june 2009

Golf CluB MAnAGeMenT

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SA Golf SuMMiT

The 4th

randpark’s triumphant revamp of its 19th hole ■ staff entrapment – is this legal? ■ temporary greens – a novel approach ■ Advice for rentrenchees ■ Manager of the Month ■ Growing in a golf course

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March 2009

voluMe 5 • iSSue 6

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sA Golf suMMIt reVIeW hr leGAl
reports from the 2009 golf Summit

ediTor’S leTTer
4 15 18 19 20 22 23

Entrapment – is it legal?

temporary greens

course MAnAGeMent huMAn resource deVelopeMent MAnAGer of the Month 19th hole feAture turf MAnAGeMent the enVIronMent

Advice for retrenchees

Cotswold Downs’ Peter Miller

froM The ediTor
walking the talk
It is well known that theory and practice can be very different, and for all the wellmeaning rhetoric at the fourth Golf Summit (where talk is not so cheap), we have to wonder just how many good ideas will eventually be put to good use. To grandly call this gathering a ‘Golf Summit’ is something of a misnomer, because many of the pertinent issues affecting the game were not addressed, and the gathering of delegates and esteemed speakers dealt with topics that would be better suited to a ‘golf tourism summit’ or a ‘golf property developers summit’. Still, the gathering this year must be considered worthwhile and much of this issue of GCM is dedicated to reviewing this indaba. Not surprisingly, much of talk was about surviving through trying economic times, and recurring themes included playability of courses, affordability of golf, its lack of social conscience, transformation and the important environmental issues that hang like the sword of Damocles over the game. All very well, but then the delegates were treated to a round of golf at the famed Links course. The Links at Fancourt can probably not claim to be the most affordable of clubs, and in the playability stakes it ranks down there with Bethpage Black and Royal Dornoch on a windy day. It is certainly accessible, as long as you are able to shell out $100 000 to become a member, or are invited by a well-heeled friend who happens to be one. Then there is the environmental issue. In an attempt to eliminate the dreaded kikuyu, it is obvious that a liberal application of herbicide had been applied to areas of fairway and surrounds. The result was that the course looked as though a group of Vietnam vets had run amok – and got out the old ‘Agent Orange’ for old times sake. It would seem that only napalm will eventually eradicate the kikuyu from the rough – so much for the ‘pristine’ fynbos. There were some excellent speakers at the summit, and Frank Thomas definitely stole the show. Some delegates, like me, might have been left wondering why the organisers have an obsession with what is being done in Hungary and how this can possibly relate to Africa, but perhaps I missed something. And then there was the riveting presentation delivered, not for the first time at the summit, by the project director for the Talensis project in Hungary – a rambling dissertation on the importance of ‘The Masterplan’. While he droned on in a soporific monotone, I found myself thinking that if the project in Hungary ever went belly-up, he could always find gainful employment as a hypnotist. If nothing else was achieved, the body to represent the business of golf in South Africa seems to have been born, after a very long gestation period and with seemingly excruciating labour pains. This body will, among other things, lobby government, and I wish them luck. This body, for the time being anyway, has adopted the inauspicious acronym of BOGSA – perhaps the first item on the agenda for its members will be to change its name.

randpark revamped

growing in a golf course

Environmentally friendly course management 24

Seen at the summit

sA Golf suMMIt reVIeW lAst Word

26 30

Farewell to Fancourt

coVer pIcture
■ edItorIAl

randpark’s brand-new 19th.

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March 2009


SA Golf SuMMiT review

The Business of Golf SA

A representative body finally on track
dennis bruyns spelled out how the biggest business-interest groups in golf will now have a meaningful voice, although the ‘umbrella’ idea has been scrapped.
Anyone attending the first three SA Golf Summits would have wondered if the socalled ‘umbrella body’, an ambitious plan to form a group that included representation from all of the game’s interest groups, would ever be formed. As Ted Keenan succinctly put it in the March ’09 issue of GCM: “Some of the best-known names in the golf business went for the idea, probably prompted by SA Tourism CEO Moeketsi Mosola’s demand during his address that the golf business get organised and ‘speak with one voice’ or forget about any government teamwork. A chant picked up by the many other government delegates who were eager to shift the blame for their own ineptitude in dealing with private-sector developers and tourism groups.” The ‘one voice’ theory may have been embraced by most of the delegates, but after three years of talk the umbrella remained unfurled. It was always going to be stretch for golf’s existing governing bodies to link up, much less join up with other interest groups within the game. Dennis Bruyns pointed out that it was important to understand the current and historic structure of golf – with the clearly defined roles of the SAGA, the PGA of SA and the Sunshine Tour. Added to these are the associations such as the Club Managers Association of SA, the Golf Course Managers and Greenkeepers Association, the SA Development Board, the Junior Foundation, the WPGA and SA Disabled Golf body, all of these being represented at COSAG – an informal body that provides the opportunity for dialogue between all of these stakeholders. To try to

Ceo of the PGA of SA dennis Bruyns addresses the 2009 Golf Summit.

lump all of these interest groups together, and to add golf tourism and golf estates into the mix was never going to happen. But the golf tourism industry and the role played by developers of golf estates and resorts cannot be underestimated, and besides

generating a huge amount of money (more than R16 billion to the overall golf economy), this sector is critical to the general growth and sustainability of the game. Finally, this group will have a voice, but not as part of one large umbrella body encompassing all interest groups, but rather as a separate, unified body. A Section 21 company has been formed with an interim board of directors consisting of two executive directors and eight nonexecutive directors. The short-term objectives of this body includes the establishment of a logo and the design and creation of a website, the collection of pledges, appointment of staff and the acquisition of office space. A unique and distinctive SA golf brand will be created with a marketing framework that will develop golf, engaging with the custodians of the game and form partnerships to deliver specific projects. This will all be achieved by the end of July 2009. The medium-term objectives for the following six months will include the production of a SA golf and leisure vacations guide that will combine the four ‘high-end’ lifestyle sectors that constitute the highest demand in tourism – golf, wine, game and wellness. This will be tailored to meet the demands of the local and international markets. Government will be lobbied by this body in order to create mutually beneficial public/private sector partnerships. The body will also facilitate a research agenda (specifically an environmental study) and develop a database and knowledge system. A golf summit/trade expo/conference is also planned to be held in Gauteng. ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management

