november 2009

golf Club maNagemeNt

visit www.compleatgolfer.co.za for back issues of GCm

johN deere 2500b
the best ridiNg greeNs mower oN the market?
Also In thIs Issue:

environmental issues: our social responsibility ■ Course design and construction: robbie richardson ■ trees for courses ■ the bottom line: survival of the club manager ■ organic vs chemical fertilizers ■ human resources: a quest to find and retain ‘the best’

brought to you by

Golf Club Management

November 2009

Volume 5 • issue 11

business magaziNe for the Golf Industry


bIrdIes And boGeys equIpment test
Snippets of news from the last month

editor’s letter
4 7 10 12 14 17 18 20 22 25 30

the John Deere 2500b

Aiden beck talks failings and remedies

the envIronment

tee to green Projects

CompAny profIle

Creating a vision

humAn resourCes humAn resourCes

from the editor
20/20 vision: looking back all misty-eyed
Compleat Golfer now celebrates its 20th year, and it is amazing to think just what has happened in the golf industry during these two decades. The most obvious change has been the golf estate boom: 20 years ago nobody could have envisaged that we would see a plethora of purpose-built golf courses incorporated housing estates in South Africa. With hindsight, developers of these estates became a little over-zealous, which resulted in an oversupply of estates, but for everybody concerned we hope that the projects that have stalled will eventually be revived. As for the golf club business, we can probably pride ourselves in having improved in leaps and bounds in every department. There is no doubt that the construction of new golf courses inspired existing clubs to spruce up their facilities, and there is a long list of clubs that have raised their games considerably. But perhaps the biggest change has been seen in the quality of people now involved in the industry. With the greatest respect to the older generation, and I grudgingly count myself among their number, the ‘new breed’ has taken hold of the game and shaken it up, and golf certainly needed it. There is a new type of club professional that is better equipped to run a business, course superintendents better qualified and working to far more exacting standards, and club managers are generally doing a better job now than they ever did. Perhaps the ‘information age’ has had something to do with this – it is hard to believe that the World Wide Web was still the stuff of science fiction in 1989. But rather than looking back with misty eyes to the days when woods were still made of persimmon and laminated maple, and a R100 note would comfortably pay for a day’s golf with food and beverage included, we should perhaps try to imagine what we are in for over the next 20 years. Water, the lifeblood of golf courses, will become increasingly scarce. Improved technology will surely find ways of cost effective desalination and recycling, but before this happens we had better accept that pumping millions of litres onto manicured turf cannot continue indefinitely. In the shorter term, the survival of golf depends on golfers and we simply do not have enough of them. The harsh reality is that if we look at the limited growth of the game over the past 20 years and factor in the new courses that have been built, we are in trouble. Ideally we should have more golfers paying less to play the game, but the way it looks now the opposite is going to happen. Hopefully less than two decades down the road we might have finally worked out an equitable handicapping system, foreign and local golfers will be queuing up to play our courses, it will take no more than four hours to play, and it will be difficult to find a blue gum, wattle or Port Jackson growing on a course. By then all our maintenance equipment will be quiet; powered by the sun or some other non-fossil method. Best of all, those infernal, two-stroke leaf-blowers will be a thing of the past. I can’t wait.

golf specific staff recruitment

habitat creation

trees for Courses mAnAGer of the month rAnds And sense turf mAnAGement lAst word

Peter hanley of Wanderers

the survival game

organic vs synthetic fertilizer

the environment: our social responsibility

Cover pICture
■ edItorIAl

the John Deere 2500b

johN botha E-mail: bogeyfree@mweb.co.za Cell: 082 498 7380
■ publIsher

simoN turCk E-mail: simon@ramsaymedia.co.za Cell: 083 252 8387
■ AdvertIsInG

james ferraNs (NAtioNAl SAlES MANAgEr) E-mail: jamesf@ramsaymedia.co.za Cell: 084 252 6373
to request your complimentary subscription to gCM, simply SMS ‘gCM and your name’ to 35172 (SMS costs r3) or contact Natalie Shekleton on 011 301 4448.

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

Golf Club Management

November 2009


birdies aNd bogeys

ladies feeliNg the piNCh

Cotswold bags a braCe of awards
Cotswold Downs estate has recently been honoured twice for the excellent work that has been done on their golf course and surrounds. The first award was received for Excellence in Environmental Planning, issued by the Institute of Landscape Architecture SA to landscape architects Uys and White for the magnificent work they

have done on the estate. The second award the received by the estate, a week later, was The Mail and Guardian Greening the Future Award, which rewards corporate environmental best practices and which promotes innovative approaches to environmental sustainability. Well done Cotswold.

It was recently announced that Anheuser-Busch, the company that holds the lion’s share of the beer market in the US, has pulled the plug on their sponsorship of the LPGA’s Michelob Ultra Open. This is quite a blow to the women’s major professional Tour, which has had its hands full with personnel problems, and recently replaced its commissioner Carolyn Bivens after a series of debacles. The Michelob Ultra was a marquee event on the LPGA Tour, played at the Kingsmill Resort, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch. This venue was a regular stop on the PGA Tour for 22 years before the LPGA took over seven years ago. At the time of going to print, the LPGA had less than 20 confirmed events on their 2010 calendar.

three wise meN hoNoured
At a function held at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, (left to right) Pye Bredenkamp, Nigel Butler and Marinus van de Luijtgaarden were honoured for their commitment and dedication to the GCMGA (Golf Course Managers and Greenkeepers Association) and their contribution to the wider golf industry. The three gentlemen, with a wealth of experience between them, were awarded honourary membership to the association – a well-deserved accolade.


November 2009

Golf Club Management

birdies aNd bogeys


– a free lunch
At the Deutsche Bank Championship, US Masters champion Angel Cabrera showed his generosity by paying for all the food consumed at the Caddywagon – a facility where Tour caddies traditionally eat during tournaments. Cabrera, a former caddie himself who is sponsored by South African Airways, insisted on picking up the bills at the Caddywagon (a mobile diner that follows the Tour), for the whole week – unheard of on Tour. “The money doesn’t matter,” said the Argentine, who explained that he had wanted to do this after winning the Masters but his busy schedule didn’t allow it. Although he refused to disclose what this gesture cost him, one caddie estimated that it must have been in excess of $5 000. As Cabrera said, the money hardly matters when one considers his earnings this year amount to some $3 million. This is without counting his endorsement deal with SAA which is indirectly paid for by the South African taxpayer.

keNNy perry

wins payne stewart award
veteran Tour professional Kenny Perry is the latest recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, bestowed on a “player sharing Stewart’s respect for the traditions of the game, the game’s heritage of charitable support and the meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through dress and conduct.” Since Stewart’s tragic death in an aircraft accident in 1999, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Nick Price have received this award – the most recent recipient being Davis Love III.

pga bids farewell to


After four years of working at the PGA’s head office, Janyne Marais has left to pursue her own business interests. She will be focusing on her consulting business, which will allow her to balance work with her family life. “The time spent with the PGA has been of great value to me and has given me confidence to go into the business world and build relationships that will be lasting and successful,” she says. For the past year Janyne managed the business development sector of the PGA and served on its board. Janyne can be contacted on Janyne@sportsguru.co.za

a New faCe at Vaal de graCe
Jacques Coetzee has taken over as manager at Vaal de Grace, replacing Johnny Stanton. Jacques has a background in financial management, but when GCM visited the club recently, it was clear that he is determined to not only balance the books but also maintain the highest levels of service. Vaal de Grace’s clubhouse is still ‘temporary’, but the existing structure, which has the feel of a boutique hotel on the banks of the Vaal River, is

perfectly appointed and a great place to sip a post-round cocktail. The quality of cuisine also compares with the best, and with the Nick Price-designed course now coming into its own, if you haven’t visited yet, you are missing out. When Compleat Golfer’s new 5-Star Experiences are revealed, it will not be surprising to see Vaal de Grace on the list of awards. Pictured here are Jacques Coetzee (left) with Vaal de Grace’s resident PGA pro Jandre Nel.

