july 2009

Golf CluB ManaGeMenT

Visit www.compleatgolfer.co.za for back issues of GCM

a CandidaTe for

most improved course

CounTry CluB

Also In thIs Issue:

usGA specification ■ GCM workshops reviewed ■ Bells Manager of the Month ■ Winter tasks – servicing drainage ■ Golf carts – petrol or electric? ■ Are greenfees too cheap?

brought to you by

Golf Club Management

July 2009

VoluMe 5 • issue 7

Business MaGazine for the Golf Industry


BIrdIes And BoGeys turf MAnAGeMent
Snippets of news from the last month

ediTor’s leTTer
4 6 15 18 20 22 24 28 29 30

uSgA sand specification

Labour pains and letters

huMAn resource developMent GCM Workshop revIeW cluB profIle

report back from umhlali and glendower

glenvista Country Club

barry Woods of umhlali

MAnAGer of the Month turf MAnAGeMent rAnds And sense pGA

froM The ediTor
shaken and stirred – not a bad thing
We must accept that the world’s financial markets have been rocked to the core, and none of us could have believed that in the 21st century we would see our sophisticated system of commerce hijacked by a few greedy executives who took advantage of the dumbed-down public. In a recent edition of Finweek the main cover line read: “Every man for himself – tactics for a post-recession economy.” I am determined not to harp on about how bleak the economy looks, so I decided to find something to feel good about, and I didn’t have far to look. With respect to the views of the erudite financial journalist who wrote this rather gloomy cover story, the golf industry has not subscribed to this every-man-for-himself philosophy – in fact, quite the opposite. This was again proven at our recent workshops. Those involved in the trade seem happy to share information, and the general feeling is that we are all in the same boat, and helping each other might be the most sensible approach. The fact that GCM called upon friends to speak at our workshops, and they were only too happy to help, was most gratifying. It was also pleasing to note that the groups of delegates, people who compete against each other, have also embraced this spirit of cooperation. This is heartening, and so is the fact that the host clubs, Glendower and Umhlali, bent over backwards to accommodate us. At the Evergreen Turf show, I again noticed how rival companies came together and, while most are competing for the same shrinking business, they all seem to be the best of mates – well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. They were at least all very civil to each other, and the bar did a brisk trade – without a brawl breaking out. I am also encouraged by the fact that the ‘Big Three’ in turf maintenance equipment, namely Jacobsen, John Deere and Toro (and I list them alphabetically), have committed to assist GCM in what will be a first – a series of head-to-head tests of their products against each other. Beginning in our next issue, we will have a neutral course superintendent, his operator and his workshop manager evaluate similar pieces of equipment – a no-holdsbarred, sort of ‘Jeremy Clarkson does lawn mowers’ type of thing. I thought while I was at it, I would get various course architects to critique each other’s designs, but I somehow believe that this will be a bit tougher. To the clubs that received special awards from Compleat Golfer, namely Randpark, for the excellent work done on its clubhouse, and Southbroom, for its status as the most popular club in KZN, we offer our congratulations. Finally, GCM has had to bid farewell to Sarah Mathews, who has moved on to work for another publication. We wish her the best of luck. In July we will be hosting our workshops in the Southern and Western Cape – the number of guests we can accommodate is limited, so I would urge our friends in these regions to confirm their attendance without delay.

ready for the rains

What should a round of golf really cost?

Are we handicapped by handicaps?

It’s in the numbers

lAst Word

cover pIcture
■ edItorIAl

glenvista Country Club

John BoTha email: bogeyfree@mweb.co.za cell: 082 498 7380
■ puBlIsher

siMon TurCk email: simon@ramsaymedia.co.za cell: 083 252 8387
■ AdvertIsInG

JaMes ferrans (NAtIoNAL SALeS MANAger) email: 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

July 2009


Birdies and BoGeys

GCM’s Preferred


suddards secures
fleuron aGenCy for kzn
David Suddards, the man with the greatest record in South African amateur golf and our most capped international golfer, has secured the agency for Fleuron (Pty) Ltd’s range of products. After joining Stegman Golf at the beginning of last year as sales manger, the legendary golfer has since started his own company David Suddards Distributors CC, distributing Stegman Golf’s products to golf clubs and driving ranges. He also has the agency for Benross Golf Equipment, voted the best value for money brand in the UK. The Fleuron agency includes products such as Anderson’s, Scotts, Philolime, Roots, Cytozyme, Nitrosol, Aquatrols, Rocol and the Duraturf range of products. ■ dave can be contacted on 031 764 2906, 082 568 6202 or e-mail suddards@telkomsa.net.

One of the key aims of GCM is to help facilitate decision making for people in the golf industry. Most golf clubs and resorts have long lists of varied suppliers, and GCM is about to embark on a programme that will make the processing of choosing a reputable and credible supplier all that much simpler. Through an instant referral system, run by GCM, a Preferred Supplier List will be made available to all key decision makers in the golf industry. In order to qualify for the GCM Preferred Supplier List, a supplier must obtain a minimum of three different golf club referrals or recommendations. Once GCM/PSL approved, the supplier will receive a Preferred Supplier certificate endorsed by GCM and will be featured in a listing on a monthly basis published in GCM and on the web.

■ for more information contact:

simon Turck on 083 252 8387 or e-mail simon@ramsaymedia.co.za natalie shekleton on 011 301 4448 or e-mail natalies@ramsaymedia.co.za. ■ you can download the application form at www.compleatgolfer.co.za – click on the GCM cover and follow the links.

a siGn of The CriMes
It would seem that pilfering has gotten out of hand in Harrismith, as illustrated by this bench, chained and padlocked to a tree on the golf course. Worse still, when GCM recently visited this historic club (founded in 1887) it appeared that somebody had also nicked the bar, or perhaps the watering hole had been gutted in preparation for a revamp. There was nobody on hand to tell us what was happening.

Thanks, but no thanks
The Highland Gate Estate in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga, with its almost-completed Ernie Els-designed golf course was meant to be sold at an auction held in Sandton, but although some 300 people attended the

public sale, there were no buyers. Estimated to fetch upwards of R80 million, the 700ha estate attracted no interest when a bid of R50 million was called for. After reducing the call to R40 million, there were still no takers, and proceedings closed.

This is not the first golf estate to be auctioned off, and according to group CEO of auctioneers Alliance Rael Levitt, it won’t be the last. Levitt is confident that the estate will be sold outside the auction process, but warns that it could take some time.


July 2009

Golf Club Management

Birdies and BoGeys
dean Webster displayed this yamaha cart at the GCM workshop held at Glendower – it was immediately put on the wish list of more than a few golfers.



TurninG heads aT GlendoWer

Talk about ‘pimped-up wheels’. Yamaha’s latest offering in its stable of golf carts is a beauty. With the chunky good looks of a serious 4X4, this baby has all the bells and whistles, and makes stock-standard varieties look positively whimpish. Equally at home on the golf course and the game farm, this vehicle has a price tag of around R70 000 – well worth the money if you want to intimidate your opposition.

Renowned tree expert Val Thomas kept delegates at the Glendower GCM workshop enthralled with her talk, and we are happy to announce that she has agreed to contribute a regular column to GCM, beginning next month. Val is well known for her research and development for the production of a Sappi-sponsored series of publications. The Sappi Tree Spotting volumes, which are a mine of information concerning indigenous trees and shrubs found in every area of South Africa, should not only be required reading for every course superintendent, but everyone involved in the golf industry.