SA Golf SuMMiT review

Howard Swan, the founder of the highly successful Swan Golf Design Ltd, opened his presentation by stressing that golf remains a game of respectability, good behavior and responsibility – and that the sport must remain that way in face of the mess everyone in the business finds themselves in. He made the point that the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Benanke, had recently seen some green shoots – referring to encouraging signs of recovery amid the economic doom and gloom, which was an interesting analogy for our industry. Reference was made to a recent article in The London Times that dealt with the downturn in the fortunes of golf in the UK, with many golf clubs staring at closure, but the point was made that those clubs that were proactive were most likely to survive. Those clubs realise that their best asset is the course, and if they maintain their standards (or indeed strive to improve them on a steady, continuing basis) will attract what business there is out there. The chief executive of the R&A Peter Dawson was quoted as saying that: “The challenge for golf is to maintain course quality and playability while respecting and positively contributing to the social and natural environment.” Swan pointed out that it is these principles that most of golf’s architectural organisations subscribe and encourage their membership to follow. But he did contend that not all do so. It was also stressed that the three aspects of sustainability, namely environmental, social and financial, should each be considered on an individual basis, yet in a coordinated way, as they must impact on each other to create long-term profitability and consequent

the bottom line
by stressing just how tough times are in the golf business, golf course architect howard swan told us nothing new, but he did deliver an absorbing presentation dealing with profitable golf design and development, as well as operational and maintenance practices.
energy consumption – “energy in machine operation, energy in pumping water and energy in using electricity. In theory, this should lead to and include the reduction of waste, toxic emissions and pollution,” he said. “To minimise their human footprint, architects must move towards the use of existing and renewable sources of development and energy,” he added. In pointing out some of the less obvious facets of the concept of sustainable development, he said that golf courses should be places with a sense of community. “They should accommodate and encourage social interaction by improving accessibility and expanding diversity,” he said. The point was well made that perhaps we had lost our way in trying to build ever more dramatic and outlandish golf courses, with more modelling, engineering and artificiality. In losing sight of the beauty of simplicity, modern course architects have erred, suggested Swan, and hinted at the fact that certain creators of courses have over-elaborated in the need to satisfy their own egos or those of their clients. “Do they want to outdo their contemporaries or simply maximise their fees?” he asked. ■ howard Swan shares his thoughts on profitable course design and maintenance.

growth. On the environmental front, Swan explained that his credo is to do only as much as is absolutely needed to change the land. This can be achieved through both the initial minimising of land construction and the subsequent maintenance, restoration and enhancement of the environmental attributes of the site. He alluded to the need to reduce

Golf Club Management

March 2009


SA Golf SuMMiT review

is transformation in amateur golf
As president of the SAGA, Enver Hassen has a difficult job, but one gets the impression that this man has the will and the determination to really make a difference. An education specialist by profession, he has certainly paid his dues as an administrator in the golfing world, and as long ago as 1995 he became involved with golf development initiatives in the Western Province. He is a qualified Royal and Ancient rules official, and has managed several national teams locally and internationally. Perhaps most importantly, he is a likeable, highly intelligent individual who clearly became involved in golf administration for the right reasons. Whether he will have enough time to do what he wants to do can be questioned, and whether he can garner the support of everyone in the industry is also doubtful, but it is fair to say that whatever he achieves it is likely to be considerably more than some of his predecessors. The accepted definition of transformation is, “A conscious, deliberate, planned and goal-directed process of fundamentally changing the conditions that in the past have led to the deliberate exclusion of the majority of our people from meaningful participation in sport and recreation and from taking their rightful place in the sports movements of the world.” Difficult to say in one breath, and seemingly a lot more difficult to implement. In 2005, a transformation questionnaire was sent to every golf club, in order to establish just how active transformation is within amateur golf at management, representative and membership levels. It was interesting to note that while certain regions

on the right track?
For the first time SAgA president Enver hassen attended the golf Summit and delivered a presentation on the transformation of golf. John botha looks at where progress has been made, and where we might be missing the boat.
sad reality is that, given the data that was collected, we have a long way to go. Golf remains a white-dominated sport (90 percent of club membership) with the remaining sector equally made up of coloured, Indian and black golfers. If not for moral reasons, for survival of the sport this demographic will need to change, and change quickly. Of course, there have been changes in the demographic at certain clubs and we are seeing more young players of colour beginning to emerge at provincial level, but if we hope to grow the game, or for certain clubs to simply stay in business, we are going to have to create a ‘feeder’ system. The logical place to start is to establish affordable municipal facilities – this is a drum that has been beaten for many years, but little has happened. It is also inexplicable how many clubs, at least those operating well below capacity, have not found a way to introduce different types of membership that will allow for affordable golf for beginners. No-one in the industry can argue against the benefits of true transformation, yet there is still a need for attitudes to be changed. The furor caused over golfers’ contribution to a development fund, albeit a modest amount, makes no sense, and obviously there has been a breakdown in communication between unions and their clubs. (This prickly issue will be looked at in more depth in the next issue of GCM.) It is time for everyone to wake up – the government, administrators, clubs and golfers, and to find a way to change the demographics of the game we all love. And nobody loves the game more than Enver Hassen – so let’s give him our support. ■

enver hassen plans to tackle transformation in golf head on.

responded quite positively (with a reasonably high percentage of clubs returning their questionnaires) other regions were quite honestly pathetic. In fact, in only five of the unions (Western Province, Gauteng North, Eastern Province, Ekurhuleni and Central Gauteng) did more than 68 percent of the clubs respond. In the remaining nine provinces the response was less than 40 percent. The point is, if the majority of clubs cannot even fill in a questionnaire, how committed can they possibly be to transformation? The