Golf Club Management

November 2009



Sooner or later, everyone turns green!

For enquiries, please contact: David Kelder, Marketing Manager Afgri Golf Tel +27 012 252 7665 Fax +27 86 635 5018 Mobile +27 71 689 9663 Email david.kelder@afgri.co.za Web www.afgri.co.za

equipmeNt test

the afgri team (from the left) albert weigelt, david kelder and pieter beukes with the 2500b.

the johN deere 2500b
is this as good as a precision-cut riding greens mower gets?
the agents of any one of the ‘big three’ turf equipment brands (toro, Jacobsen and John Deere) will obviously claim that their machines are the best. So we asked the Afgri team, agents for John Deere in SA, if they would be happy to take their latest riding greens mower to Serengeti for the course maintenance team there to put it to the test. As it turned out, the 2500b certainly seemed to live up to its billing.
The John Deere brand hardly needs introduction, and the instantly recognisable green machines have been a popular choice in agriculture for decades. However the company’s turf equipment was only introduced into South Africa in the early 1990s, without too much focus on this division and sales were limited. By the end of the 90s, there were only six models for sale in the turf division, but in 2000 the range was extended, and staff underwent comprehensive, extended training programs. Turnover in South Africa increased from R2 million a year to R80 million, and by 2005 the John Deere brand offered a full product range of golf course maintenance equipment. Today it is a major player in the golf industry. Worldwide, John Deere enjoys some 35 percent of the market share, and the company spends a total of $1.4 million on research and development per day. “This can seen in the quality of our equipment”, says Afgri’s David Kelder. “I would challenge any company to match us when it comes to the durability and productivity of John Deere machines,” he says. “The 2500B, the latest generation greens mower, is packed with features that make it an obvious

Golf Club Management

November 2009


equipmeNt test

aboVe: workshop manager of serengeti divan delport was impressed with the 2500b’s features – “i really like this machine!” below: gordon johnston makes a strong case for walk-behind mowers, but his experience with john deere equipment suggests that it lives up to its claims.

choice, and we are happy to challenge any other manufacturer to match it.” We were not going to take his word for it, so with the help of Serengeti’s head course superintendant Gordon Johnston, course superintendant JP Prinsloo, and workshop manager Divan Delport, the 2500B was put through its paces. The Afgri team, made up of David Kelder, Albert Weigelt and Pieter Beukes, unloaded the new machine and pointed out just why they consider this machine to be a ‘cut above the rest’. Beginning with the safety features, this machine comes with a two-post, rollover protective structure (ROPS) and a retractable seat belt as standard equipment. The machine certainly looks the part, and once the features had been pointed out it became clear that this mower is a lot more than just a

pretty face. It is powered by a 14.6 kW Yanmar diesel powerplant – a smooth, efficient and quiet unit. The liquid-cooled engine is easy to maintain, and routine checks and adjustments are easily made. (All are situated on the left side of the engine.) The machine’s ergonomics are a big plus, with seat adjustment and steering-tilt designed to keep any operator comfortable. The command arm (which moves with the seat as it is adjusted), makes for ease of operation and features a diagnostic read-out, showing the operator whether the park brake is engaged, whether the mowing lever is disengaged and the backlap valve (also a standard feature) is engaged. First to put the mower through its paces was Divan Delport. “I really like this machine,” he said. “It seems to have everything and I am impressed with the command arm.


November 2009

Golf Club Management

equipmeNt test

jp prinsloo liked the new machine, and was suitably impressed with both the ease of operation and the quality of cut.

I also like the fact that an operator can get on and off the machine from either side. It is probably fair to say that among the premium brands, there is really no bad machine: it comes down to the availability of spares, the service offered by the suppliers, and of course the cost.” Next to try out the 2500B was JP Prinsloo. “This is a nice machine and I was impressed with the quality of cut. I also found the command arm to be well-designed – the machine is certainly easy to operate.” Head superintendant Gordon Johnston told us that he was familiar with John Deere products, and had no complaints with the brand. “I was at Simola for five years and we used only John Deere equipment. I must say that we found that the machines did exactly what was required of them. An important

factor with any machinery is the person who maintains them, and at Simola I was fortunate in having Mark Holtzhausen who kept our equipment in perfect running order and we never had a problem.” At Serengeti, only walk-behind mowers are used, and Gordon explains why: “I believe that using lighter equipment on our greens reduces compaction, and the quality of cut is superior. There is also the danger of hydraulic leaks – which can be disastrous.” There is a danger of hydraulic fluid leaking, albeit a rare, and an avoidable problem. “It really comes down to the care that is taken with this machinery,” says Afgri’s Pieter Beukes. “If properly looked after, and regularly checked, and if kinks in the hydraulic hoses are avoided, the chances of a leak occurring is eliminated,” he says. David Kelder is quick

to point out that the costs of using walkbehinds is considerably more. “If one looks at the capital cost – most 18-hole courses use eight walk-behind mowers; compared to two ride-on mowers, and once one factors in the labour cost, it is easy to see why using ride-on greens mowers is far more cost effective,” he says. “All things considered, I am confident that the quality of cut experienced with the 2500B, even on heavily contoured greens, is every bit as good as a walk-behind.” As for compaction, it is claimed that this machine causes no more compaction than an averagesized golfer walking on the green. Finally, at its cost of R210 000 for what is a premium piece of equipment, the Afgri team is adamant that no other riding greens mower can compare. GCM will wait to hear from their opposition. ■

Golf Club Management

November 2009


the eNViroNmeNt
pinnacle point is an excellent example of a course that takes the conservation of its endemic flora very seriously, and is one of our most eco-friendly layouts.

workiNg with Nature
Aiden beck’s CV includes working as a course superintendant at Sun City and spending a year in the united States completing a golf course internship through the university of ohio. he is currently a member of the conservation trust at Pinnacle Point, and points out the failings and some remedies to managing an environmentally-friendly golf course.
After qualifying as a landscape architect at Pretoria University, Aiden Beck attended various courses relating to golf course management and has had experience in preparing courses to the highest standards. These include the Gary Player Country Club for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Westchester CC for the Buick Classic and the TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship. He has also worked at Augusta National, assisting with the preparation for the US Masters. After returning to South Africa, he spent time at Zimbali and was involved with the management of the estate, focusing on the environmental controls pertaining to fauna and flora. He was involved with setting up the Conservation Trust, overseeing the environmental controls in the region, and his experience in dealing with various government departments has made him aware that being ‘green’ is not merely a buzz word: ignorance of the law is no longer an excuse for contravening legislation. “Like many of us, I made mistakes, due mainly to not knowing all the facts,” he says. “Golf courses interact with the natural environment on a daily basis, and common practice is to push back the envelope to try to manage it. Over time I have learnt to work with nature, rather than try to push water uphill.” All too many course managers are still rather hazy about what they can and cannot do, and many clubs lack a master environmental management plan. Beck strongly advises that this be formulated without delay. “Management should find out how and where the relevant information can be found. The first step in putting together a sound environmental plan is to map the boundaries of your course – and establish clearly defined areas for play, transitional zones consisting of grasses and other natural vegetation and undisturbed areas for conservation. There should be a line over which there is no disturbance – either by water or encroaching turf grasses etc.” “The place to start in assessing the environment of your course is the soil – having the right growing medium is essential. But managing our soil without contaminating it is critical,” he says. “The science of Pedology (the study of soils), is important in estab-