The co-founders of PowerPlay golf, Peter McEvoy and David Piggins, recently met with South African licensee Neil Mathews. The response to the new format of the game has been enthusiastically received in the UK and in other parts of the world, and already 25 South African golf clubs have signed up to become official license holders. PowerPlay has the blessing of the R&A as well as the USGA and this new form of golf, which claims to be game’s equivalent of cricket’s Twenty20, could just be answer to growing the game, and plans for professional and amateur PowerPlay to be televised are being formulated. “When we first launched this form of the game, we decided to invite a group of golf journalists to play – we assumed that if we could impress a group of golf writers, known for being rather cynical, we were on the right track. Their positive reaction surprised us, and it makes sense for golf clubs to be in a position to offer a different product to their members and visitors,” says McEvoy.

threesome in sa

souThBrooM Golf CluB aWard ClaiMs ‘MosT PoPular’
The pro shop team at Southbroom were delighted to learn that their club was adjudged by Compleat Golfer to be the most popular club in KZN. The club, managed by Tish Robinson, consistently earns high mark marks for its quality of service and its magnificent golf course – few clubs can claim to offer a warmer welcome to visitors. Pictured here, from left to right, are Lynn Sheridan, Sheena and Derek James and Beauty Shusha.

south african licensee of PowerPlay neil Mathews, flanked by Peter Mcevoy (left) and david Piggins (right).

Welcome back houghton
Houghton Golf Club is set to reopen in January next year. The new Jack Nicklaus-designed layout complete with new clubhouse will be unveiled, despite the residential development (said to have cost Murray and Roberts R150 million) being put on hold.

Golf Club Management

July 2009


Turf ManaGeMenT

The usGa sand
Willie J pretorius of golf Course Solutions and dr eduard hoffman, member of SACNASP, IuSS, SSSSA, SAbI and chair of Soil Science at the university Stellenbosch, explain the reasons behind uSgA specifications for greens and what happens to the root zone over time.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss the very well-known USGA sand specification with which every superintendent is familiar, but rather to explain the reasons for the specification and how the parameters of the specification change over time. This influences the turf quality and, in particular, the onset of black layer. New techniques are now available to measure the deviation from the norm and how this can be used to select the correct cultural practices to reverse the deviation before serious and irreversible problems are experienced. An important concept to understand when discussing the USGA greens spec is ‘porosity’, which refers to the voids between sand and/or soil particles. These porosities are classed into two categories: macro porosity, pores larger than 0.1mm (important for good aeration conducing water under saturated conditions, and filled with air when the excess water drain) and micro porosity (pores smaller that 0.01mm that hold water against gravitational forces). An ideal situation is one where the total porosity is around 50 percent of the sand by volume and split into a 20 percent micro and 30

specification for root zone mixes
percent macro porosity. Since these porosities represent free air space and not actual material, it becomes clear that these quantities are determined by the size and arrangement of the sand particles. It must now become clear why the USGA specification defines a particular sand particle size distribution.

hoW esTaBlished Turf alTers sand CharaCTerisTiCs WhiCh influenCes The qualiTy of The Greens
The first issue is the build-up of thatch that

The oBJeCTiVe of The sPeCifiCaTion
The object is to establish a suitable growing medium that will satisfy both golfer and grass. In other words, the grass will establish a good putting surface and survive the severe growing conditions under which it will be placed. As a growing medium, sand on its own has extreme limitations in supporting a very demanding turf condition. The absolute ideal physical conditions required by plants growing in a sand medium had to be established, and thus the USGA specification was created. First in 1960, revised in 1973, 1989, 1993 and the latest revision in 2004 by Dr Norm Hummel who, on a request from the USGA, spent a year revising the present specification. This specification had to establish a growing medium that would allow for the following four very important physical aspects: ■ Provide a good and smooth putting surface ■ Good drainage or hydraulic conductivity ■ Retain sufficient water for plant growth ■ Allow for sufficient air movement to the root zone areas This article will not touch on the fertility aspects of the USGA greens specification, as this will be dealt with in a future article.

“... it is extremely important to use topdressing sand that is the same as that used in the construction of the green...”


July 2009

Golf Club Management

Turf ManaGeMenT
eventually degrades to non-decomposed and decomposed organic material. Thatch fills some of the macro pores which decreases their percentage, negatively influencing the hydraulic conductivity and oxygen movement to the roots. If this situation is allowed to get out of control, layering starts – usually as a surface layer to which topdressing is added, moving this layer progressively lower down the profile. Thatch removal techniques such as verticutting, hollowtinning, with the use of the Graden machine, followed by topdressings, is the correct procedure to prevent serious organic matter build-up in the top layers of the root zone. This should improve oxygen movement to the roots and promote microbial activity that will assist with decomposition of the organic matter. Over time, some residual organic matter build-up will still occur, and this amount will depend on how effective the cultural practices mentioned have been executed. In this instance, it is extremely important to use topdressing sand that is the same as that used in the construction of the green, as finer sand will contribute to a perched water table. Together with residual organic matter, this will worsen the hydraulic conductivity and initiate anaerobic conditions which contribute to the start of the black layering process. This process starts gradually as oxygen movement in the top layers becomes depleted, a process that speeds up as the anaerobic conditions become more severe and begin to manifest over larger areas. It is therefore obvious that the macro pores (air spaces) must be kept open as best as possible at all times, as this promotes healthy roots and beneficial microbial activity that assists with organic matter breakdown. Once an anaerobic condition has manifested itself it is extremely difficult to turn this situation around, so prevention is certainly better than cure in this case. the oxygen from the sulphates (usually present from sulphate containing fertilizers) and reduce this to sulphide complexes of mainly iron and manganese. In this process, the foulsmelling hydrogen-sulphide gas is generated that is lethal to plant roots. As these plant roots die off, the organic matter pool increases exacerbating the situation even more. It becomes very obvious that the conditions that will establish the onset of black layering must be avoided at all cost. It is for this reason that, together with the Soil Science department of the University of Stellenbosch, we have introduced an analytical process whereby we take a 200mm-deep core sample and analyse it in situ, layer by layer, for all the USGA-specification characteristics. As we measure the chemical composition of the soil to establish the correct fertilizer programmes, it would be a good idea to also measure the deviation from the USGA specification of the root zone sand mix from time to time to establish its physical wellbeing. Once the physical soil condition becomes limiting, no fertilizer application can remedy this, and could in fact contribute to the deterioration. ■

WhaT is BlaCk layerinG, WhaT is iTs CoMPosiTion, and hoW is iT forMed?
The black layer is the remains of anaearobically decomposed organic matter that usually has a foul smell. The anaerobic decomposition is effected by a group of microbes that use

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.


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

Tindrum 8/007


CluB Car ProMoTion

Petrol versus electric golf carts –

Which makes eConoMiC sense?
the debate concerning whether electric golf carts might be better than those powered by internal combustion engines has raged ever since carts were first imported into South Africa in the early 1980s. both camps have valid reasons for their preferences, but if it is about saving money, it is clear that volts beat horsepower.
Before we look at the costs of running a fleet of carts, it is worth considering the pros and cons of petrol and electric carts. There is no question that the noise factor is important, and petrol carts, even the best of them, are relatively noisy. Another problem faced by clubs that run fleets of petrol-driven carts is petrol theft. Even a club that can honestly say that it has a fool-proof security system in place cannot discount the fumes and emissions, not to mention the danger associated with fire risk. There are well-documented cases of plucky petrol vehicles, as long as they are well maintained, trundling along for 20 years or more. They do need less storage space, as ‘petrol heads’ will point out, because the recharging facility needed for electric carts does take up some room. But assuming that well-ventilated garaging (needed for all carts) is available, once total maintenance costs are calculated, electric carts come out on top – by a hefty margin. Also the down-time involved in servicing petrol carts is far higher (they require servicing every 100 hours, compared to their electric counterparts needing a service every two to three months). The daily maintenance needed for electric carts, checking battery terminals and water levels, takes very little time. ■ alex ackron, Cse’s national manager, Turf division, points out that running a fleet of electric carts makes economic sense.