March 2009

Golf Club Management

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SA Golf SuMMiT review

Growing our game
one of the most articulate speakers at the summit was frank thomas, who delivered a polished, humorous and informative presentation dealing with the most important challenge faced by everyone in the business – just how to go about growing the game.
Frank Thomas served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years. During this time he was responsible for testing and ruling on the acceptability of every new club and ball. He can also claim to have invented the graphite shaft for golf clubs. Thomas began his presentation by giving a brief account of his harrowing trip from his native South Africa to the USA in his 25-foot yacht – a sailing adventure which taught him valuable lessons about self-reliance, adaptability and the relative value of technology and ingenuity in the face of adversity. He also threw in a most amusing sidebar which concerned the possibility of our world being obliterated by a giant asteroid. This presentation was based on the premise that in order to grow the game, we have to fully understand it and the reasons why we play golf, the state of the game in terms of stats and finally proposed solutions. Given a mere 30 minutes (and most delegates would have happily listened to Thomas all day), he also managed to include a section on technical terms made simple, and an overview on equipment and the rules. Mixing humour with psychology, Thomas suggested that golfers secretly lust after a mythical driver – one that will hit the ball down the middle of the fairway every time – a club that we do not need, but which we want very badly. Obviously, if such a club existed, soon everyone would have one, and it would take all the fun out of the game. If everyone could play every hole from the middle of the fairway some 250 metres from the tee, we might as well all play from there and do away with the tee shot. He suggests that in getting to know our customer, the golfer, we must accept that life is peculiar; we try to rid our lives of all obstacles then we assemble, in one entity, a set of artificial difficulties which we call ‘a game’. In explaining that it is all about the challenge rather than the trappings, he used the example of throwing a crumpled ball of paper into a waste-paper basket – the or clubhead speed could we hope to hit the ball further. His breakdown of how golfers of varying degrees of ability could hope to gain more distance was truly fascinating, and with his rapt audience, he went on to point out how the governing bodies are obsessed with the abilities of the elite golfers, the tour professionals, which make up a mere 0.01 percent of the golfing population. He spoke of how the R&A and the USGA are continually limiting the size of the heads of drivers, the shaft length, even the length of tees, and their wish to limit the distance a ball will fly by some 25 percent. He held up to ridicule the debate concerning the legality of electronic measuring devices for distance, and then by way of offering statistics taken over the past 40 years, he made a mockery of the officials that spend their time policing the game. Of critical importance was Thomas’ data relating to why people actually play golf, and why they give up the game, split up into groups that reflect ability. (Surprisingly, there was little difference shown across the range of handicaps in terms of the reasons for playing the game.)

why PeoPle PlAy Golf
A most entertaining speaker – frank Thomas. The most important reasons for playing began with good shots (about 90 percent), followed by: challenge, outdoors, social, physical, stress relief, competition, business and social functions.

feeling of achievement resulting from a relatively simple task we all know so well. Thomas’ explanation of COR (coefficient of restitution, or the measure of efficiency of the transfer of momentum) and MOI (moment of inertia) was done in a way that a rank beginner could easily understand, yet was very interesting for those that understand the physics governing the flight of a golf ball. He stressed that distance is one of the most powerful words in golf, and then in his polished and entertaining way, went about explaining that only by increasing head speed

why GolferS Give uP The GAMe:
Family obligations (60 percent), too expensive, takes too long, tried it but wasn’t fun, skills too difficult, embarrassed by play, tee times inconvenient, health, courses too long, no golf friends, golf courses are environmentally unfriendly, lack of rules knowledge, other players unfriendly and location of course. In looking at the preference of the length of courses for golfers of different handicaps,

Golf Club Management

March 2009


SA Golf SuMMiT review

frank Thomas had Golf Summit attendees entertained and captivated by his sensible explanations and clever analogies.

the message was clear – golf courses are too long and too difficult for the average golfer, and 95 percent of courses are designed for 0.55 percent of the golfing public (the scratch golfer). Simply put, the real problems facing the game are not about the finer points of equipment advances and ‘hot’ balls, but rather the fact that there is less time to play and be away from the family, the game has become too expensive, the beginners never have fun, and the game is too difficult and takes too long to learn. It is clear that shorter courses, with strategic tees placed for less skilled players, is needed. A key is that, although golfers wish to be challenged, these challenges should be appropriate. “Having a facility that caters

to, and is defined by what a golfer ‘aspires to be’ or ‘once was’ only leads to frustration and disappointment. It reduces the potential satisfaction and enjoyment that the game has to offer,” said Thomas.

up to be enjoyed.
■ Faster courses must be built, with shorter

rough, etc.
■ We should think outside the conventional

whAT CAn we do To SAve The GAMe?
Thomas makes the following suggestions: ■ People in the trade should understand the game, why golfers play, the addictive element – and that saving strokes is more important that an elaborate clubhouse. ■ It is the magic in us, not the equipment, that matters (golfers are effectively buying hope rather than a real advantage). ■ Ego is a big impediment to the growth of the game, so courses should be set

18 holes (executive courses, loops of six holes, etc). ■ We should give back to the game by offering discounts to beginners, etc. ■ The customer has the power, and they will find courses they enjoy. We must get back to basics – bigger is not better, and making money from golf should not be the sole purpose. ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management

SA Golf SuMMiT review

is SA’s golf business?
the economic impact study of golf in South Africa commissioned by the PgA certainly raised a few eyebrows, and few could have believed that golf generated the sort of revenue that it does.
Dennis Bruyns, chief executive officer of the PGA of South Africa, explained that in order to grow the game, a comprehensive study was needed to assess the actual size of the game. The economic value of golf has until now been little more than an educated guess and to measure growth and performance an accurate benchmark was needed. “Uncertain economic times require the use of research to formulate future strategies,” he says, “and we obviously have to address areas of opportunity where growth is restricted.” The research was conducted using a combination of personal interviews and the IFM Sports Marketing Surveys’ online platform. The analysis of existing studies and data was combined with this study. The core industries (including existing facilities, new golf course developments, golf equipment, events, advertising and media) were added to enabled sectors (golf tour operators and the golf estate property component) to measure the size of the economy. The indirect effects (the amount spent at a golf course by the course manager to acquire goods and services stimulates production) and the induced effects (the golf course employees spending a portion of their salaries or wages on personal goods and services) were calculated. At existing facilities, golfers’ expenditure, golf clubs and estates, golf academies and administrative bodies account for an amount of almost R8 billion, R5.8 billion of this being made up of the expenditure of the South African golfer at existing facilities. This is broken up as follows: Greenfees ........................................... 43% Membership subscriptions ..................... 22% Golf equipment .................................... 16% food and beverages................................ 6% Caddies ................................................ 5% rental carts .......................................... 4% entrance fees ........................................ 3% Golf lessons .......................................... 1%

Just how big

The panel that discussed the global economic crisis on golf. from the left, frank Thomas, Matt Mcnulty (former director of Tourism ireland), dr Andrew Golding (chief executive of the Pam Golding property group) and dennis Bruyns (chief executive, PGA of SA).