November 2009

Golf Club Management

the eNViroNmeNt
lishing what minerals your growing medium might lack. For instance, in trying to change the water retention qualities of your soil, it is necessary to know exactly what type of soil you are dealing with. Mistakes can be easily made. For example, there have been cases where various terra-sorbs were applied to the soil in an attempt to change water retention capabilities. Where clay compounds existed in the soil, this only compounded the problem. A basic rule sometimes ignored is to establish the depth of your soil – a factor that will determine what can grow where. Deep soil will allow for the growth of trees, while a thin layer will only allow shorter shrubs and plants”. “When I was at Sun City, prior to the 1998 Nedbank Golf Challenge, we battled with nematodes that had infested our greens. Eelworms had built up a resistance to the nematicides that had been over-applied. About two years before, certain greens had been rebuilt due to this contamination, but the growing medium had merely been pushed to the sides to create spectator mounds. The resistant eelworms had simply migrated back into the greens over time. We lost a considerable amount of the putting surface on three of the greens, and during the tournament that year I was having to spray the sand surfaces with green dye so the mistake couldn’t be picked up by the television cameras. Fortunately this later solved by applying a sugarcane nematicide called ‘Ruby’”. “When it comes to flora, most golf courses are up to speed when it comes to knowing which species of vegetation are aliens and how these are best managed. But to simply embark on a program for the introduction of indigenous species will not work. Endemic plants, those that are adapted to a specific biome, should be introduced. Courses are situated in one or a few different biomes. Along the Mossel Bay coastline we are fortunate in having three distinct biomes – tall Coastal Thicket down to the short Limestone Fynbos species, with the medium Proteoid Fynbos growing in the intermediate areas. The ‘Floral Kingdom’ of the Western Cape has an incredibly rich variety of Red Data species (those that are critically or possibly endangered). Every course should enlist the service of a suitably qualified botanist or horticulturalist to do an assessment of what plants are presently growing, and then draft a plant list of species that naturally occur in the specific area.” Beck warns that according to the Forestry Act, if two or more indigenous trees exist and their canopies touch each other, this is classified as an indigenous forest. Before pruning any indigenous species a check should be done on whether a permit is required. “An owner at Zimbali cut down a few Milkwood trees to improve his view of the coastline, and he could have been imprisoned. As it was he fined a hefty R100 000 – considered to be a slap on the wrist,” says Beck. Beck’s advice is that a ‘search and rescue’ of indigenous plants that can be saved should be undertaken before any vegetation is removed. These should then be kept in a nursery so they can be planted out later. When planting species that are on your approved list, younger plants are preferable to the more established, as besides saving money, the younger plants are likely to adapt to the conditions better. ■


CompaNy profile

the Complete package
tee to green Projects is a company owned and managed by robert richardson, and offers a broad range of services relating to planning, design, construction and maintenance of golf courses. this outfit may not be the biggest, but over the last 10 years robbie and his team of dedicated experts has developed an excellent reputation.
robbie richardson casually brushes off the suggestion that he deserved to have been selected as Springbok amateur golfer. “I never really devoted enough time to the game at the time,” he says. He was a member of the powerful Southern Transvaal team, and many of his generation will tell you that he was one heck of a player. He did turn professional, and he wasted no time in making his mark. In his first year he campaigned on the Australian Tour and never missed a cut. One of the highlights in his rookie year was his performance in the Australian Open – down the stretch on the final day he was placed third, leading a host of big names including Jack Nicklaus. That he blew his chances with a disastrous 10, eventually finishing 18th, may have been disappointing at the time, but today he merely shrugs and says it was all part of the learning curve – and also a great life experience. Some might have suggested that Richardson retired somewhat prematurely from the professional tour – he had, after all, earned his playing privileges on the European Tour, and was clearly no slouch. “I suppose I reached a stage where I was just over-golfed, and I felt that I had had the opportunity to travel the world, and decided it was time to quit,” he says. Determined to stay in the game he loved, he weighed up his options – “I didn’t want to become a club professional, but I loved the game, specifically being out on the course, so I made up my mind to become involved in course maintenance,” he says. “I approached Dave Kirkby, and offered to work for him without pay, just so I could learn about the business.” Kirkby, who had developed the reputation of being one of the best in the business, took on Richardson, and he became part of the Topturf team, working on the fledgling Dainfern course. Richardson learned quickly and embarked on various educational courses to improve his knowledge. (Besides obtaining his Turfgrass Diploma and studying pesticide use on golf courses, he has also attended courses in the US relating to effluent control and management and course renovation and restoration). He was offered the job as course superintendant at Roodepoort Country Club, where he met Phil Jacobs, then a designer with the Gary Player Group. “I had been at Roodepoort almost three years, and when Phil asked if I would be interested in working in the Far East, I jumped at the chance,” he says. After working in the Philippines for two years as the design co-ordinator, he returned to South Africa and was involved with the design and construction of the Graceland layout. He also worked on the Links at Fancourt, before setting up his own business, Tee to Green Projects. Richardson’s new company got off to a good start, and given the owner and founder’s passion his services were soon in demand. He became involved in consultation and maintenance work at courses such as Steenberg, Royal Cape, Milnerton and King David, he designed and began construction on the Kingfisher Hill course in the lowveld. Among other projects, he site managed the construction of the Ernie Els-designed Highland Gate and was also the main contractor for the Nkonyeni course in Swaziland. Having recently completed the greens renovation at White River Country Estate, he is now busy with a revamp of Krugersdorp Golf Club’s

robbie richardson explaining the subtleties of a newly shaped green on the krugersdorp layout.


November 2009

Golf Club Management

CompaNy profile
greens and bunkering, and is remodelling the Windhoek Country Club layout. Richardson has definitely made a name for himself in the course design, construction and maintenance business, and at a time when many projects have been shelved, his workload would suggest that his clients appreciate his no-nonsense approach and the work ethic of his experienced team. He certainly keeps a keen eye on all work that his company undertakes, and is not afraid of getting his hands dirty. “I have probably spent about five days a month at home in recent times,” he says – and complains that his dog hardly recognises him! Robbie has all the right credentials, but is quick to give credit to his team. “I am fortunate in having developed a loyal and hard-working team – each of these guys gives one hundred percent and they are irreplaceable,” he says. Richardson is a man who loves his work, and it shows. ■
■ Contact: 082 468 4772

e-mail: teetogreen@mweb.co.za website: www.teetogreenprojects.co.za

windhoek Country Club is one of the latest courses to get the ‘robbie richardson’ treatment.

Ransomes Jacobsen Ltd is the first company within the turf care industry to be awarded ISO 14001, the international standard for enviromental management. The Ransomes Highway LPG epitomises the Ransomes Jacobsen commitment to alternative power. As the first commercial triple mower powered by an alternative power source, the Highway LPG is as green as the grass it cuts.