Based on three years and an average of 18 rounds of golf per month per cart.

Petrol vs electric running cost
r10 260.00 r6 868.80 r0.00 r0.00 r17 128.80 r475.80 r30 927.00 r1 113 372.00

Maintenance cost (service parts only) Petrol cost (1x 26.5 tank per month) once-off deionizer cost Battery costs (replacement after 3 to 4 years) Cost per month per cart Cost per month on 65 carts Cost per month on 65 carts for 36 months saving on electric over 36 months (65 carts)

r96.00 r0.00 r1 000.00 r9 000.00 r10 096.00 r280.44 r18 228.89 r656 240.00 r457 132.00

This calculation does not include the labour hour to service the carts. Keep in mind that it will take one person one hour to service a petrol cart apposed to 15 minutes to service an electric cart.

for more information contact: Johannesburg (011) 922 2000 Cape Town (021) 380 2600 George (044) 870 7143 durban (031) 705 3390 Port elizabeth (041) 484 6240 Website: www.cse.co.za

Golf Club Management

July 2009


sTorey enG ProMoTion

Professional assistance

pays dividends
pierre storey of Storey eNg (Pty) Ltd looks at the role of the irrigation professional.
There are immense pressures on golf clubs to have well-manicured courses with year-round lush green grass, no matter the season or the weather conditions. One of the most important investments a club can make towards satisfying this demand is its irrigation system. All too often, however, the appointment of an irrigation professional to assist the club in maximising the potential of the irrigation system is deemed an unnecessary expense. Decision makers need to recognise the irreplaceable role played by the irrigation professional and that a successful installation of an irrigation system, be it new or an upgrade, requires the participation of four parties: the club (usually represented by the greenkeeper and greens committee), the irrigation professional, the equipment supplier and the contractor. The irrigation professional is more than an irrigation designer – most likely he is an engineer with expertise in water resource planning, irrigation design and specification, and civil engineering and related contracts. Acting as an agent of the club, he will firstly assess the needs of the club, not only with respect to irrigation, but also to determine the overall availability of and demand for water. This done, the irrigation professional will prepare the designs for the irrigation system. Not having any loyalty to a specific irrigation manufacturer or brand, the design will be generic, but in all respects in accordance with recognised quality standards. The standardised irrigation design enables the club to source competitive quotations from all of the reputable manufacturers. The detailed/ comprehensive irrigation specifications and contract documents prepared by the irrigation professional enable the club to source tenders/quotations from suitably qualified contractors to undertake the installation of the irrigation system. The greatest advantage in generic designs and standardised specifications is that the club can make an ‘apples with apples’ comparison between prices quoted, for both the irrigation equipment and the installation. The contract, which the irrigation professional adapts to the specific requirements of each project and administers on behalf of the club, is invaluable. Most importantly, it structures the apportionment of risk and how unforeseen events and cost variations will be dealt with. The irrigation professional monitors the installation, regularly checking on the quality and the performance of the system. Throughout the contract the irrigation professional also monitors the progress of the installation, certifying payment to the contractor only as and when appropriate. Upon completion the system is ‘snagged’ and commissioned. A case study highlighting the benefit of the appointment of an irrigation professional was the upgrading of the irrigation system on Royal Cape’s course in 2007. Having called for tenders without having first secured the services of an irrigation professional to prepare a generic design and standardised specification for an irrigation system upgrade, Royal Cape found itself with three unequal tenders. As such, Royal Cape could not realistically compare the offers presented. Realising that assistance was needed to assess the tenders, it appointed Storey ENG, consulting engineers with extensive experience in irrigation systems for golf courses. Storey ENG evaluated the designs and tenders received by the club in order to determine which offered the best upgrade solution for the course. This done, Storey ENG, on behalf of Royal Cape, conducted

negotiations with the preferred supplier. As part of this process, the specifications for the work were firmed up and the conditions of the contract between the parties agreed. Once agreement was reached the contract was awarded, and work commenced with Storey ENG overseeing the installation of the system and administering the contract between the club and the contractor. Taking into account rain delays allowed, the installation was completed on time despite Cape Town experiencing one of its wettest winters ever. An important factor contributing to the success of the irrigation upgrade was the effort Storey ENG made to ensure that the contractor’s installation complied with the designs and specifications. This eased the commissioning process with few faults having to be traced. Integral to the manner in which the upgrade was managed was the fact that the course remained in play throughout the contract period and little, if any, revenue was lost while the upgrade was in progress. Although Storey ENG was not involved from the start, the success of the irrigation upgrade disproved the common misconception that the involvement of an irrigation professional unnecessarily inflates the cost to the club. The savings Storey ENG were able to achieve for the club far outweighed the fees incurred. The final word must go to the greens committee chairman who was so delighted with the outcome of the irrigation upgrade that he proclaimed that he would, without hesitation, recommend the parties involved with the project. ■


July 2009

Golf Club Management

siliCa leisure ProMoTion

not so neW kid on The
Chatting to Neil Reid, Greg Phyffer and Nick French, shareholders of the newly formed Silica Leisure (Pty) Ltd, it is immediately apparent that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that has been brought together to provide the leisure industry with a one-stop shop for all its sand and organic needs. Greg explains, from the company’s offices between Delmas and Bronkhortspruit where the silica sand deposit is mined, that the synergies were just too big for a silica supplier that has been producing graded silica sands for over 30 years to not team up with a company that is actively servicing the leisure community with quality organic compost and related products. “Although we have been involved in the production of USGA sands for years, we have never supplied direct to the industry, but rather to companies that then onward marketed our product with all the other products related to the industry. This joint venture will allow sand to be sold to the industry by the actual producer.” Neil stressed that notwithstanding the long history of sand production, sand samples were sent to accredited laboratories in the United States and the UK, and passed with flying colours. The organics yard is based in Fourways just north of Johannesburg, and produces the highest-quality medium to fit its clients’ needs. The one-of-a-kind organics are produced through an aerobic composting method, combining a perfectly balanced nitrogen and carbon mix. Nick explains that, through turning



windows of raw materials and pumping bacteria-enriched water through the lines, the compost reaches temperatures in excess of 70 degrees Celcius, making sure the germination of all weeds and seeds is killed, and all that remains is high-quality organic compost. Nick and Neil, who personally service in excess of 50 golf courses in the Johannesburg, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal regions, are backed up by Reinet Pretorius who is based at the mine. Reinet, who has been involved in the golf course industry for over 15 years, can be contacted on 013 665 7908.

On closer inspection, these new kids on the block have got years of experience and knowledge with a lot to offer the leisure industry.