It was found that the average golfer spends R3 787 on golf equipment every year, with The Pro Shop having 45 percent of this market share, on-course retailers 31 percent, The Golfers Club 19 percent and the mass market four percent. Six new 18-hole golf estate facilities were opened in 2008 – the average cost of the construction of these facilities calculated at R280.3 million. A total of 3 521 properties were made available for sale. This industry contributes a sizeable amount towards the overall economic impact, accounting for almost 55 percent of the direct expenditure. The value of the estate component is calculated at R3.9 billion, with the value of

estates, including improvements, R12 billion. The total impact, including the indirect and induced economic impacts of the golf industry’s activities, represents a staggering R58.4 billion. An estimated 49 990 jobs were created with a significant amount unaccounted for through induced and indirect spend within the golf industry. This represents a wage/salary income of R1.58 billion. Some R40 million in charitable contributions are made each year. Golf contributes about R215 million to the government’s tax coffers, and this figure does not include property taxes or tax on fuel. If these figures don’t make our government sit up and take notice, nothing will. ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management

SA Golf SuMMiT review

A golden goose
SA tourism was well represented at the summit and it is clear that considerable efforts are being made to maximise our potential in this area.
nomasanto ndlovu is the global manager of business tourism for SA Tourism and Sugen Pillay is general manager of the events platform for the same organisation. Both delivered presentations on dealing with growing our golf economy by capitalising on the tourism industry. Our distance from the major markets such as the US, Europe and Asia may be a disadvantage, as is the perception of South Africa as being a dangerous place to visit. International travel during economic downturns is certainly reduced, and our crime rate isn’t about to drastically improve any time soon. But there is still good reason to remain bullish about golf tourism, both local and international. None of us in the industry need reminding that we have world-class facilities, and a climate to go with these. As far as value for money goes, even after factoring in the cost of travel halfway around the globe, South Africa is hard to beat. But are we making the most of the opportunities to market our country as golf tourism destination? It may also be asked whether we understand the service levels expected by the typical golf tourist. Certainly many clubs have embraced Compleat Golfer’s 5-Star Golf Experience programme and, like it or not, it is the added extras and service levels that bring golfers back, and word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools. It is encouraging to see that SA Tourism is making a concerted effort to sell South Africa abroad, but a lot more could be done. The recent economic impact study of golf on our overall economy should encourage the powers that be to invest in golf tourism, and the enthusiasm created by the 2010 World Cup should be expanded to include a serious effort to bring more golfers to South Africa. We all know that the crime issue, certainly in areas where golf tourists are likely to be, is exaggerated. But it is interesting to note that visiting golfers to South Africa have often said that they preferred playing estate courses – not because the courses were any better than those at the traditional clubs (and some have admitted that the opposite is true), but they felt safer. When it comes to local tourism, we are likely to see an increase in South African golfers travelling around their own country as they find it more difficult to justify overseas trips. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from other leisure industries, notably the national parks and private game farms, that pricing is critical. It has become unaffordable for many locals to enjoy the bush experience, and it

Sugen Pillay, the general manager of the events platform for SA Tourism.

nomasonto ndlovu, the global manager of business tourism for SA Tourism.

would be wise for our premier golf courses to avoid this trap. Both Ndolovu and Pillay stressed how our golf economy can be bolstered by our global business tourism strategy, and the importance of positioning SA as a golf business, investment and tourism destination. One hopes that the newly formed BOGSA will be able to garner support from government and the private sector to transform the broader golf industry from simply being a sport to an investment and tourism-driven institution. ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management

is it legal?
For some time now, Piet, a club manager, has suspected that a couple of his employees working in the kitchens have been stealing food and selling it to the caddies. He has no direct proof, but his weekly stocktake figures show that shrinkage has been on a worrying increase over the last six months. The items most vulnerable seem to be eggs, sugar and tinned goods. Last week, two of his more trusted employees came to see him in confidence. They reported that two employees in the kitchen were selling goods to the caddies and course maintenance team members during working hours. In spite of random searches carried out, no evidence of theft has surfaced. Piet decides that the only way forward is to set a trap for the two suspects. He arranges with the firm responsible for security on the golf course to hire one of its team to act as an ‘undercover’ caddie. A week after this ‘undercover caddie’ started he approached the two kitchen staff with a ‘sob story’ about how difficult it was for him to feed his two younger brothers since both his parents had been killed in a car crash earlier in the year. He left it at that, but a week later he went back to the two kitchen staff and asked them if ever there was any left-over food at the end of the day that was thrown away. He was told that it was club policy not to allow any staff to take left-over food home with them as it could encourage over-catering. A couple of days later he went back to the two kitchen staff and said that he had just been given a R20 tip by one of the golfers and couldn’t they organise some food for him for the R20. The one kitchen staff member took the R20 note and said that there would be a parcel

hr leGAl

how far can you go to trap employees you suspect of stealing? Can you entice suspects into breaking the law or could you be breaking the law in the process? Andrew Wilson of GCM investigates.
of food for him in the bushes over the wall behind the staff toilets that he could collect on his way home. Sure enough, he found a parcel with two tins of baked beans, a loaf of bread, two packets of bacon and six eggs in it. The two employees were confronted with the ‘evidence’ and, after a disciplinary hearing, were fired for selling goods that belonged to the club. Was Piet right to take this action? The risk you take if you set traps for your employees is that you could be found guilty of being an accessory to the crime! Encouraging a person to break the law is seen by the courts as a criminal offence. If you are going to set a trap, you have to make sure that the ‘suspect’ is not coerced into taking the bait. In the case study above, the two kitchen staff could claim that they had no prior intention of stealing the produce and selling it to the ‘undercover’ caddie. The courts could well find that the two kitchen staff were coerced in to selling the products and that the more serious crime was encouraging the two employees to break the law. This doesn’t mean that it is wrong to set traps. The two key factors that you have to bear in mind if you are setting a trap are that: ■ the trap is set in such a way that there is no pressure put on the suspect to ‘fall into the trap’. The motivation for the offence must always come from the suspect and never the employer or his ‘undercover agent’. ■ no incentives are offered to the suspect to get them to commit an offence. The suspect could well argue that he or she had no intention of committing an offence until the incentive was offered. Setting a trap really should be a last resort. If you suspect that an employee is dishonest then it is important that you take urgent and appropriate action. The old tried-and-tested methods of investigation are far more reliable and defendable. Once you become suspicious, watch the suspect carefully, gather all the evidence you can and keep accurate records of what you have observed. Sooner or later dishonest people become either careless or greedy. Patience in building a case against a suspected employee is more likely to result in a defendable case than engineering a quick-fix trap. ■
■ for help or advice concerning human

resource issues, contact Andrew wilson, human resource strategist, on 082 575 3861 or at consultaew@iafrica.com.

Golf Club Management

March 2009


Winter Season Sale

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Golf Club Management March 2009 17

CourSe MAnAGeMenT
krugersdorp Golf Club’s director of golf and chairman of greens inspects one of his new temporary greens. Planted with A1/A4 bentgrass, these ‘temporaries’ are a cut above the usual.