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Durban Johannesburg Cape Town Port Elizabeth 031 705 3390 011 922 2000 021 380 2600 041 484 6240

Tindrum 8/007


maNager’s tips
to improVe performaNCe
to gain commitment from your staff, it’s important they know which direction they are going in. Andrew pons offers six bits of advice on how to create a compelling vision for your staff to maximise team performance.

six key thoughts for ‘CreatiNg a VisioN’
■ Vision and

goal direction comes from leaders
■ Vision is not

the masses do Not deVelop VisioN. It is a core consideration of leadership. It is up to leaders to clarify the way forward. Leaders should engage their key constituents (key customers, staff, suppliers, committees) to clarify what kind of club they want. What is their appetite for the future? How can we bring this all together? Vision must challenge beyond the paradigms of today’s situation. It must stretch well beyond what we consider possible. It must be worth the effort! And finally, vision is not only for the head honcho, it applies to any person at any station who has the will to lead. a VisioN must haVe real meaNiNg. It must be comprehensive and detailed. As we move toward this dream, what’s in it for each stakeholder group? What treatment should they expect? The vision should clarify the values we hold to be good. It is the values that determine the ‘rightness’ of the direction. Values determine the behaviours we should expect. Only make the vision public when we are living the values in daily behaviour. Vision cannot be some abstract concept. The behaviour the vision requires, particularly from its leaders must be crystal clear. Leaders must put themselves out there to be measured against the promise. This requires a tough, determined and persevering spirit. We must work to achieve consistency and credibility. the power of VisioN is oNly realised wheN shared aNd supported. This is why gathering ideas from constituents prior
to pronouncing the new direction is so important. Constant communication with simple clarity and examples of what we have achieved and what needs to be done in team meetings, committee meetings, individual engagements and communications. Support means working beyond the current committee. Committees change but vision that has broad based support should create the certainty beyond their tenure. This is vital for the sustainability of Clubs.

the framed old picture

■ The vision

must be shared and supported
■ Challenge

people striVe for deVelopmeNt aNd improVemeNt iN their daily liVes. People do not want to stagnate. Most are
keen to grow and learn. It is our role as leaders to look beyond the ‘problems’. Challenge the team. Clarify your belief in them and the process of achieving the vision. Create an exciting dissatisfaction with the present. Learning should take people outside their comfort zones and resistance to change should be expected but the leaders must stand resolute, clarifying the change in the most positive terms and assuring the team of support.

people to grow and learn

■ Challenging

but realistic goal-setting

break the VisioN dowN iNto aChieVable goals. Start with behaviours, identifying what will be required of leadership. Get feedback on how we are doing as a leadership group. This can be done via surveys or Leadership 360 degree feedback tools. Communicate these competencies to stakeholders. Tell them how you are doing and the changes you need to make. This is challenging for managers but is critically important. It creates the sense that we too are challenged by the vision. We are not an island to ourselves able to bark orders and expect compliance. Now challenge the staff at all levels. Be careful of targets that will lead to cutting corners. Acknowledge/reward people meeting targets publicly. do CoNstitueNts experieNCe the VisioN aNd purpose? Are these views in line with the desired future? We can only be
assured of this if our ear is close to the ground. A style of leadership that asks open/enquiring questions is essential. Listen at all levels. Hold one-on-ones with junior staff, members, guests, corporate days, suppliers. Encourage… no, require, all managers to do the same. Do they feel what it is the Club is seeking to create? Check in with your front desk often. Many are too busy to greet. This creates an immediate perception of distance and sets the scene for poor service delivery.

■ A listening

environment: evaluate your impact

tel: +27 (0)11 706 4107 ■ Cell: +27 (0)83 375 877 ■ e-mail: ponsproc@icon.co.za ■ website: www.ponsconsulting.co.za


November 2009

Golf Club Management

humaN resourCes

reCruitiNg staff
for the golf industry
on a quest to ‘find and retain the best’, sarah donnelly offers sage advice on effective recruitment options.
recruiting quality staff in a cost-effective manner is the bane of many managers’ lives in the hospitality and leisure industries. This month we wanted to hear from golf recruiters around the country to find out how they are overcoming and tackling this issue. There are three main staffing categories that we are talking about when it comes to golf recruitment: ■ Pro Shop staff ■ Permanent hospitality staff ■ Casual hospitality staff to cover functions Ken Payet, GM of Pecanwood Golf Club in Hartbeespoortdam, has developed a twopronged approach to employee sourcing. “For golf staff we go though the PGA which sends out our vacancies to all their members, therefore it is a good, free networking tool. On the other hand, for our F&B and hospitality staff we have developed a good relationship with Diverse Staffing Solutions, a recruitment agency in Pretoria. They are efficient, follow up on the candidate and offer a guarantee period which lowers the recruitment risk for us.” Another alternative for handling pro-shop recruitment is to go through a company such as Global Golf (www.cutterbuck.co.za). “We manage golf shops for estates such as Arabella, Pinnacle Point, Fancourt and Steenberg,” said GM Hendrik de Vos. “As part of this management, we regularly get involved with recruitment for the shops. We work closely with the PGA and colleges such as Damelin who are doing a great job in training candidates in golf directorship for both the local and international markets.” To handle the requirement for golf functions, Fred Rees from Durbanville Golf Club uses students from the local area. “We have built up a stable network of students who have been with us for about two years now who assist us with all our events. We roster our casuals at the beginning of every month which allows us to strategically plan for our busy periods. For permanent staff such as F&B manager positions, we go through recruitment agencies, with varying levels of success,” he said. It would seem that there is only one independent recruitment agency in South Africa that is solely dedicated to the golfing industry. Golf People (www.golfpeople.co.za) operates throughout the country and recruit for any golf-related positions. Consultant Minette Wallis said, “The biggest challenge that we have is changing the mindset of recruiters regarding the huge importance of having the right staff in place. For example, we recently had a golf club that employed an ex-mechanic to work as their greenkeeper, with disastrous effects for the greens. The recession is also not the time to cut costs on staffing,” she said. “The long-term repercussions of bad employment practices can hurt a business quite severely regarding, inter alia, membership retention, poor service, below par facilities and high staff turnover.” Wallis went on to say, “Our screening process is so stringent that by the time the client gets to interview our candidates, it only comes down to a personality fit as to whether or not they are suitable for the job.” In summary, these are some of the options available to you when trying to attract and retain the best staff. ■ Establish an effective relationship with a hospitality/golf specialist recruitment company in your area. Meet with them, and find out how they operate in terms of interviewing, screening, reference and credit checking. Make sure that they in turn understand how your business operates regarding your clients and company culture ■ Build a pipeline of reliable casual staff and students in your local area that you can call on to handle functions and busy periods. Plan and roster ahead ■ Network through the PGA ■ Advertise vacancies yourself on a specialist job board such as www.hospitalityjobsafrica.co.za ■ Develop a ‘careers’ page on your website, so that prospective employees can send CVs directly to you Above all, look after your current staff to reduce turnover and save money. And remember, the hidden costs of a single poor recruitment decision can affect the entire reputation of your organisation. ■

Online RecRuitment fOR the hOspitality & leisuRe industRy

Golf Club Management

November 2009


trees for Courses

from tree to greeN!
We all have friends who are not golfers. And we forgive them their lack of insight and their inability to understand why we chase around a very small, white ball over vast hectares of relatively open ground. But we do pity them for what they are missing: the pars, the drives, the birdies, the chips and putts – the near-misses and the luck-of-a-lifetime! But, for me, for all the joy of the game itself, and the camaraderie too, if golf were to be played indoors on astro-turf, with Vodacom trees, and pump-driven water features, I would simply give my clubs away – and give up my club membership too. I know the Japanese ‘play’ the game in this pseudo-environment but my belief is that most South Africans take great pleasure in being outdoors. Perhaps that is the one thing that nonplayers do understand. Golf is a game that gives you five hours in the open air, surrounded by a growing, breathing, living world – so different from our normal cars and pollution, and indoor, computer- and TV-orientated lifestyles. The point I am making is that the elements of the course that are driven by the needs of the game of golf are only one part of the recipe. The other essential ingredient is the total surrounding landscape of the course, which, in the end, is what differentiates one club from another in the area. How does a course achieve that ‘wow’ factor, in the hearts of the members, so that their eyes light up when they show off the course to visitors? My monthly chant is going to be ‘planning’. The bottom line is that the final assessment of whether the outdoor experience, at your club is superb, good, mediocre or frankly indifferent, depends on the club ‘leaders’ having a long-term vision and the ability and/or power to implement it effectively. Yes I am talking about trees again! The pansies can come and go and the petunias too. But you need to mould your course with