Golf Club Management

July 2009


CadillaC ProMoTion

a 5-star drive
Cadillac’s partnership with Compleat Golfer includes sponsorship of our Annual Awards Dinner as well as being the official transport for our 5-Star golf experience judges. It made sense to have the managers of our 5-Star clubs test this luxury vehicle to see if it lives up to its iconic status.
Blair Atholl’s Mark Williams was the first of our testers, and he was clearly impressed with the looks of the CTS. “I must admit to knowing very little about Cadillacs – my perception was influenced by old Hollywood movies where the ‘Caddy’ was a large, rather cumbersome beast and, of course, left-hand drive. The new CTS looks very different – modern, sleek and bold – a definite headturner. Only the rear taillights hint of the famous pedigree,” he says. “The interior was really an eye-opener – this is seriously luxurious, with every feature you can imagine. Voice control of the Bose cabin surround audio system with 10 speakers, navigation system, an on-board TV and a finish that oozes quality. This takes comfortable motoring to a new level,” he enthuses. “Another interesting feature is the Smart Remote Start system, which allows you to start the car from 60 metres away – so, by the time you get in, the climate control has adjusted the interior temperature to the perfect level. “But the biggest surprise was the performance – the quiet, powerful V6 effortlessly pours on the power and, although I never tested the actual figures, I was told that the CTS will go from a standing start to 100km/h in six seconds, and comfortably reach 240km/h – I’ll take Cadillac’s word for it. I particularly liked the six-speed automatic transmission. This is nothing like I expected for a reasonably big car; it is nimble and handles beautifully. There is no question that the Cadillac CTS presents serious competition to the manufactures of luxury German sedans.” Blair Atholl has been judged to be the last word in 5-Star Golf Experiences, and Mark Williams has no hesitation in declaring the CTS deserves recognition as simply the best in its class. ■


July 2009

Golf Club Management


labour Pains
seVeranCe Pay
Severance pay relates purely to the monies you must pay a person you are retrenching for operational reasons. It doesn’t apply to any other form of termination of contracts. If you are retrenching a person it is known as a ‘no fault’ termination and the severance pay is to compensate the person for having to terminate their services through no fault of their own. The law states that you must pay a minimum of one week’s remuneration per completed year of service. This is in addition to any other contractual notice pay, leave pay, commission or any other form of remuneration that the person is entitled to. To calculate the length of service you must take the date that the person first started in your employment, including any breaks in service of less than a year. note: ■ Casuals who work for you less than 24 hours per month do not qualify to receive severance pay. ■ Guard against setting a ‘precedent’. If you pay certain retrenchees above the formula of a week for every completed year of service, word will soon get out and you will have set a precedent that you may not want to continue with in the future. ■ The first R30 000 of a severance package is normally tax free. Tax directives, indicating the amount of tax to be deducted will be required for packages in excess of R30 000. ■


readers’ quesTions ansWered
Dear GCM,
I have an employee who has not returned to work for the past three weeks and we are terminating his contract of employment for reason of ‘absconding’. Will his leave continue to accumulate after the last day that he attended work? Margaret, Western Cape

GCM’s Andrew Wilson responds
I am assuming that you have proven that you are dealing with a case of ‘absconding’ by either holding a hearing with him or in his absence if he was not available to attend. If you do choose to terminate his services on the grounds of ‘absconding’ then you can treat his absence as ‘unauthorised leave’ and the period he was absent can be ‘unpaid’. He will, however, continue to accumulate annual leave up until the time that you terminate his contract of employment, which would be immediately after the findings of the hearing are made known. ■ ■ if you would like help with an hr or ir issue contact andrew Wilson at consultaew@iafrica.com.

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Second hand equipment
John Deere 1200A bunker rake John Deere 1145 Rough mower John Deere 3235B Fairway mower John Deere 2500 Greens mower John Deere 6x4 Diesel Gator Toro 3500 Semi rough mower Toro 355 Semi rough mower Jacobson Greens King 4 Jacobson LF 3800 Fairway mower Jacobson 528D Rough mower ( Flail deck ) • Prices exclude VAT • Prices ex-stock Cape Town R28 000,00 R60 000,00 R85 000,00 R52 000,00 R50 000,00 R50 000,00 R50 000,00 R28 000,00 R55 000,00 R50 000,00

Andrag Cape Province Western / Northern Cape Stephen Osborn • Tel: (021) 950 4111 • Cell: 083 444 9636 • E-mail: stephen.osborn@andragagrico.co.za Southern / Eastern Cape Travis Rochart • Tel: (044) 878 0274 • Cell: 084 516 3444 • E-mail: travis.rochart@andragagrico.co.za

GCM WorkshoP reVieW

GCM workshops
GCM recently completed two successful workshops in gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. If you weren’t there, this is what you missed:
The concept of holding GCM workshops took root two years ago. The idea initially was to invite recipients of our awards to regional events, and, although these worked in terms of getting interested parties together and slapping each other on the back, this year we decided to raise the ante. Rather than simply inviting a select few club managers, course superintendents, directors of golf and club captains for a session of ‘shooting the breeze’, this year we extended the number of our invitations, and with the help of some knowledgeable people in the trade, compiled what we hoped would be an informative, entertaining day out – and yes, there was still plenty of ‘shooting the breeze’. The first of these events was held at Glendower, and presented an opportunity for those who had not seen the recently revamped course and clubhouse to do so. Nine holes of PowerPlay Golf began proceedings, Smith Turf conducted a demonstration followed by lunch, after which a number of short, interesting speeches were delivered. The day ended with a whisky tasting, and a good time was had by all. Glendower’s GM Paul Leishman and his team made sure that things ran smoothly, and executive chef Otto Stumke excelled himself. Not only did Otto pull out all the stops by preparing an excellent lunch, guests were greeted on arrival with coffee and freshly-baked muffins and chocolate brownies. Those that had not played the ‘new’ course were suitably impressed by the work done by Golf Data, and most agreed that as classic parkland layouts go, it doesn’t get much better. Experiencing PowerPlay was new to many, but everyone seemed to enjoy this format – although not everyone worked out how to score, not that the scores mattered.

aBoVe riGhT: Peter Matkovich gave a presentation on the failings of modern clubs and what they can be doing to ensure the health of the game. BeloW: it’s no longer ‘every man for himself’. The workshops proved that those in the industry are enthusiastic about getting together and sharing ideas.

Highlights of the Glendower workshop included a talk by Val Thomas, the renowned tree expert, whose passion and encyclopedic knowledge kept everyone entertained. Mike Slabber of Talborne Organics offered an informative overview of the advantages of organic fertilization. The point was well made that besides the spiralling costs of chemical fertilizers, the organic option makes more sense. (One of the guests, Topturf’s Dave Kirkby, will be conducting a long-term experiment to measure the effects of chemical versus natural fertilizers, and GCM will be following this research with interest.) Tim Johnstone spoke about the importance of introducing juniors and women to golf, and we were also given a presentation by Neels Harmuth of Advance Seeds.


July 2009

Golf Club Management

GCM WorkshoP reVieW
Umhlali kindly offered to host the KZN leg of our workshops, and again nine holes of PowerPlay Golf got everyone loosened up. Martin Finch of Modern Mowers, agents for Toro equipment in KZN, gave a talk on his products before lunch, and the speakers after the meal included wine connoisseur John Platter, Peter Matkovich, Andy Bean, environmentalist Johan Bodenstein and Durban Country Club’s Dave Henry, one of the driving forces behind his club’s environmental committee. ‘Matko’ spoke most eloquently – pointing out the failings of certain modern golf clubs, and offered possible solutions to ensuring the health of the game. He also made his opinion of golf carts quite clear, comments which bemused the agents for Yamaha carts who were present. Environmental issues have become a priority for most golf clubs in recent times, and both Johan Bodenstein and Dave Henry delivered well-constructed talks that made a lot of sense. Particularly impressive were the photographs shown of areas of the Durban Country Club course that have been rehabilitated – areas that had previously been over-groomed but are now clad in luxuriant growth of indigenous forest. Many clubs would do well to follow Durban Country Club’s lead in forming an active committee that takes the environmental responsibility of their club seriously. John Platter, a member of Umhlali, pointed out that although in KZN beer is very definitely the preferred tipple among golfers, given the large amount of golf tourists that flock to the region, clubs should consider stocking a sensible selection of wines. The point is well taken that clubs should not forget that the foreign golf tourist recognises South Africa as a producer of world-class wines, and they must be rather disappointed when their choice at a golf club is limited to a few rather ordinary wines served by the glass. The success of these workshops depended very much on the organisation of the host clubs, and it must be said that both Glendower and Umhlali did a sterling job. The speakers were of the highest quality and, most importantly, our guests appreciated what we were trying to do – ie offer something different from the usual golf day. It is certainly gratifying to notice a definite shift in attitudes shown by everyone in the

aBoVe: Workshop attendants at Glendower being treated to a Toro demonstration. BeloW: hearing from key people in the golf industry and the sharing of information ensured that everyone left having learnt something of value.