Temporary Greens
It is normally accepted practice when greens are being reconstructed or just re-seeded to find a reasonably level area of fairway, cut down an area, install a cup (often the oversized variety) and declare this area to be a ‘temporary’ green. Of course, handicapping is suspended during the time these ‘temporaries’ are in play (as the course is normally considerably shorter) and attempting to coax the ball into the hole, even with an oversized cup installed, is often more about luck than good judgment. Temporary greens are viewed by most golfers as an anathema, and most who consider themselves to be ‘real’ golfers avoid them, so rounds of golf plummet on courses that are without their ‘real’ greens. (A small minority of golfers actually enjoy temporary greens – beginners, some lady players and certain

– a different approach
senior golfers relish the shorter layout, and those who are challenged with the short stick fancy their chances of sinking more putts when they are aiming at a nine-inch diameter hole.) When Krugersdorp Golf Club decided to revamp its greens complexes, the club decided that the usual temporary greens wouldn’t do, and it embarked on a project to actually construct 18 ‘proper’ greens (as near as possible) to use while the work on their original greens took place. After careful consideration regarding the positioning of these up-rated temporaries, the areas were prepared by excavating and filling the subsurface with silica sand, and then planting them with A1/A4 bent. The result has been quite astounding and, yes, they may be temporary, but they are as good as some courses’ permanent putting surfaces. So why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Well they have, but perhaps the pricetag put some clubs off the idea. The cost of this exercise was close to R200 000 and, as long as the club can generate that much more revenue during the time it takes for its new greens to be playable, it will have proved to have been a good idea. Then there is the added bonus of having a stock of bent grass sods that can be re-planted in the club’s nursery when all the work is completed. Krugersdorp is offering a hefty discount on greenfees while these temporaries are in use, and visitors to the club are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of these ‘reserve’ putting surfaces. ■

the construction of temporary greens may be necessary when clubs revamp their putting surfaces, and understandably the numbers of rounds are drastically reduced when these normally rather ropey areas are used. Krugersdorp golf Club has come up with a novel idea to raise the standard of its temporary greens, and to boost income while the new greens grow in.


March 2009

Golf Club Management

huMAn reSorCe develoPMenT

what advice
Over the last few months, I’ve been approached by an ever-increasing number of people who have recently been retrenched, for advice on what to do next. I’ve been there in the past so I can empathise with their feelings of loss, confusion, anger, hopelessness, bitterness, etc. Except for the very aged or infirm, retrenchment can offer the chance for people to pursue new and exciting opportunities. Even in times of recession there are moneymaking opportunities, job vacancies and success stories. The following five steps are worth considering:

can you give retrenchees?
When a retrenchee asks you in a tear-filled voice, “What do i do now?” what advice will you give them? Andrew Wilson of GCM gives some tips on pointing people in the right direction.
are struggling to pay accounts, talk to your creditors and try to secure more favourable terms. Consider approaching the National Credit Regulator (NCR) for debt counselling if necessary. They can be contacted on 0860 627 627 or at www.ncr.org.za. Taking an ostrich-type approach to your financial problems by burying your head in the sand will not help one bit. jobs are filled as a result of who you know and not what you know. If necessary, do the rounds of the more credible employment agencies, but focus your efforts on using your network of family, friends, ex work colleagues and associates to assist you in your career search.

Think SMAll
Look at your skills and hobbies and consider their earning potential. A lot of successful family businesses started off as a small cashgenerating venture. Try to identify four or five ways that you can make money (however little it may be) by using your talents or interests. Again, bounce your ideas, products or services off your network of family, friends and associates. What starts off small could well grow in to a viable business or could just help to tide you over until you find something more meaningful. Either way, it will give you a focus and a sense of purpose. What seems now like an insurmountable crisis, could turn out to be the seed from which a whole new and exciting career path emerges. This will only happen though if the retrenchee’s approach to developing the opportunities that retrenchment offers is enthusiastic, focused, systematic, purposeful and energetic. ■
■ for more information on human resource

PlAn A CAreer-SeArCh STrATeGy
This will involve updating your CV. Make lists. Start off with a list of all the companies that may be interested in using your skills. If you need to up-grade your skills, do so. Again, your current employer may be willing to sponsor you on a skills development programme as part of the retrenchment package. Then develop a contact strategy. It is quite a good plan to send in your CV to a specific person with a covering letter stating that you are seeking employment and will contact them personally in a few days once they have had a chance to review your CV. Make a list of the companies you are going to contact today, this week and this month. Make finding a new career path your current job. Spend at least four hours a day at it. The more you work at it the more successful you are likely to be.

leAve your CurrenT eMPloyer on The BeST PoSSiBle TerMS
Going the legal route closes doors. Only consider legal action against your employer if you really have been handled unfairly. Rather secure the best possible financial package and ask for help, if applicable, in applying for UIF. Pursue the possibilities of obtaining freelance or contract work and the possibility of re-employment should things improve in the future. In short, let your current employer know how you feel but ask them for their on-going support, encouragement and help while you struggle to re-establish your career.

Seek ProfeSSionAl finAnCiAl AdviCe
In cases of retrenchment, your available capital is likely to increase in the short-term, but your cash-flow is likely to dry up pretty quickly. You need to make sure that what capital you have is working for you and that you are spending your money on the right things. For example, it is usually better under these circumstances to use capital to pay off debt than it is to secure your capital and increase your debt. Cut down as much as possible on the use of your credit cards. If you

neTwork, neTwork, neTwork
This is probably the most important step. You need to open as many doors as possible. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about being retrenched. You’ve just joined a very large club. Talk to as many people as possible about the fact that you are out of work and are looking for help in finding a new job or a new direction. Share your feelings and proposed actions with those close to you. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. Most

issues contact Andrew wilson at consultaew@iafrica.com or on 082 575 3861.

