balance. We’re not alone in this quest however. North American and European golf courses have been plagued by Canada geese for decades and it doesn’t look as though any final solution is yet in sight.


CONTACT DETAILS: Prof Phil Hockey at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology: Tel. (021) 650 3290; Fax. (021) 650 3295; e-mail fitz@uct.ac.za Harry White, chief executive officer of Steenberg Golf Club and committee member of the Club Management Association of South Africa: Cell. 082 780 1706; e-mail harry@steenberggolfclub.co.za Errol Ferriman at Erinvale Golf Club: Cell. 083 700 3706; e-mail evale@mweb.co.za


June 2008

Golf Club Management

Initially it was felt that the route to take was culling. This just added to negative press received by golf clubs and didn’t solve the problem. The surviving geese would move away for a short while and then return when the coast was clear. Nature Conservation authorities are totally against the shooting of geese and are looking for more natural ways of solving the problem. The removal of eggs from nests has also proven to be worthwhile but it is important to leave at least one or two eggs in the nest. If you take all the eggs, the pair will just lay more. In the meantime there have been many “attempts” to solve the problem; some more successful than others. Errol Ferriman at Erinvale has imported lights from America that are now being used by Royal Johannesburg and Kensington as well as De Zalze in the Cape. The lights disturb the sleeping patterns of the geese and move them to other areas, hopefully off the golf course. The re-introduction of otters and caracal (an indigenous predatory cat) where appropriate, would undoubtedly assist as they are the geese’s natural predators. In the absence of the predators, dogs can be successful but GCM approached Dean Ferreira of The Nature Conservation Corporation for his views. Here is what he had to say. GCM: What do Nature Conservation believe are the causes for the dramatic increase in Egyptian geese numbers? Dean: The cause is the increase in suitable habitat i.e. more green and short grass, large exotic pine trees to nest in, no predators and lovely water bodies to swim in –this describes a golf course perfectly. GCM: What would Nature Conservation like golf clubs to do to address the problem? Dean: There are two levels of solution; short and medium term. Removal is short term, but scientific research and implementation of the results will lead to a longer-term solution. I don’t believe that there will ever be a long-term solution. GCM: What is legal and what isn’t? Dean: Any disturbance of a wild animal is classified as hunting and this is illegal need to be properly trained. The first dog at Erinvale was initially successful but once the geese got used to it they turned on the dog and started biting it. There must be a story there somewhere! They now have another dog in training (with the approval of Cape Nature) that hopefully will be more assertive. Gordon Johnson at Simola Golf and Country Estate in Knysna has introduced plastic owls with swiveling heads to frighten away the geese. At the moment the geese have moved to other areas of the course so more owls will be needed. There is also the fact that the geese may eventually get used to the owls and will ignore them, just as they eventually not only ignored but attacked the dog at Erinvale. This is where golf clubs with Egyptian geese problems can assist. Professor Phil Hockey at the Fitztitute would like to hear from you if you have any ideas that you think may contribute to their project. If you have examples of where goose-control measures have been successful and effective, then please contact Phil Hockey at fitz@uct. ac.za with the phrase ‘geese and golf’ in the subject line. (from the throwing of stones to shooting). On the other hand, the changing of the habitat to make the sites less attractive to the geese is legal. GCM: What initiatives have Nature Conservation got underway to solve the problem? Dean: The only current operation taking place at Steenberg golf course is the live capture and translocation of geese. We have tried to expand this programme to allow for the ringing of the birds (placing colored rings on the legs, in conjunction with the Percy FitsPatrick Institute at UCT). GCM: Anything else you believe is relevant. Dean: I believe that we need to look at how we design and construct golf courses and other estates, so that we take into cognizance what the consequences of these activities are going to be with regard to attracting large numbers of geese and other species to these sites.