golf industry. Rather than the old ‘everyone for himself’ ideology, there is a willingness to share ideas and information and, while healthy competition within the industry will hopefully always exist, cooperation between clubs and companies that service the industry can only a thank you to our sponsors:

benefit the game. GCM appreciates the many phone calls and e-mails, not only thanking us for these workshops, but offering constructive advice on how we might improve these functions in the future. ■

Golf Club Management

July 2009


CluB Profile

glenvista Country Club’s course can claim to be one of the most underrated in gauteng. As GCM discovered during a recent visit to this club, the work done by course superintendent Johan Snyman and team has further improved this excellent layout.
The Glenvista golf course was the brainchild of the ill-fated Glen Anil Development company, a once powerful corporation that transformed large tracts of farmland to the south of Johannesburg into residential areas. In the halcyon days during the late ’60s, the company commissioned Sid Brews to lay out a golf course in a beautiful valley formed by the Klipriviersberg range, after purchasing this spectacular piece of real estate from the Basson family. The Bassons farmed the land which the course today occupies, and it is scarcely believable that this area was considered ‘rural’ only 40 years ago. A better site for a golf course could not have been found; a mere 10 kilometres from Johannesburg CBD, with a plentiful supply of water. A darre dingham tributary of the Klip River flows throughnthe valley and a series of lakes form the focal point of the layout. The construction of the course was obviously not easy, either that or there was no sense of urgency, because Brews began his work sometime in 1967 but the course was only completed in 1973. It was certainly worth waiting for, and when the club was opened memberships were sold for the princely sum of R70 with an annual subscription of R150 –

souThern GeM GoinG Green
payable in instalments. Despite these modest fees, the club was slow to get into stride, presumably competing with the nearby Reading, which was considered to be a premier facility with a fair amount of snob value. Glen Anil was in control of the fledgling club’s affairs, but the members were allowed to form a committee which effectively ran the club. Once Glenvista had about 200 members, the club’s facilities were somewhat inadequate, and the membership was showing worrying signs of stagnating at that number. In flurry of activity, a manager’s residence was constructed, a swimming pool was built



July 2009

Golf Club Management

CluB Profile
and two tennis courts were erected – giving some credence to the ‘country club’ idea, but soon after this Glen Anil suffered serious cash flow problems and was placed under liquidation. The company’s assets were sold by public auction, along with the club, which was bought by the members for an amount of R65 000 – a bargain price even in 1978. The improvements made to this club since have been steady if not spectacular – the present clubhouse was built, the car park was paved, a tennis pavilion was built and, most importantly from a golfing point of view, a water reticulation system was installed and the greens were rebuilt. By 1993, Glenvista had come into its own – the USGA-specification putting surfaces were, and are still superb, and during our recent visit we noted that the kikuyu fairways are as good as any in the Gauteng region. The bent greens may be infested with poa annua, but as is often proved, properly managed even a high percentage of poa growing in bent is not the end of the world, and Glenvista’s putting surfaces run as true as anyone could find anywhere. It is very clear that the work being done on the course has been sensibly planned and, with a relatively small labour force (14 in total), the standards of general housekeeping compare with the best. A project to rehabilitate the bunkering is underway and, while Johan Snyman has his hands full keeping the layout groomed to perfection, he has a list

Johan snyman has a number of improvements planned for Glenvista.

of plans to further improve the course. This includes hiding rather unattractive concrete walls that borders one of the lakes, converting an area on a dam wall from kikuyu to indigenous shrubs, as well as eliminating encroaching wattle on the border of the course into more eco-friendly flora. Most noticeable are the areas that have been established with indigenous plants, done with the help of expert landscaper Wynand van Vuuren. A long-

Wynand van Vuuren has done a sterling job transforming dull areas into beautiful gardens.

time member of Glenvista, Van Vuuren has transformed what were some rather unsightly areas into attractive gardens inhabited by endemic plants that belong – frost-resistant species that thrive on the Highveld. Well known for his work on up-market residential gardens that he has converted from exotic to indigenous, Wynand is less than enamored with the rose bushes that have been cultivated on the course. “Rose White, a member of the club for many years (mother of famous rugby coach and after-dinner speaker Jake White), loved these roses, and they were the cause of a few arguments – but the roses are still there,” he says. A feature of Van Vuuren’s work is the incorporation of various props such as African pots and old sleepers. The end result is a truly African look and feel that is eco-friendly. Glenvista has certainly proved that a huge budget is not necessary to compete with the modern estate courses. The service in the clubhouse is friendly and efficient and, despite being a popular venue for private functions, it has retained its feel of a traditional golf club. Plans are being implemented to expand the club’s capacity to host conferences and, at a time when many clubs are feeling the pinch, Glenvista would seem to be bucking economic trends and forging full steam ahead. In terms of making a serious effort to ‘green up’ its act, Glenvista is well ahead of the game. ■ ■ Wynand van Vuuren of excellent Gardens can be contacted on 082 828 4477.

Golf Club Management

July 2009


eXTra sPeCial ManaGer of The MonTh

no relation to
barry Woods is the new man at the helm of umhlali Country Club, and while his prowess on the golf course may not match that of his famous namesake, he is determined to make his presence felt at one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most popular clubs.
The umhlali Country Club has had the ability to reinvent itself over the years. Beginning life as a modest nine-holer in 1961, it was probably best described as a rather quaint ‘country’ facility that wasn’t taken too seriously. The town of Ballito was only proclaimed as a township in 1954, but it was some time before the property market on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal boomed, and Ballito became one of the most favoured holiday destinations for the well-heeled. An important event in the history of Umhlali Country Club was the appointment of Peter Matkovich as the club professional, and it was the now-famous golf course architect who designed and constructed the second nine holes. It remained a low-key, unpretentious club with a playable layout that may not have been in the best of condition at all times, but it was much loved by the locals and the holidaymakers who prided themselves in finding this ‘hidden gem’. Peter Matkovich’s influence has continued to be felt at the club he calls home, and when he revamped the course three years ago, without making any radical changes, it took on a very different look. Compleat Golfer had no hesitation in declaring the course to be the most improved in KwaZulu-Natal last year. Anyone who has not visited this club for some years would hardly recognise it now – besides again changing its identity and becoming a golf estate, the clubhouse has been revamped and the course has changed beyond recognition. Umhlali has certainly arrived as a club to be taken seriously, fortunately without sacrificing its charm. A visitor to Umhlali today is likely to be struck by the young, enthusiastic team that keeps the club ticking, and the recent appointment of Barry Woods as GM would suggest that the club is going places. Barry may lack experience in this particular industry, but his fresh, uncluttered view of what needs to be done is perhaps an advantage. He completed his schooling at Queens College in the Eastern Cape, a school well known for producing great sportsmen, but he freely admits that his performances were nothing more than average on the cricket and rugby field. Barry then studied accountancy and, after spending time in the corporate world, he decided to make this career change. “It probably had something to do with my brother Billy’s influence – he is the greenkeeper at Gowrie Farm in the Midlands, and becoming involved in the golf business has been quite an eye-opener,” he says. “For starters, you are dealing with people that come to the club to enjoy themselves, and it is our job to ensure that they do. Most of our members and visitors arrive at the club in a good mood – it’s a pleasure dealing with them.” Barry certainly does not come across as the typical, rather conservative