Golf Club Management

March 2009


Peter Miller
Peter Miller spent more than 10 years at Country Club Johannesburg before moving to KwaZulu-Natal two years ago. “The offer of the position of golf director/general manager came out of the blue, and I never hesitated before accepting the offer,” he says. “I am particularly proud of the fact we were rated by Compleat Golfer as the best conditioned course in KwaZulu-Natal last year, and we have continued to set the highest standards for ourselves.” Visitors to this beautiful course near Hillcrest in the Valley of a Thousand Hills constantly rave about its imaginative design, the work of Peter Matkovich, and the way in which the manicured fairways wind through some magnificent indigenous vegetation and perfectly positioned water features and wetlands. This is a course of which Peter and his team are justifiably proud, and as it matures it is certainly going to take its place among the finest courses in the country. Peter’s experience of working in the golf industry dates back more than 15 years, when he joined Glenvista Country Club as director of golf. “I was then mentored by Jean and Hugh Gordon, who have remained close friends of mine,” he says. “My move to Country Club Johannesburg was an exciting one, and I was fortunate to be part of a team headed by Tony Beart – an icon in the hospitality and club industry. I was proud to be involved with the club through a period that saw it become a Compleat Golfer 5-Star Golf Experience facility, and during a time that saw major improvements made to the Woodmead layout. I can claim only a minor role in the success of Country Club – the staff members that assisted with golf and the pro shop were all excellent, and Lesley King did, and still does, a superb job of managing corporate days and functions.” Coming from the largest traditional golf club in South Africa, the move to the new golf estate was a radical change of pace for Peter, but he is determined that Cotswold Downs will match or exceed expectations of its members and visitors. “The developers of this estate, Keith Wakefield and Nico van Rooyen, have been a pleasure to work with, and their commitment and enthusiasm to create a really special place will ensure that we become a premier facility. I must say that our maintenance team is topnotch. Wallington Sports Turf looks after the course, with Brian Coull being our course superintendent. Brian joined us from Simbithi, and his knowledge of local conditions has been invaluable.” “Obviously a manager should be able to rely on knowledgeable, energetic and enthusiastic people in key positions, and I am fortunate in having these individuals at Cotswold Downs. One of my important acquisitions soon after I arrived at the club was to bring Denny Hunt on board. She was

eXTrA SPeCiAl MAnAGer of The MonTh

An extra special Scot
Cotswold Downs has proven to be a most successful golf estate development largely due to its golf course, which is of the highest quality. As a golfing experience this young layout rates with the best, and the man at the helm of the club is naturally proud of what has been achieved here in a relatively short space of time.
based at Selborne, and since joining us she has certainly put us on the map as far as corporate and group bookings go. Presently this trade constitutes about 25 percent of our income, and this is set to grow in the future. In the other important area of financial control, Steph Whitton, who runs this department, has done a sterling job since we opened. Our small but well-stocked pro shop is staffed by the friendliest trio you can hope to meet – Dean Le Vieux is our director of golf, who is ably assisted by Bruce McAnenay and Sane Gumede.” The golf carts at Cotswold Downs are another source of pride to Peter. “We have a large fleet of expensive carts, and Dee Cruickshank and her team ensure that these carts are regularly serviced and carefully checked on a daily basis. I am often amazed when I visit other courses to see the poor condition of their carts – often damaged and generally lacking attention. I am happy to say that our carts are in the same condition as when they were bought – we treat them as though they were our own personal vehicles.” At present, the clubhouse at Cotswold Downs operates out of a temporary, albeit comfortable and functional facility. “We have managed to accommodate up to 120 guests (seated) for corporate functions, and the bar has become a popular spot where members and visitors can watch sport on our big-screen TVs,” says Peter. The food

Extra SpEcial tiMES, Extra SpEcial ScOtcH
Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 20 March 2009 Golf Club Management

ABove: The Cotswold downs team. from left to right, back row: Steph whitton, denny hunt, dean le vieux and Blessing dlamini, Middle row: dee Cruickshank, welcome Msele, zanele Mhlanzi, Behekani Mbili and Bruce McAnenay. kneeling: Peter Miller. Below: Brian Coull, Cotswold downs’ course superintendent, and Gilbert Chagwe his right-hand man

and beverage functions are presently outsourced. “We will soon have our Leisure Centre up and running, and then I will be determined to earn our Compleat Golfer 5-Star Golf Experience status to add to our other accomplishments,” says Peter. “In the meantime, we are all aware of the fact that the current economic climate is going to see visitor rounds being reduced quite dramatically, so we are determined to offer an exceptional experience which we are sure will bring our visitors back for more.” ■

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

19Th hole feATure

randpark revamped
randpark golf Club’s recent renovations have transformed its 19th hole into a contemporary, relaxing facility that now offers great views of the course. As far as revamps go, this is one of the most successful.
It might well be asked whether a clubhouse is really that important. For some, as long as the structure is big enough to accommodate members and visitors, it will suffice. Indeed, there are clubhouses that have been constructed with seemingly scant regard for aesthetics, poorly planned in terms of flow, and places that are not particularly inviting. The estate boom has seen some weird and wonderful clubhouses being built – some completely over the top, in-your-face creations that scream rather than whisper, presumably built only to impress, and where form has obviously taken precedence over function. There are clubhouses that bear the legacy of well-meaning committees of years past, where various alterations have resulted in a sort of ‘house that Jack built’ – with alterations tacked on as budget allowed. In some cases, vain attempts to fashion the proverbial ‘silk purse from a sow’s ear’ would suggest that it would have been better to demolish the complete structure and start again – although it would be a brave committee that would suggest such radical action. Traditionalists might well bemoan the fact that far too much money is being spent on trappings, that the golf course is the heartbeat of a club and that the course should be the sole focus of improvements. Presumably these die-hards choose to ignore the revenue or potential revenue generated by clubhouses and their facilities. Few clubs have the luxury of doggedly maintaining their true identity as a golf club – catering only for golfers, and specifically male golfers. Many golf clubs rely heavily on functions that are not golf related, and when they lose this business they either have to hike their membership fees or shut down. Randpark Golf Club, with its two courses and large, monolithic clubhouse, bravely undertook a project to revamp its 19th hole, and most would have to agree that this undertaking was an astute investment. There is no arguing with the numbers – since the completion of the work, turnover has

with fantastic new views of the course, randpark’s revamped clubhouse is bound to be a popular spot for years to come.

increased by 37 percent. The original Randpark clubhouse was built in 1970, and although this somewhat cumbersome structure underwent various face-lifts over the years, the general feeling was that it needed major surgery. “A priority was to create one bar,” says Doug Bain, the club’s general manager. “Particularly on Saturdays, half the golfers would sit downstairs, while the other half would move upstairs – we actually had the crazy situation where we would conduct two prize-givings for the same competition. The previous layout encouraged members to form cliques – but in creating one bar we wanted to make it big enough to accommodate everyone without compromis-

ing its atmosphere.” He also explains that besides making the new bar more accessible, the aim was to breathe new life into the look and feel of the facility. “While modernising the clubhouse, we were careful not to overdo it, and the look had to fit with the club,” he says. The large balcony with its contemporary flexible roof covering does create a soft, relaxing atmosphere, and the departure from the stuffy ‘men’s golf bar’ is a vast improvement. “We wanted our members to use the area as a social meeting place, where family units might also feel welcome. In changing the culture of the place, which includes relaxing dress codes, we feel we have succeeded in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.” ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management