Acacia erioloba

this month, our tree specialist val thomas tells us how to turn to nature if you are looking to ‘wow’ visitors to your golf course.
woody species and mini-habitats if you are really looking ahead at the next few decades. We all watch the Major golf championships on TV. One result, over the years, has been that many people’s idea of the perfect course, is shaped by the likes of Augusta and Wentworth. The design of these magnificent overseas courses is what we term ‘parkland’. They are dominated by large Euro-American style, single-trunked evergreen trees, which stand apart, and have no lower branches to taunt the players when they hit a wayward shot. In reality, many of the courses in our relatively arid country cannot hope to achieve the parkland look, unless they stick to the die-hard alien pines, gums and wattles. If you are lucky enough to be involved in an area where natural forests grow, along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal or the Southern Cape, you could add to this parkland feel on your course with indigenous species such as Yellowwoods, Podocarpus species, Capechestnut, Calodendrum capense, Largeleaved Cape-ash, Ekebergia capensis and Wild-plum, Harpephyllum caffrum. (To learn more about these trees, and others in your area that will grow well you can refer to the Sappi Tree Spotting series or go to the GCM section of www.compleatgolfer.co.za) In other areas of the country you need a different vision of a grand design. The indigenous trees you plant will not be as tall – and you have to accept that with good grace. But there is a way to bring in a specific flavour that will make your home turf exceptional. In many areas of our country you can ‘go bushveld’ and plant indigenous woody species that naturally grow closer together and stay tangled and thick to the ground. In fact two or even three different species can be planted together in one very large hole, with their branches intertwined, with all their lower woodiness left intact. In these circumstances there are liter-

Ekebergia capensis

Podocarpus latifolius (female)

Podocarpus latifolius (male)


November 2009

Golf Club Management

trees for Courses
Acacia erioloba Pappea capensis

ally a hundred trees to choose from depending totally on your climate and soil conditions. Many courses have some areas that are already wooded with wonderfully tall trees. Some of these are the exotic-aliens mentioned above that need to be replaced over time, but in many cases they are superb Oaks, Chestnuts, Birches, Beeches and Ashes which, hopefully, will live another century. Even these courses will need to plan to intersperse their existing woodland with new plantings to make sure that the next few decades are a positive, forward-looking period of investment for the future. Indiscriminate planting of Bushveld species, in among the Parkland trees, will be confusing, but most courses do have enough space to separate the two ‘styles’ without it looking incongruous. The important issue is to appreciate that if you include some bushveld-style planting, you will start to move away from a totally parkland Euro-American design. As we have said above, many low rainfall South African areas cannot sustain this anyway, and you will be aiming at a modified, but improved style. As an added feature you will see new birds and beasties and bugs. You will watch the natural change of seasons and have butterflies flitting from flower to flower as they pollinate their own, specific host plant. When you apply for municipal grants as a

Illustrations by Joan van Gogh. Grey Go-Away Bird illustration by Penny Noall.

community-orientated asset, or to be given status in South Africa, to be rated as an environmentally accredited course, with waterwise principles, you will have more chance of success. With greater environmental awareness being included in legislation, this could save you money down the line. It will also light up the eyes and hearts of your members! My four highlighted trees this month are some of those mentioned above, but I have chosen two additional ones in order to offer you large trees with distributions that cover most of South Africa. Although our discussion above has primarily been about total size, I have included the fruit as the artwork, as this is more exciting than four large trees!

broad-leaVed yellowwood
Podocarpus latifolius This Yellowwood is similar in its preferences to Large-leaved Cape-ash in that it is an east coast forest tree and thrives with sufficient water. It can become a giant in its area of natural distribution and is an asset on courses that receive sufficient rain.

Camel-thorN aCaCia
Acacia erioloba The Camel-thorn survives and thrives in the north of the country where rainfall can be unpredictable. As with most trees it does better if it is watered well – at least until its roots can reach down and find sources of their own below the surface. It is a thorny tree and drops twigs, so is best planted out of the direct playing area, as a visual feature, rather than as a strategic tree, on the course itself.

large-leaVed Cape-ash
Ekebergia capensis This is easiest to find naturally in forest and is a water-loving species, so it is more specific to the east coast. However it grows easily and well in almost any human-made environment with sufficient water – but should not be chosen for an arid golf course.

grey go-away bird
Corythaixoides concolor The Grey Go-away bird is probably still better known as the Grey Lourie, and is one of our best-known birds. Newman says they belong to a ‘family’ of “fruit-eating Afrotropical forest or bushveld birds with crested heads, fairly long tails and an agile springing action when jumping along branches…Pairs and small parties are usually in the upper stratum (of trees) and invariably noisy”. I cannot say it better! They occur in the north of South Africa. ■

Pappea capensis The Jacket-plum is the smallest of the four trees but can grow to a reasonable size (when watered) through much of the arid centre of the country. It is a summer rainfall species and is one of the most variable trees in Southern Africa both in shape and its habitat preferences. It is adaptable and makes the most of any extra moisture and nutrients it can find among racks, near rivers, streams and pans but also on open Karoo plains. It is an ideal tree for more arid areas.

Corythaixoides concolor

for more information on these trees go to www.compleatgolfer.co.za, click on the GCM cover and follow the download link.

Golf Club Management

November 2009


extra speCial maNager of the moNth

wanderers golf Club’s

peter haNley
committees come and go, and while he is quick to point out the failings of certain committee-run operations, he points out that The Wanderers Golf Club employs a formula that works. While managing the Port Elizabeth Club in 1980 (a club not dissimilar to The Rand Club), Peter was approached by Bryanston Country Club and offered the position of manager. He spent four and a half years at the helm of Bryanston, one of the smaller country clubs but one with a large golf membership. “With a strong membership base and sound financial policies, this was, and Not for sale to persons under the age of 18

there is no substitute for experience and with more than three decades in the business of club management, Peter hanley knows a thing or two about running a successful operation.
‘Hands-on and listening’, is the way Peter Hanley describes the critical factors involved in doing his job well. He insists on the highest levels of professionalism, understands the importance of motivating staff, and strives to maintain consistency of service. During his years in the industry, he has seen