‘bean-counter’ and, as a self-confessed people’s person, he certainly seems to go out of his way to make everyone feel welcome. He is quick to point out that he was fortunate in having a great group of people to assist him while he settled in. “The team here is well motivated and we are determined to continually raise the standards,” he says. A key member of this team is golf manager Duard Nel, formerly of Waterkloof in Pretoria, who has been at Umhlali for a year and a half. He is responsible for every aspect of the golf operations and is also involved in setting up the course for play. About 36 000 rounds were played on the course last year, and monthly year-on-year figures would suggest that this number is steadily increasing. At the time of GCM’s recent visit to the club, the pro shop was in

Extra SpEcial tiMES, Extra SpEcial ScOtcH
Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 22 July 2009 Golf Club Management

the process of being gutted for a complete refurbishment. “The pro shop was contracted out, but it has been decided to employ our own professional to run this operation,” says Barry. In between meeting and greeting and generally ensuring that things go smoothly, Barry’s accounting background has come in handy in analysing the club’s operations, and he has embarked on a project to fine-tune were he can. “I must say that it seems that among my colleagues in the club management business, a regular complaint is the difficulty in dealing with and reporting to committees. Fortunately, I have no such problems, as the committee has given me their full support. They remain in charge of policy decisions, but for the rest I am allowed to get on with the job with minimum of interference,” he says. ■

aBoVe: a very playable and enjoyable golf experience is on offer at umhlali. BeloW: from left to right, duard nel (golf manager), robin naiker (greenkeeper), Glynis hunter (marketing), Michelle Witthoff (accountant) and Barry Woods (general manager).

Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 Golf Club Management July 2009 23

Turf ManaGeMenT

ready for The rains
With most of our golf courses now in the grip of winter, workloads have dropped off. but rather than taking a well-earned break, now is the time to get stuck into tasks that will make dealing with the summer rains a lot easier, writes turftek’s Murray veitch.
Every year our golf courses get hammered by severe storms at some time or the other. Important as the spring and summer rains may be, these storms damage bunkers, wash away topsoil and contaminate drainage systems. Winter is an excellent time to carry out any repairs to damaged drainage systems and to improve any other faulty systems. drains and improve on them should this be necessary. Your greens’ drainage should also be flushed if flush points are present. It is important to ensure that the outlets of the drains are kept clear. These tend to become blocked by grass growing into them or sand being washed over them. Drains that lead into dams can become blocked by crabs and other creatures. Standing water can also cause grass to rot and die. Winter is a good time to level these areas in order to spread the water, thus preventing it from standing in one place. Where possible, fairways should be reshaped so as to improve the surface drainage. de-compacted, the drainage in the bunker will become compromised due to the fact that the rain water can no longer percolate through the sand. It is neccessary to decompact the bunkers after every rain storm if possible. Extra sand may also need to be added to some of the bunkers. If the base of the bunker becomes exposed to the heavy rains this may result in severe erosion – it is not unusual for the drainage pipes to be exposed and thus severely contaminated with bunker sand. In some of the older types of bunkers, the crusher stone placed around the drainage pipes can become mixed with the bunker sand. This requires the sand to be sieved or replaced. Ensuring that there is sufficient sand in a bunker helps prevent damage to the base and the drainage system in the bunkers. In severe cases it may be necessary to

Although a task that is not normally high on the list of priorities, fairway drainage should be flushed to clear any sediment which may have built up during the previous season. As effective as your fairway drainage may be, after a wet summer there is sure to be some blockage preventing the drains from operating at optimum capacity. There is no better time to clear them. It might also be a good time to assess the overall capacity of these

Bunker sand tends to become compacted during the rainy season. If this sand is not


July 2009

Golf Club Management

Turf ManaGeMenT
reshape bunker faces which are continually washed away during the rainy season. Many productive man hours are lost pushing sand back up bunker faces that are too steep.

It is a good idea to be prepared for heavy downpours, and every golf course should have a sump pump and squeegees, which can be used to remove any standing water. Particularly golf courses which are next to rivers can have tons of mud dumped on them. The greenkeeper needs to be prepared for this situation by having the necessary equipment available. The greenkeeping staff should be issued with gumboots and raincoats ahead of time. They cannot be expected to run around in the rain un-blocking drains, pushing mud, etc, without the correct protective clothing.

eroded riVer and daM Banks
The dry season is a good time to repack rocks on the banks of the dams and rivers. Due to wave action, the banks of feature dams become eroded. Placing rocks on the banks will help protect them from erosion. Unfortunately, the water can be cold in winter, but this is the best time to do it.

sPrinG TreaTMenT
The hollowtining of the greens will help them drain a lot better during a heavy downpour. There is a move away from hollowtining at the end of winter, but a deep vertidraining will also help with drainage. Vertidraining during the rainy season is a good way to prevent greens becoming waterlogged. Knowing what sort of rainy season you are going to experience is impossible. Carrying out the above mentioned tasks will go along way to ensure that the severity of the damage is limited. ■


if the complete reconstruction of a bunker is called for, there is no better time to do this. as with everything, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing properly.

CMasa ProMoTion

What is CMasa
■ Club Management Association of South-

and what can it do for you?
on trends in this sector.
■ CMASA is committed to the ongoing

ern Africa (CMASA) is the representative body for the recreation, sports and social club sector in South Africa. CMASA offers its members access to information on international and local best-practice material relating to the management of their clubs as well as current information

professional development of management and staff in the club sector and offers education programmes to suit all disciplines of employees. ■ CMASA’s strength is heightened by the expertise of its elected executive


committee and management team, who collectively have in excess of 150 years experience in club management. ■ Club management in South Africa and internationally is no longer a hobby but a profession and clubs require a paradigm shift in the application of sound business principles to sustain the sector. CMASA is able to offer these resources to assist clubs in this paradigm shift.
■ each month Club Managment association of

to serve our members in every possible way and enable them to improve their own professional standards in the management, financial control, productivity, service and efficiency of their clubs through ongoing education and best practice.

south africa will focus on one of the many services it offers its member clubs. for a full list of its services contact its offices on 011 482 7542 or visit its website at www.clubmanagement.co.za.

■ to Doug Bain

CMasa consulting with saGa on development
There has been much controversy around the R5 development levy for non-affiliated golfers. Many of our member clubs’ concerns are valid, however everybody is in agreement as to the need for development, and CMASA is hoping to complete a process of consultation with member clubs and to revert to the SAGA with proposals on how clubs are able

to make development happen. Comments are welcome and can be sent to admin@ clubmanagement.co.za.

(Randpark), CMASA Manager of Year, on his recent marriage to Desire. ■ to Darren Dingam (Wanderers) on the recent birth of his son.