Turf MAnAGeMenT

Growing in a
There are so many factors which will influence the success of the grow-in, a few of which are mentioned below.

golf course
the grow-in of every golf course is different, and there are so many factors which will affect the way a new golf course progresses during this early period. Managing this phase is as much an art as it is a science, writes turftek’s Murray Veitch
for some reason there is a shortage of water, the survival of the new shoots will be compromised. There always seems to be teething problems with any new irrigation system, which puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on the greenkeeper who has to try to keep the new grass plants alive. No new grow-in project should be started without a guaranteed supply of sufficient water. To rely on rainfall is at best a gamble. Because new grass plants will require frequent watering to prevent them from drying out, considerably more water must be used initially. Once the seed on the greens is wet, it cannot be allowed to dry out at any time. The irrigation system also needs to be regularly checked to prevent erosion occurring due to stuck irrigation heads which are not turning. Obviously exposed soil which has not been completely covered by grass is extremely susceptible to erosion. barriers would have been erected and these barriers need to be maintained until there is sufficient grass coverage to protect the soil. Many grow-in projects have been prolonged due to erosion damage which requires relevelling and topdressing in order to get the surfaces back to their correct profiles.

The SiTe
Every site has different soil conditions, climate conditions and topography. Soil samples will need to be taken in order to determine which fertilizer programme is best suited. During the grow-in phase of a golf course the fertilizer requirements are much higher, and can be as much as 10 times more than the regular fertilizer dosages. During the planting of the grass, the pre-planting fertilizer must be incorporated into the soil as the soil samples dictate.

weed ConTrol
Weeding can become an extremely costly exercise on brand-new fairways which have been sprigged or seeded. It is important to apply a pre-emergent herbicide before doing any planting. This will save many man-hours during the grow-in phase where hand-weeding would otherwise have been required.

how The GrASS iS PlAnTed
Grass can be seeded, sprigged or sodded. Each method will have a different grow-in requirement. Sods are the quickest to cover, but are a lot more expensive than seeding or sprigging. Seed and sprigs, although cheaper, do run the risk of erosion damage. There is also a higher risk of a weed invasion into sprigged and seeded fairways.

The greens will require the most attention during any grow-in phase, especially if they are planted with bent grass. It is important to have a set watering and fertilizing programme for the greens. The putting surfaces cannot be allowed to dry out at any stage. The maintenance programme on the greens should include topdressing and verticutting once they become completely covered. These cultural practices are important in order to control any thatch build-up right from the outset. The cutting height of the greens will gradually be lowered as the greens become 100-percent covered. The first cutting height will be about 8mm, gradually being reduced to about 4mm or lower. Every greenkeeper will have his own strategy on how to get the greens into playable condition, but a reasonable target is to have them playable after about eight weeks. The truth is, growing-in a golf course is more about feel than pure science. ■

eroSion ConTrol
There must be a continual emphasis on protecting soil that has not been covered by grass. During the construction phase erosion

TyPe of GrASS
Different grass types spread in different ways. Kikuyu will spread by sending out runners called rhizomes and solons, and spreads a lot quicker than Cynodon which spreads in much the same way. Bunch grasses such as some of the cool season varieties need to be seeded at high rates so that the bunches are closer together. Each grass needs to be managed differently and this only comes with experience.

wATer requireMenTS
During the grow-in phase water is critical. If

highland Gate has been put on hold, but the fundamentals employed in growing in the course were carefully observed.

Golf Club Management

March 2009


The environMenT

environmentally friendly
golf course management
Can an environmentally friendly course be practical, profitable and sustainable?
The fact that the resources of this planet are being depleted goes without saying. The scientific facts supporting the rate at which this is occurring, even allowing for some inaccuracy and exaggeration, are alarming. Our generation is being warned that this rate of consumption is not sustainable without causing real and lasting damage to our planet. This general increase in what could be called ‘environmental awareness’ has meant that more people are questioning what it is that they or others do (or don’t do) that negatively impacts our sensitive environment. A certain portion of the criticism levelled at golf courses is clearly politically motivated, but does not detract from the fact that the copious amounts of water, fertilizer and poisons used on the average golf course mean that much of this criticism is valid. Leopard Creek, Blair Atholl and Eboste are recent developments that have implemented strategies from their early construction phases through to the day-to-day management of their estates. This has ensured that not only is their ecological footprint reduced, but that historic degradation is reversed and the environment restored. It is true that these are ‘big-budget’ developments and can thus afford to implement what are generally perceived to be costly interventions required in an environmental programme. The truth of the matter is that it is not costly (or impractical) to implement an integrated environmental management programme (IEMP) which will make an immediate and noticeable difference to any golf course. In general terms, golf courses impact on the environment by virtue of their water usage, the vegetation they support and the poisons and fertilizers they use. with a growing population, many of whom do not have access to clean, much less running water. Some would say that in the near future wars will be fought over clean water rather than oil. Water is a barometer that illustrates the shortcomings in the management of the other two factors – it is easily wasted or polluted and not cheaply sanitised. The recycling of so called ‘grey water’ emanating from the showering facilities at clubs has proven to be a viable option. The resulting water is used on the course in water features (actually part of the cleaning process) and eventually even as irrigation water. biggest factor contributing to the pollution of ground water and the lowering of pH levels in the soil. As pH levels decrease, important nutrients become bound to the soil and are thus unavailable to the root system. The obvious response to the poor growth is to apply more fertilizer, thus compounding the problem. Chemical fertilizers tend to be water soluble, meaning that they are fully dissolved during irrigation and, if not absorbed while in the root zone, they are leached into the ground water system and lost to the plant. Genuine organic fertilizers are high-feedvalue blends (on par with their chemical equivalents) made from natural ingredients and, by definition, contain no chemicals. Their mode of action differs from traditional chemical fertilizers in that they are broken down by microbial activity in the ground, and not made available by their solubility. This means that it is not necessary to irrigate immediately after application (as they do not burn) and their sustained release profile basically means they last longer in the soil after each application. Simply put, sensible course management means embracing water-wise practices, converting to indigenous flora and embracing organic fertilization – before it is too late. ■ Tel: 011 954 5763 • Fax: 011 954 3216 e-mail: info@talborne.co.za www.talborne.co.za