Extra SpEcial tiMES, Extra SpEcial ScOtcH
20 November 2009 Golf Club Management

remains a healthy club,” he says. Peter then moved to Roodepoort Country Club – a club that was still in its infancy, and which was then under the control of the Roodepoort municipality. “The fact that this club was then effectively run by the Roodepoort council posed its challenges, as did the committee members – some of whom might not have always served for the right reasons,” he says. When the manager’s position at The Wanderers became vacant in 1988, Peter was offered the opportunity to move, and he had no hesitation in accepting the top job at what has long been a golfing institution in Johannesburg. The Wanderers Golf Club then formed part of what was the biggest sports club in the world, which at its peak had no less than 14 000 members. The golf club, which has since split from the main club, hosted the PGA Championship from 1972 to 1995, six of these events held during Peter’s watch – and under the banner of Lexington, this championship was considered to be the most prestigious event in South African professional golf. “It was amazing to see the support that this championship received from the fans,” says Peter. “Thousands of spectators would flock to the course to watch the action – the atmosphere was really special, in fact only what was then the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City could claim to draw more spectators.” Peter admits to being passionate about the bush, spending much of his leisure time with his family game viewing, and when he was approached to run the exclusive Thornybush Lodge in the Lowveld, he accepted. A two-year stint here was followed by his move back to Johannesburg, to take up the position of general manager at one of the city’s ‘grande old dames’, Houghton Golf Club. “Houghton was unfortunately ailing at the time, and it was hoped that by hosting the Dunhill PGA Championship this would solve the club’s financial woes,” he explains. Peter certainly made his presence at the club felt, and while under his management, service levels were raised and the club seemed to be finding a new lease on life, but there were frustrations, not least of all the fact that the bowling section was costing the club money. “The bowlers would take over the function

room, which meant a considerable loss in earnings from the corporate market – this at a time when many of the Houghton members were leaving South Africa,” he says. After leaving Houghton, Peter then joined the Brand Group as director of operations at Mount Grace in Magaliesburg, which was then considered to be one of South Africa’s top country hotels. “My period of working at Mount Grace was an opportunity to get back to basics, and particularly being involved in what was really an excellent food and beverage operation was a worthwhile experience,” he says. A spell at the Silver Lakes Estate was followed by the offer to return to The Wanderers Golf Club in 2002, and Peter jumped at the chance. “The Wanderers has always seemed like home – this club has a special spirit and importantly, it was made clear to me that I would be able to manage the operation with the help of the passionate committee, rather than their interference. I must say that I

am extremely fortunate at this club, working with the likes of our chairman who has made a huge contribution (he has seved on the greens committee for 22 years and now also chairs that sub-committee) and also everyone on our committee who have only the wellbeing of the club at heart. It really is a group of like-minded friends – there are no hidden agendas, and no secrets.” No golf club can claim to have been immune to the current financial crisis, and The Wanderers Golf Club is no different. “Our corporate business has certainly felt the brunt of tighter budgets, but the support our membership has been outstanding. We have a strong team (a total of 72 staff), and we pride ourselves in offering our members and visitors a special experience that will never be compromised”, says Peter. The Wanderers Golf Club celebrates its 70th year in 2009 and long may it remain one our premier golfing institutions. ■

general manager peter hanley (left) pictured with course superintendent jackie seketane. jackie has been a faithful employee of wanderers for 42 years.

Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 Golf Club Management November 2009 21

raNds aNd seNse

the bottom liNe
and the survival game
the current economic climate is forcing clubs to face some harsh realities, and unfortunately some managers may end up playing the role of the ‘sacrificial lamb’. John botha suggests that it might be time for golf club managers to resist giving in to unreasonable expectations.
Some time ago I read an interesting article in the Boardroom magazine that dealt with the common causes of golf club manager’s failures in the United States. Several managers were interviewed, and many found themselves in the position of having to admit that they had hopelessly missed their financial targets. This naturally left them in the invidious position of being blamed for whatever shortfalls, and some were preparing themselves for the inevitable boot. Of course no manager can be blamed for failing to see into the future, but it has been clear for some time now that the corporate market has drastically cut its spend on events such as golf days. It was interesting to note that there was a common thread running through the cases of each of these managers who believed that their jobs were in jeopardy: a dramatic fall in outside business. Also, each of these managers felt that they had been forced to accept an operating budget they never believed in. It was interesting to note that the knee-jerk reaction as soon as the recession hit clubs was for them to begin to show ‘cannibalistic tendencies’ – feeding off each other by offering huge discounts and extended, interestfree payments to their membership. Every one in this industry knows that most boards or committees have members that do not do fully appreciate the fiscal tightropes that have to be walked in this business. Finding the right balance between satisfying the members’ demands and ‘selling’ the course for golf days is just one challenge, and hoping to keep your course in pristine condition on a shoe-string budget is another. The positive spin put on a club’s operation when discussed in a committee room is a very different matter when seen in the light of day. Of course when so-and-so on the committee lays down the law, it is difficult to contradict them without seeming to be negative, but trying to please everyone all of the time is a slippery slope than could end up at the unemployment office. The point is that when operating budgets are established, the club manager is the person best qualified to make informed assessments, and while it might be easy to agree to unrealistic numbers for the sake of keeping the peace, it is less easy to find excuses when the plans go pear-shaped. The accountants and would-be Warren Buffets of the committee room are quick to point out that costs must be cut, and if this means firing (or retrenching) staff so be it. But as one observer of the current economic downturn in the golf industry so aptly put it: “Beneath the daisies in the golf industry graveyard lie the aspirations of more than a few golf course operators who ‘saved’ themselves to death. All too late they discovered that the line between cutting a budget and running a knife across one’s own throat is too easily crossed.” Managing expenses can end up costing more than a club saves, particularly when simply getting rid of key staff is involved. Another observer put it like this: “Mowing fairways less frequently will result in longer grass between cuts, and applying less herbicide will mean that you grow more weeds.” But the point is made that by simply getting rid of certain people, and either not replacing them or trying to find someone that will do their jobs for less money, could backfire dramatically. Does a committee member really know the true value of that friendly, efficient barman who not only knows each member by name, but their preferred drinks? What about your resident golf pro? He may be on a large retainer, but in terms

“I am not suggesting that you actually purchase a red carpet to lay on the clubhouse stairs, but…”


November 2009

Golf Club Management

raNds aNd seNse
of his contribution to your club he might well be cheap. Simply evaluating people according to industry standards of compensation is often way off the mark. I once heard an unbelievable story of a new general manager arriving at a club, and in one of his first meetings with the course superintendant, he announced that he believed that the ‘super’ was earning far too much money. The new manager obviously did not know the true worth of this individual, and it is probably fair to say that many course superintendants are undervalued. It is no secret that the condition of a course is directly proportional to the enjoyment many golfers experience in playing the course. The vast majority of golfers are really ignorant when it comes to what might constitute a really good design, yet even a novice can see when there is lack of attention to detail, and a course lacks that special touch that only a committed green keeper can add. Any manager that has the temerity to suggest that members be slapped with a special levy in order for their club to either undertake a special project or to even merely survive is likely to be shot down in flames. Perhaps this strategy could be an option at the few clubs that can boast a particularly affluent membership, but generally it is accepted that in the current economic climate the average golfer would be forced to resign and take his business elsewhere – which is hardly ideal. So what is the answer? There can obviously be no one-solutionfixes-all, but a few ideas could be considered. Firstly, clubs have to stop trying to outprice one another. A price war when it comes to corporate business is simply resulting in a downward spiral, and while the event companies are dab hands at playing one facility off against another, a line must be drawn somewhere. No one is suggesting a ‘price fixing’ exercise, but if nobody is making any money the prognosis looks bleak. It is worth considering that more than a few golfers are invited to so many corporate golf days that they end up playing less at their own clubs, and in some cases some have even resigned their membership. So the truth is, the more corporate days, the less member rounds are played. But the ‘outside’ business aside, certain clubs have come up with some innovative ideas to boost their members’ rounds: special events, family days, member-guest competitions, and inter-club events are some ideas that can work. Even offering a temporary membership to friends of members – a sort of “trial membership”, has successfully swelled the coffers of certain clubs. Finally, there is a lesson to be learned from the successful clubs, and that is to treat your members and visitors like VIPs. I am not suggesting that you actually purchase a red carpet to lay on the clubhouse stairs, but if you can create that perception, you will certainly be on the path to success It is interesting to note that for every letter GCM receives from a satisfied customer, we receive several complaining of poor service. As soon as we can all embrace the ‘customer is king’ philosophy, the better off the industry will be. In the meantime, managers should be a little more forceful in making their committees understand that drastically cutting costs that adversely affect this service is rather short-sighted. In a final analysis, it is better to be sacrificed as a lion than as a lamb. ■

CadillaC promotioN

five star drive
Country Club Johannesburg’s general manager eugene van wyk was given a new Cadillac CtS to drive for a week, and not only was he suitably impressed, the CtS proved to be head-turner at his club.