Manager development programme
CMASA is soon launching a manager development programme for junior and middle management. Based on material received from Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), this programme will be completed while in the workplace and covers all aspects of club management. Keep an eye out for the launching of this programme.

doug Bain

CMasa blog
Something got you in a knot? Want to share some problems or solutions? Log onto www.clubmanagement.co.za and log onto the member-only blog.

darren dingam

Postal address: suite 374 Private bag X09 Weltevredenpark 1715


July 2009

Golf Club Management

CMasa ProMoTion
leGislaTiVe iniTaTiVes
An association is only successful if it truly represents and undertakes issues that could have an impact on its membership base. CMASA, over the years, has been successfully involved in legislative issues that affect the club sector – be it on a national or provincial basis. One of the most recent initiatives has been CMASA’s objection to the Proposed Income Tax Amendment Bill, which in its proposal form was extremely detrimental to the club industry. Approximately six years ago, CMASA (then the Associated Clubs of Southern Africa) met with representatives from SARS in an attempt to illustrate a club business financial model and identify the core issues relating to club membership/participation. CMASA went to great lengths to explain that while every notfor-profit club’s model was different due to the sporting discipline/activity the club was involved in, the premise of break-even and a principle of mutuality was common among all. During the fact-finding sessions with SARS, CMASA provided it with a definition of a possible interpretation of what a club is: “A voluntary association of persons privately constituted and managed in terms of its own rules by and for the benefit of members, with an established clubhouse at which members and invited guests meet on a regular or recurrent basis to further a specified social, sporting, recreational, cultural or other common interest, or a combination of such interests, and which precludes the active pursuit and division of profits but encourages recreation and social conviviality.” Amendments to the Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962 (the Act), effected in terms of the Revenue Laws Amendment Act 2006, were tabled in draft for public comment. Following written objections by CMASA together with our tax consultant Jackie Arendse, CMASA was invited to appear before the Portfolio Committee on Finance to make a verbal submission on our objections to the legislation. The legislation so tabled included inter alia tax on all

Club managers networking at a CMasa education session.

non-member business at the club. Following the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance hearing, the legislation was amended to provide for partial taxation on clubs with the following areas being treated as exempt income: membership subscriptions, fees and all club core business revenue. Non-exempt revenue included: income from investments and club non-core business revenue (eg advertising). Ongoing negotiations have taken place with SARS and the National Treasury since the promulgation of the legislation in order to clarify various anomalies in the legislation. One of the anomalies has already been included in the 2009 Budget Speech, which extends the submission of applications for partial tax exemption to 30 September 2010 as opposed to March 2009. The benefits of this extension are beneficial to clubs, most of which have not made

adequate preparations for the amended tax legislation. Much work will still need to be done by clubs in the next year in order to be prepared for these changes. CMASA will continue to interact with all stakeholders in an effort to bring about an equitable solution to this legislation. Sadly, many clubs do not see the benefits of joining CMASA. In order for the association to continue to be the ‘voice’ of the industry, it is imperative for clubs to unite behind CMASA in its dealings with government, both national and local. CMASA provides the education and access to necessary knowledge required for interpretation of legislation that affects the club industry. ■ ■ should you be interested in becoming a member of CMasa please contact us on 011 482 7542 or e-mail admin@clubmanagement.co.za

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

July 2009


rands and sense

What should a round
of golf really cost?
Traditionally, in order to come up with an equitable amount to charge golfers to play, clubs would divide their budgeted expenditure by their budgeted number of rounds. This calculation could be used to come up with cost per round, eg if expenditure was R2 million, this would be divided by 30 000 rounds which amounted to R66.60 or R70 cost per round. This was fine – clubs were never meant to show a profit. Hand-tomouth accounting worked until an unexpected expense arose and, with no cash in the kitty, many clubs found themselves in financial difficulty. The advent of television saw South African golfers demanding Augusta-like turf on their courses year round, and the cost of the maintenance of these green belts began to spiral. Golfers became more discerning – no manicured turf meant less visiting golfers. A round of R70 suddenly jumped to R100, which resulted in less rounds, so again clubs found themselves in financial difficulty. To counter the dearth in visitor rounds, a plan was implemented to make courses more challenging, longer and with larger and faster greens. It was hoped that this would stimulate the business, but maintenance again became more expensive. In an attempt to generate extra revenue, the halfway sandwich was transformed into a culinary experience. Play became slower, the number of rounds again dipped, and clubs faced more financial difficulty. Corporate golf was rapidly increasing as companies decided to use golf as an attractive way to entertain clients, and some clubs saw this as their salvation. But, offering reduced rates to the corporate market, and annoying members who found it difficult to get onto their own courses, again caused many clubs to take financial strain as members resigned. Along came virtual clubs that promised struggling clubs a stream of business (albeit at discounted rates). Fantastic! Members of the traditional clubs were encouraged to join virtual clubs and this practice put many clubs in financial difficulty. No problem. What did the clubs do? Reduce prices to encourage more members to join and visitors to play, but as the difference between the two were minimal, clubs realised that none of the new visitors were joining. This practice put many clubs in financial difficulty. Suddenly the top clubs who had lost members to smaller ‘cheaper’ clubs decided to lower their prices which in turn made the smaller clubs lower their rounds even more, and guess what? This practice put many clubs in financial difficulty. So what should the cost of a round be? Obviously there is no easy answer, but fundamentally income from greenfees (and food and beverage, golf carts etc) should cover the maintenance costs and wage bills for a club to survive. Exclusive clubs such as Leopard Creek and Pearl Valley demand, and get, top rates, while more modest facilities compete in another sector of the market. Still, there seems to be some disparity in rates that clubs charge. One accepts that a facility with an above-average course and quality service should demand a higher fee, but unfortunately the pricing policy has become skewed. Clubs in general do not trust each other and would rather compete against one another rather than face common challenges and work together to find solutions. In KwaZulu-Natal we do not have an ‘average cost’ (I know this sounds stupid) as prices for the top clubs have been discounted in order to attract rounds. Having played top courses worldwide and most of the top courses in SA, I believe that in KwaZulu-

A point was made at gCM’s umhlali workshop that certain premier clubs are discounting greenfee prices, which is having a negative impact on other clubs. Cotswold Downs’ peter Miller makes the point that by underselling golf, many clubs are on the road to financial ruin.
Natal a round of golf is ridiculously inexpensive. For instance one can play most of the coastal clubs for less than R200 as a visitor. A similar club on the Algarve in Portugal would cost between R750 and R1 200. The courses in the Cape cost on average 50 percent more per round, as do top clubs in Johannesburg. Even premier courses such as Durban CC and Zimbali are very competitively priced, especially in the corporate golf area as food and beverage is a large contribution to their income. This means the secondtier clubs cannot ask the price per round needed for survival. All clubs in KZN are competing for the same players, the same corporate market and the same group golf. Registered golfers are estimated to number some 19 000 with 80-plus clubs. Durban CC and Mount Edgecombe have almost 4 200 members between them, which leaves only 15 000 for the rest to share. This means an average of about 188 players per club, which is simply not economically viable. So again, clubs cut greenfees to attract golfers and again this practice puts many clubs in financial difficulty. So, what is the answer? I wish I knew. It is obvious that golfers should realise that they have to pay more for a Rolls Royce than they would for a Tata. ■