The choice of grasses, shrubs and trees to be grown on a golf course contributes not only to the amount of on-course labour and management required, but also largely determines the total water requirement of the operation. Generally speaking, the previously popular alien varieties are fast-growing and attractive, but tend to have a high water requirement. Species indigenous to our country and climatic conditions may be slower growing, but they are hardy with a lower water requirement. With the proliferation of indigenous nurseries, it is possible to purchase a good supply of reasonably priced, established trees which are suited to any particular area of the country. After planting they are relatively robust and require less maintenance when compared to most exotics. When it comes to grasses, the rule is that the more exotic the grass the more water, fertilizer and care it requires. The everpopular kikuyu strain not only has a high water requirement relative to other grasses, but is also highly invasive, meaning that the species has a high labour requirement for its management and control.

wATer uSAGe
Recent changes to water legislation, specifically its ‘ownership’ (the right to access and the use thereof), has become a hot topic. The fact is that South Africa is a dry country

ferTilizerS And PoiSonS
The indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals, specifically poisons or fertilizers, is the single


March 2009

Golf Club Management


new Club Car fleet for Eagle Canyon
CSE Equipment Company (Pty) Ltd, as the sole distributor of Club Car in Southern Africa, has been in the turf industry for the past 15 years and has an extensive distribution network of branches throughout major metropolitan centres of South Africa. The introduction of Club Car’s new Precedent i2 car has been well accepted into the Southern African market. Eagle Canyon, one of its most valued clients, has recently purchased a new fleet of 70 Precedent i2 Club Cars. Eagle Canyon Golf Estate is situated in what was once an old quarry, west of Johannesburg. This ‘Colorado links’ course provides unprecedented challenges with all 18 holes running through the valley of the canyon, featuring water on almost every hole. Eagle Canyon Golf Estate has it all, with a truly magnificent clubhouse, fully stocked pro shop, driving range, golf academy, full catering and conference facilities and the superb Senshi Spa and Wellness Centre. The magnificent clubhouse setting overlooks the golf course and mountains with more than 3 000 hectares of golfing estate and 10 dams. Ray Finch, CEO of Eagle Canyon, recently said: “The relationship between CSE, Club Car and Eagle Canyon, during the first three years of operating through a rental of 70 carts, was one of excellent service and customer satisfaction. The calculations we did when ascertaining the financial implications of an outright purchase, as well as the costs of maintaining our own fleet with our workshop mechanic, led us straight back to Club Car with consignment stock and service levels in the event of breakdowns being foremost in the decision. We felt that the long-term maintenance availability of Club Car spare parts and costs thereof was crucial in making this a worthwhile purchase. “All of this is superseded by the amazing upgrades in the carts technology, adding to a truly five-star golfing experience.” ■

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Tindrum 8/006

Seen AT The SuMMiT

ABove: from left to right, diarmuid herlihy (AdPM Consult) and howard Swan (Swan design, uk) with Professor Magnus enell and Maria Strandberg of the Scandinavian Turfgrass and environment research foundation. long after dairmuid’s presentation, howard still hadn’t woken up. lefT: from the left, dave usendorff (inside right), rowan Garmony (All Golf Group), John Bland and GCM’s John Botha. John Bland seemed very concerned about the poor condition of The links. riGhT: from the left, Matt Mcnulty (design ireland), enver hassen (SAGA), Janyne Marais (PGA of SA) and nomasonto ndlovu (SA Tourism). nomasonto and Janyne seemed rather uncomfortable with the way enver was looking at them.

The packed banqueting hall after someone shouted: “who is paying for this round of drinks?”


March 2009

Golf Club Management

Seen AT The SuMMiT
lefT: Arabella’s kwakye donkor (left) opened proceedings by singing the title track off his latest album – MC larry Gould wasn’t impressed. riGhT: despite clear signposts, some of the delegates still needed directions. Below riGhT: from the left, Gary Marais (royal Johannesburg and kensington Golf Club), Compleat Golfer’s James ferrans (kneeling) and Pete richardson (legend Golf estate).

lefT: A distraught ingrid diesel explaining to Compleat Golfer’s Simon Turck how sad she is to be leaving fancourt after 18 years of service. riGhT: ex South African cricketer Barry richards explaining just how far outside the line the ball had pitched yet the idiotic umpire still gave him the finger.

Golf Club Management

March 2009


Randpark Golf Club – proudly sponsored by Sports Sands

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The lAST word

farewell to fancourt

After four golf summits held at Fancourt, it is time to move on, and rather than taking the industry to the summit, it makes sense for the summit to move to the hub of the industry, writes John botha.
From the time that the first Golf Summit was held, some of the more cynical in the trade might have viewed this jamboree as merely a way for Fancourt to fill rooms at a relatively quiet time of the year. If it was, the idea worked, and there are certainly worse places to spend a day or two. There might have also been criticisms levelled at the choice of certain speakers, and the fact that topics discussed were a little too broad-ranging, rather than concentrating on a specific theme. There is no pleasing everybody all of the time and, if nothing else, the summit initiative did bring different people in the industry together, and the bar did a roaring trade. It is pointed out that of the six golf estates opened last year, five of these are situated within a 200km radius of Johannesburg, and judging by the amount of delegates from Johannesburg, it would make sense for this get-together to be held closer to home for the majority. There is no doubt that the summit would attract more delegates if it was held in the Golden City. But more importantly than the venue, it has been encouraging to see a different attitude shown by everyone involved in the industry over the last few years. We have moved away from the ‘every man for himself’ way of thinking, and the exchange of ideas and sharing of information is bound to benefit the game and everyone involved. For the most part, professional jealousies have been put aside, for at least the duration of the summit. Healthy competition is healthy, but bun-fights over turf (literally and figuratively) can benefit no one. I am reminded of my trip to Zimbabwe last year were it was glaringly obvious that, in spite of serious challenges, the golfing culture there continues to survive – but only through cooperation between everyone in the industry. There may still be fierce rivalry between clubs, but when the chips are down they are only too happy to help each other. We still have some way to go in certain areas, as illustrated by an experience I recently had. I was playing golf with a certain club captain who almost gleefully told me that a course nearby had effectively ‘lost’ its greens. He made no secret of the fact that his club was hoping to benefit by this misfortune. I have also heard a lot of talk recently of clubs that have come under serious financial strain, and before we are out of the woods a few more will feel the pinch. To take any joy out of another’s hardships is contrary to the spirit of this game and all it stands for. If the golf summit achieves nothing more than fostering goodwill among service providers and all stakeholders in this business, it has been a great idea. All credit to Ingrid Diesel and her team who got the ball rolling on the right line, and it must eventually fall into the cup, even though this means tamping down a few spike-marks and allowing for a few ‘mulligans’ to be taken. ■


March 2009

Golf Club Management