“This car was an absolute pleasure to drive,” says Eugene van Wyk. “As the advertisements suggests, when you turn this car on, it returns the favour. I must say that when I first saw the CTS, I decided that it was not the prettiest car I had ever seen, but the styling definitely grew on me. I was particularly impressed with the finishes to the interior – this is luxury at its finest, and it is clear that the craftsmanship displayed in everything from the stitched leather and the genuine wood trim is as good as is seen in any car. The long list of features is amazing – everything from heated and cooled seats, the voice-activated sound system, the pop-up touch screen; this multi-function screen even offers TV reception.” “The smooth power from the 3.6 litre engine is also quite something – although I never pushed the CTS to anywhere near its limits, I could feel every bit of the claimed 229 kW of power. The rock-solid handling and the ABS braking inspires confidence – it cannot be faulted.” “It was interesting to see the reaction of our members when they saw the Cadillac in the committee parking lot – many of them went over to take a closer look, and peered into the interior. Some actually asked me which VIP was visiting the club –

perhaps the black coachwork suggested that this car must belong to someone rather important.” “The CTS is definitely a car of the highest quality that compares with the best on the market, and at the price, it will surely get the attention of those that are loyal to certain German brands. My test drive was an eye-opener – and for a short while the CTS made me feel on top of the world. Unfortunately after a week I had to give the car back.” ■

amateur golf at its best

turf maNagemeNt

the big debate:
organic vs synthetic
The synthetic chemical industry has over many years taken the view that through soil analysis, the nutritional content of the soil could be determined, and if you knew the nutritional requirement of the crop being grown, you could use simple mathematics to deduct the one from the other. The answer or balance would show the type and quantity of fertilizer needed to be applied to ensure satisfactory results. This feeding regime is based on a philosophy that the soil is just a medium in which the crop is anchored and grows, so one only has to feed it what a particular crop requires. The organic and/or biological feeding philosophy is a far more holistic and sustainable approach whereby the soil is the primary consideration. The view is held that ‘you have to feed the soil to feed the plant’. In our previous article we alluded to the ‘fridge concept’ i.e. where the fridge is the soil and if the fridge is keep stocked with balanced amounts of the correct nutrients, the plant could draw on them as and when required and in the quantities needed to sustain healthy, vibrant plant growth. These are the fundamental differences in the approach of the respective camps to plant nutrition and both have beneficial as well as detrimental elements if not managed correctly.

A frequently asked question in the sports turf industry relates to the cost of different fertilizers, writes mike slabber, MD of talborne organics. but there is no simple or straight forward answer. Direct comparisons are extremely difficult, if not impossible, because of the fundamentally opposite philosophical views and thus differing approaches to plant nutrition. orgaNiC fertilizers
Compost is not a fertilizer but rather a growing medium, and while it has very low macro and secondary nutritional levels, it does contain a wide spectrum of the required trace elements. More importantly, it contains a high microbial count which is very important for the mineralisation process of organic fertilizer nutrients, and it is therefore considered very synergistic to high nutritional value organic fertilizers.

■ The products are not water soluble, these

nutrients become available through the min

Golf Club Management

November 2009


turf maNagemeNt
■ These fertilizers do not contribute to the

humus or carbon content build up in the soil, an important element not only in effective nutrient uptake, but for the creation of sustainable soil structure. ■ The detrimental effect on the environment, while difficult to cost accurately, is certainly palpable and needs to be considered in what the ‘real’ cost of using synthetic chemical fertilizers may be. It is perhaps worth noting that often products with certain detrimental properties, if used wisely, may have limited and manageable negative consequences. The practitioners or users of such products are more to blame than the products themselves through the indiscriminate and ill considered use thereof, in order to achieve immediate short term ‘visual’ results. This complex comparison is further complicated by the simplistic evaluation approach based on a ‘cost and visual perception’ system. The reality is that course managers and greenkeepers are mostly evaluated on a ‘what the course looks like and how much was spent’ basis by people who have neither the knowledge nor the insight into the negative ramifications of persuing these outcomes. This often occurs at the expense of more beneficial and sustainable longer term practices and can almost be likened to wind vs water erosion. Wind erosion is by far more devastating than water erosion, but because we can not see it we tend to concentrate on fixing the ‘eyesore’ of water erosion. Soil and water are two of the earths most important resources and should be nurtured as elements our and subsequent generations cannot survive without. ■ Tel: 011 954 5763 • Fax: 011 954 3216 e-mail: info@talborne.co.za www.talborne.co.za

“the reality is that course managers and greenkeepers are mostly evaluated on a ‘what the course looks like and how much was spent,’ reckons mike slabber – and that’s a problem!

eralisation process of soil microbial action. ■ Organic fertilizers stimulate microbial activity and replenish carbon sources, thereby building good soil structure, which in turn assists with water and nutrient retention of soils. ■ This mineralisation is a slow but ongoing process. Hence organic fertilizers provide slow but sustained release. ■ Organic fertilizers contain not only N, P and K but also the secondary and trace elements necessary for balanced nutrition. ■ As balance is gained, incidence of pests, disease and weed infestation is reduced, as these are all indicators of imbalance. ■ They have a low salt index and therefore will not affect the pH of the soil. ■ No water pollution

■ Products are mostly water-soluble meaning

■ They have a lower N, P and K value than

synthetically produced products.
■ The efficacy of nutritional release by

■ ■

microbial activity can be reduced by temperature and moisture.

syNthetiC fertilizers
■ High nutritional value of the major

elements N, P and K. ■ Mostly water soluble with almost immediate nutritional availability. ■ The cost per percentage point of nutrition is relatively low (although usually limited to the N, P and K). ■ The cost of transportation is reduced due to higher nutritional value per ton.

that leaching takes place (in sandy soils up to 50 percent leachate!). This leachate effectively removes that percentage of the fertilizers nutritional value from the root zone for uptake i.e. nutrition that was paid for was never available to the plant. This chemical leachate finds its way into subterranean water supplies, rivers and dams causing and increasing nitrate and other toxification problems. Most synthetic blended fertilizers have a high chloride and salt index – both of which are sterilising agents to the soils microbial life. Synthetic chemical fertilizers are also generally acidic and will alter the pH of the soil, requiring liming interventions to correct imbalances, this at an additional product, transport and application time and cost. Over application can burn plant roots. Because of water solubility, leaching and volatisation of nutrients, more frequent applications are required to maintain required nutrient levels. More frequent applications increase obvious costs such as product, transport and application costs. Every application increases soil compaction, and where this is severe grass/turf growth will be stunted requiring extra cost-generating interventions. Plants not only need the macro nutritional elements (N,P and K), but all the vital secondary micro elements which most synthetic chemical fertilizers are devoid or certainly lacking in sufficient quantities.