July 2009

Golf Club Management

PGa of sa

are we handicapped by handicaps?
Ceo of the PgA of South Africa dennis Bruyns makes some suggestions on how to handle the handicap saga.
Recently there have been several amendments to our handicapping system, which unfortunately seem to have caused more confusion than ever before. I have received numerous phone calls recently with rules queries concerning handicaps, so let’s spend some time on what the Rules of Golf require. First of all, golfers in South Africa only have one handicap. The other figure is a stroke allowance (and it happens to be 75 percent of the golfer’s handicap). The stroke allowance is the figure used in betterball and alliance competitions. So, when a golfer whose handicap is 12 speaks about his handicap being 12/9, he is wrong. We are also getting the fellow (with an ego) who quotes his stroke allowance as his handicap – sounds much more impressive to be a nine than a 12! Let’s put that down to plenty of betterball competitions and just as much confusion. The SAGA has re-introduced the directive that only allows double-bogeys (2 over par) on holes on which the golfer actually strokes and bogeys (1 over) on non-stroke holes. The bizarre thing here is that, when playing betterball or alliance competitions, the golfer has to apply his or her stroke allowance when scoring for handicapping purposes and this score must be submitted. This has got to mean that handicaps are going to be unrealistically lower for those golfers who play most of their golf in betterball or alliance competitions. Now, what do the Rules of Golf require a golfer to do on a scorecard? A golfer is required to write down his name, handicap and score for each individual hole. After the round, he is required to sign the card. The golfer is not required to work out points, net scores or totals. However, the SAGA has instructed golfers to write down their handicaps and their stroke allowances on their cards (and has requested that clubs make provision for this on scorecards). Already golfers have been disqualified from local competitions for failing to do this. But hold on. This is not a Rule of Golf and the SAGA does not write the rules so, unless the tournament committee introduces this as a local rule, be careful of disqualifying golfers who do not fill in both figures. It seems to me that we have become handicapped by out handicap system – and that we have lost sight of why we have it in the first place: having a handicap is meant to ‘level the playing field’, allowing all golfers of all abilities to compete equitably. Golf is a game of honesty and integrity and it relies on all golfers to play the game in this spirit. It seems that the handicapping system being sought is that which caters for unscrupulous scoundrels who wish to ‘massage’ their handicaps in order to scoop the biggest prizes at competitions. We seem to be trying to find a tamper-proof system which will eradicate this dishonest practice. I think we will all agree that, given the nature of our game, this is a foolhardy endeavour. There is no doubt that we have lost sight of what golf should really be about. It should not be about competing against the field; what has happened to the personal challenge of doing the best that you can do? You, against the course? You, against the par on a hole, the par of the course? Hitting fairways and greens? Let’s stop relying entirely on the computer and re-introduce active handicap committees at clubs, which can add the subjective human element to determining a golfer’s trends when it comes to his or her playing ability at any given time. Clubs should perhaps spend more time promoting honesty, integrity, selfdiscipline and fun among members – after all, that is the reason the vast majority of golfers play this game. Let me leave you with one perfect example of this: a while back I played a social game of golf at the ‘old’ Houghton. In our fourball was Denis Hutchinson who, on the 1st tee, declared that on that particular day he felt like he needed to allocate himself six shots, given the way he was feeling! We all chuckled and there was much heckling and good-natured banter, but we accepted Hutchie’s ‘handicap’ for the day. Playing the last hole of our 18 (the parfour 9th) Hutchie hit his third shot to about six feet from the flag. Having played a friendly betterball matchplay game, I hadn’t really kept track of what everyone had scored. As Hutchie stood over his putt, he declared that he needed to sink it for a 78 – six shots over par! So he was absolutely correct in his assumption of what he felt his handicap should be for the day. Surely that’s what we should be aiming for? ■

To contact the PGa of south africa Tel: (011) 485 1370 or visit www.compleatgolfer.co.za and follow the link

Golf Club Management

July 2009


lasT Word

it’s in the numbers
dennis Bruyns looks at ways that clubs could be working with the PgA to break down some of the barriers to entry for casual golfers and new members.
Some time ago, the PGA identified three key areas that contributed to golfers not playing, or worse still, giving up the game. These three reasons? The game takes too long, it is too difficult and it is too expensive. And so, whatever cunning schemes are dreamt up to encourage more people to play golf, we should always be trying to negate these barriers as much as possible. So then, our suggestions? For a start, the club system is the backbone of golf in South Africa. Municipal or pay-and-play courses are, to all intents and purposes, non-existent. Resort courses generally cater to the wellheeled multi-star hotel market and overseas visitors and residential golf estates tick over according to residents and property sales. The vast majority of golf courses in this country then are attached to traditional golf clubs with traditional memberships – you know the type: get nominated and seconded, pay a large joining fee (for some unknown reason) and then pay a lump-sum subscription once a year, depending on the category of membership that you have chosen. If we are to encourage the ‘casual golfer’ to play more, and ultimately become a member of the club, I would contend that clubs need to look more creatively at the memberships that they offer. Let’s take a look at the ‘entrance fee’ for a start. So many clubs are waiving that fee every time their membership numbers take a dip. How’s this for an idea? Keep the entrance fee, but use some of it to cover the real costs of offering added value to the new member. This added value could take the form of a series of lessons with your club’s PGA professional (which could include lessons on the rules, etiquette and generally ‘demystify’ the game for beginners) or it could cover the cost of the new member’s first year of greenfees. Let’s get them ‘golf ready’ – a beginner with knowledge is far more likely to be relaxed and confident when he arrives at the club, and therefore keen to get to the club. Clubs should also probably look at a way to get away from the whole concept of proposers and seconders – clearly designed to ensure ‘like-minded’ membership in the past. There is no doubt that we need to look beyond the comfort zone of the ‘people we know’ if we are to keep our membership numbers at a level at which clubs can thrive. I’m sure I do not have to point out that there is an emerging middle class in South Africa that holds all the keys to clubs’ future success. How about a ‘try-it-before-you-buy-it’ membership? Encourage potential new members to become temporary members for, say, three months to get into the groove, so to speak. Then actively convert them into full members once they have recognised the benefits of membership and feel welcome within the club structures. And then, that lump-sum yearly subscription desperately needs to be addressed. Just about any golfer can find R100 per week. But ask him or her to drop R5 000 on the secretary’s desk before the end of July and it becomes substantially more challenging. Clubs have got to find a way to accept monthly payments of subscriptions, preferably by debit order. Now, let’s look at that evil of evils – time, and the lack of it. Clubs need to seriously consider moving away from the traditional two-tee start for morning and afternoon rounds and adopt the all-day one-tee start. What are the benefits? Well, firstly, flexibility. It gives golfers a far greater choice of starting (and finishing) times, giving them opportunities to do weekend shopping (or chores) for an hour or two in the morning, then playing golf and then watching live sport or whatever SuperSport has for the armchair fan. A one-tee start also encourages nine-hole golf – something that clubs need to recognise could be vitally important to their survival. Now, golfers can either play nine holes early in the morning (they can go off the 10th tee for two hours from the first tee time of the day) or immediately after the last 18-hole tee time in the afternoon (say 14:00, depending on the time of year or location of the course). The SAGA should allow the playing of nine holes for handicapping purposes. Too often the excuse for not playing nine holes is that it is a waste of time because the score cannot count towards the golfer’s handicap (unless two consecutive nines on consecutive days are played and added together to make an 18-hole score). At the moment, doom and gloom continues unabated. Unless we become creative with our ‘special deals’, we are going to be sucked into that massive black hole of negativity. Clubs should look at memberships from the member’s perspectives, rather than simply from the needs of the club. You’re almost asking members to design their own memberships. What is going to encourage golfers to put their golf club memberships up there with their car insurance and children’s school fees? Make being a member of your club simply irresistible. And at the centre of that irresistibility should be your PGA professional. He or she should be central to making the experience better by making the game less difficult, less expensive and less time consuming, through lessons and great retail advice and service. Put him or her to the test. ■


July 2009

Golf Club Management