Golf Club Management

November 2009


Cmasa promotioN

are you sure
sue nortje, CMASA committee member and financial manager of Steenberg golf Club, offers some sound advice on how to make every rand and cent count in the bigger scheme of things.
often, it’s not the big transactions that make the difference but, over time, the smaller, individual ones: a table’s third round of drinks, or after-dinner coffees not rung up; a few driving range tokens; cart or trolley hire not registered. Time and again, it’s the rands and cents that catch us unaware! You may be well aware of the processes which should be in place to ensure your transactions are registered, you may even have drawn up and implemented them, but when last did you, as a manager, do a walk through your club to see what’s really happening to your green fees, PoS and subscription takings? Are you aware of how many ‘hands’ have access to your tills, or the journey your income takes before you see it in the bank? A new audit clerk asked one of our staff members last week, “How do you know that the people in the proshop don’t ring their friends through at a lower rate?” Our answer was, and is, “We don’t.” This response would apply for most, if not all golf clubs. In our industry we have to rely on and trust the integrity of our staff for the most part – and take the stance of zero tolerance where we have been let down. But, by implementing simple checks and balances, many possible ‘holes’ in the banking bag can be avoided. When it comes to registering income, the problems faced by small and large clubs are no different – this is one area where size does not count! Let’s look at green fee collection and point of sale:

you are banking all your income?
each month. By comparing the dockets to the booking sheet you can ensure all your extras have been rung through.

greeNfee ColleCtioN
■ does your system allow for the dele-

tioN/refuNd of doCkets? Do a spot check by taking a copy of your time sheet from the night before. Check this against the banking for the following day – hopefully there are no surprises! ■ does your Caddy master ColleCt a doCket for all Carts, trolleys aNd Clubs reNted? One cart or trolley not rung up each day can translate into a sizeable sum

postal address: suite 374 private bag x09 weltevredenpark 1715


November 2009

Golf Club Management

Cmasa promotioN
■ do you allow Credit Card refuNds? Is

the reason for the refund as well as the relevant detail recorded? Insisting on contact details and reasons for refunds can help to ensure only legitimate refunds are processed. ■ are the batCh Number sequeNCes of all your Credit Card traNsaCtioNs CheCked wheN CompletiNg the Cash-ups? Missing batch numbers, combined with the ability to process refunds could mean you’re losing income via illegitimate transactions

poiNt of sale
■ is it possible to opeN your till with

a key? is the key left iN the till, or aCCessible to staff other thaN the duty maNagers? Access to an open cash drawer by any staff, other than those directly responsible for the day’s takings, is a temptation which should be avoided at all costs. The safest bet is to only have the cash drawer open when a valid cash transaction has been completed. do your barmeN make up orders without aN order slip? We all know how busy the 19th hole is after a competition. Placing orders directly with the barmen, without an order slip, can leave your staff open to forgetting to ring up transactions. how do you take stoCk of your kegs? are they weighed oN deliVery aNd at stoCktake? Weighing your kegs is one of the most accurate ways of ensuring that not only are you balancing your stock to your sales, but also that you’re receiving full kegs from your suppliers. how do you measure your tots? The 28, 29 or 30 tot allowance always opens up a huge debate – how should we allow for spillage? Are you using optics, fitted measures or tot-pourers? Or are your barmen pouring by hand? do you giVe disCouNt to your members or Visitors? how, or wheN iN the lifeCyCle of the traNsaCtioN is the disCouNt registered? Discount is another

area where oversights can be made. Ringing up discount after a transaction has been settled could mean little to the member or visitor as they’ve already paid, but is the discount valid? More importantly though, is it going to the member/visitor? Whilst all of this may sound ominous, or perhaps overly cautious, we have to be realistic and take cognisance of the times we find ourselves in. Income is harder to come by, revenues are down and everyone is feeling the pinch. As managers, it is important that we realise that each of these simple questions, or steps, can help to ensure that not only are we indeed registering all of our income, but we’re also confident that the staff under our direction understand the processes and expectations we have of them. ■

CheCk list
Deleted Dockets Rental Dockets Credit Card Refunds Batch No Sequence Till Keys Weighing of Kegs Spillage Allowance Discount Given

tel: +27 (0)11 482 7542 fax: 088 (0)11 482 7542 Cell: 082 457 8235 e-mail: gm@clubmanagement.co.za

Golf Club Management

November 2009


the last word

the eNViroNmeNt
and our social responsibility
Johan bodenstein writes that while planning and managing golf courses, it is important to consider the social impact the facility has on the environment, which refers not only to the natural and biological components, but also to the aesthetic, cultural and human environment.
Golf courses are built specifically for people to enjoy playing the game, but the clubhouse may well attract visitors who come to the club for activities other than golf. Needless to say, these facilities are frequented by the members of society who have the ability to afford the pleasure. Many other people can only look in from the outside, and will never be able to experience the excitement of golf if an opportunity is not created for them. The question that raises many non-golfers’ eyebrows is: Are golf courses environmentally sustainable? But they need to understand that people are part of the enviroment. Marisol Sanjines of New York wrote in the UNDP Human Development Report of 2009, that human development is also about putting people at the centre of this development. It is about people realising their potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value. Golf courses need to identify ways to attract people not only for golf but also for other reasons. At the ‘Designing for the 21st Century’ conference held in Rio de Janeiro, the ‘Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability and Ageing’ was made. It was recorded that all development should be working towards, among other aims, achieving equality of opportunity and social progress for every person, leading to their full social inclusion. Direct and meaningful consultation with people, partnerships between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency and openness are essential elements in the social wellbeing of all. This conference derived ten principles for sustainable development. Principle two states that every person is entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature, to enjoy the fruits of responsible social progress, to which he/she should make his/her own special and diverse contribution and to participate freely and independently – without hindrance, abuse, violence, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Diversity is a driving force for creativity. Principle five states that every person is responsible to meet the needs of this generation responsibly – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations. Principle six states that every person should be accountable for his/her own decisions and actions. We all have a duty to contribute to our own communities. In developing a golf course a community may have been affected. A track along which the community walked to amenities may have been cut off by security fencing, and members of the community might now have to walk around the golf course. To make a meaningful contribution towards sustainable development, golf course managers should do a study of their neighbouring communities and determine what the impacts of their course on the communities might be. Ways in which the golf course could facilitate access for communities to reach facilities such as transport, schools and shops should be looked at. Many golf courses contract the maintenance function to outside companies instead of employing their own staff, and doing the work themselves. These contractors mostly have their own staff who they transport to the course to do the work. By doing this local people are denied an opportunity to gain employment. Golf course management should strive to employ staff from neighbouring communities, contributing to a reduction in the need for long distance transport. In this way the ecological footprint is reduced. Where the local community does not have the required skills, golf course management should consider taking on trainees and developing the required skills. People from the local community trained in this manner can then sell their skills to other markets requiring such skills. By running special training events and establishing bursaries, new participants in the game can be developed: when they succeed the acknowledgement will come back to the course and the staff. Golf course management needs to review how the local community can also draw benefit from the golf course. They could be employed to retrieve balls on driving ranges, or they could be allowed to harvest grasses from ponds and wetlands for basket weaving on a sustainable basis. They could also be trained to become bird guides and lead guided tours for birders in areas where bird life is abundant. Another way to assist the local community is to convert some of the green keeping activities into labour intensive activities; where people can be used to carry out the work instead of using machines e.g. when the clearance of alien invaders is undertaken, rather than using a chainsaw to cut down trees, locals using bow saws could be employed. Social responsibility does require green keepers and golf club managers to think differently about golf and people. When the local community realises the golf course is an asset that benefits them, acts of vandalism are likely to decline, petty theft will be eliminated, and the general attitude towards the golf course and golfers will change. This change of thinking will be very worthwhile in the long run – and we should remember that the environment is for everyone, not just the privileged few. ■
■ environmentalist johan bodenstein has

worked on various golf-related projects, and can be contacted on 082 577 0898 or he can e-mailed at johan@indiflora.co.za


November 2009

Golf Club Management