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A fresh approach to virtual clubs CGGU – a new plan for new golfers Course photography


Golf Club Management

February 2010





Snippets of news from the last month 4 Why to consider a career as a greenkeeper 6



A different point of view CGGU tackles virtual clubs

10 13


The importance of capturing the moment


Sun City’s environmental programme


Environmental governance and compliance – carrot or stick?
By the time this issue of GCM has landed on your desk our environmental panel would have met for the first time to draft an idiot-proof, basic guideline for golf courses to follow in attempt to become environmentally compliant. I happened to be visiting a workshop at a golf club recently, and I couldn’t help noticing a plastic drum lying in a refuse bin, which was about to be transported to the local refuse dump. The drum had contained a highly toxic chemical, and if anyone has ever been to a municipal dump, they will know that an army of people sift through the waste looking for anything they can use or sell. Yes, the drum had had a warning label on it, but that was not going to stop an illiterate person from using it to carry water, and there is no need to spell out the disastrous consequences this could have had. At the very least containers of chemicals should be properly destroyed, or at best returned to the suppliers who could hopefully recycle them. What we hope to do during the coming year is not to threaten and cajole golf clubs into becoming more environmentally friendly, because experience shows that this will simply not achieve the desired effect. What we would like to do is to reward those clubs that are making a sincere effort to clean up their act, and thankfully there are more than a few of these around. We are currently drumming up support from various potential sponsors, and I am confident that by the end of the year we will have a system in place that will recognise clubs that have embarked on a meaningful tree-planting programme and those that have eliminated invasive alien vegetation. I would appeal to all of you to let us know of any noteworthy achievements – be it controlling erosion, reducing chemical use or, perhaps most importantly, using less water. A common argument against implementing certain measures is that clubs do not have the money, but the truth is, the more eco-friendly one can become, the less money is needed to be spent. There is an interesting case study involving moles. Moles, a curse on any golf course, love nothing better than great swathes of well-irrigated turf. By allowing areas of rough to flourish, and if need be planted with natural veld grasses and other shrubs, populations of rodents will establish a habitat. These will in turn attract owls and other birds of prey, and once these have moved in, suddenly the mole population will be reduced – far more effective than traps and snake-oils I assure you. Of course some of your members will whine about losing the odd ball in the newly established natural areas. This would be an opportunity to suggest that the member visit your resident golf pro to have a lesson, which might help him hit the ball in the intended direction. Finally, the Nedbank Golf Challenge was played soon after our last issue had been printed, and it must be said that the Top Turf team and Sun City’s director of golf Antonie Els can take a bow – not only was the Gary Player Country Club in superb condition, but this course has become one of the most eco-friendly in the business (see page 17).

Dave Hansen of De Zalze



Setting the standard



Is a career in greenkeeping all it’s cracked up to be? Turn to page 6 to find out. (Picture courtesy of Smith Turf)

JOHN BOTHA E-mail: bogeyfree@mweb.co.za Cell: 082 498 7380 SIMON TURCK E-mail: simon@ramsaymedia.co.za Cell: 083 252 8387 JAMES FERRANS (NATIONAL SALES MANAGER) E-mail: jamesf@ramsaymedia.co.za Cell: 084 252 6373 NICKY MEARS (ADVERTISING SALES EXECUTIVE) E-mail: nickym@ramsaymedia.co.za Cell: 082 927 5408 To request your copy of GCM, subscribe to Compleat Golfer by calling 0860 100 205 (indicating that you would like to be placed on the GCM mailing list) or go to www.compleatgolfer.co.za to download your free copy.
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Golf Club Management

February 2010


‘Big guns’ at the Nedbank Golf Challenge; deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe (left) and Mohammed Valli Moosa, former minister of environmental affairs and tourism, were among the VIPs that attended the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

High praise for GPCC
GCM’s editor congratulated Robert Allenby after the Australian won the 29th Nedbank Golf Challenge. Allenby raved about the condition of the course: “There wasn’t a blade of grass out of place,” he

enthused. It is normal for the player that wins to be most complimentary, but the other players echoed Allenby’s sentiments. The Gary Player Country Club is a strong contender to be voted as the best conditioned course in South Africa.

Peter Miller (front) recently said fond goodbyes to the team at Cotswold Downs. Peter, who has managed the KwaZulu-Natal club for the past three years, was awarded honorary life membership of the club in recognition for the excellent work he has done.

Chavez declares

There was a time when Venezuela was known for its oil reserves and its beauty queens, but nowadays it is the ranting of its president Hugo Chavez that makes headlines. The Latin-American dictator’s latest campaign, having nationalised most of the country’s private enterprises, has been to close down golf courses – the land now earmarked for development of housing for the country’s poor. Venezuela has 20-odd courses, seven of which have already been closed, with more to follow. This is according to Julio

Torres, who heads the Venezuelan Golf Federation. Chavez has launched attacks on the Royal and Ancient game on national television, declaring the sport to be “bourgeois” and not a “sport of the people”. The claims that golf is for “rich, fat and lazy” people is nothing new, and we are reminded that our own officials in Cosatu have called for the land occupied by golf courses to be scrapped and used for redistribution and food production. In an about turn, another communist country, Cuba, has lifted its ban on golf and allowed foreign investors to begin developing golf courses to bolster its tourism industry.

Rob Orchard retires
Port Elizabeth Golf Club’s general manager Rob Orchard will be retiring at the end of February. Rob has been at the helm of the club for 13 years, and plans to play more golf during his retirement.


February 2010

Golf Club Management



WAYNE KRAMBECK begins new venture
Former group executive of golf for Pinnacle Holdings Wayne Krambeck has started a new management company called Universal Golf Management Services. “The business will specialise in two fields,” he says. “The first being to assist developers through the developmental stage of their golf courses, which will integrate homeowners and the estate development. This will include negotiating and advising on all contractors, including course designers, etc.” His first contract has been signed with Cotswold Downs. “I will be managing its operations with the main focus being to drive the potential of this fantastic golf course through increasing rounds and lifting service levels. When GCM spoke to him, he was in the process of finalising a contract with the Pinnacle Group involving his services with the Wedgewood Golf and Country Estate, Clarens Golf and Trout Estate and the Lagos Keys Development in Nigeria, as well as other projects. “One of my concerns regarding the future of golf in South Africa is that the game is becoming too expensive for the average income earner, but with the correct advice, costs of development and operational expenses can be reduced. Once this happens we will see and increase in rounds and the entire industry will benefit,” says Krambeck.



GCM is making the process of choosing a reputable supplier easy through an instant referral system – the GCM Preferred Supplier list, which is available to all key decision makers in the industry. Below are the first of our Preferred Suppliers. For more information or to see whether you qualify as a GCM preferred supplier, contact: Simon Turck on 082 252 8387 or simon@ramsaymedia.co.za or Natalie Shekleton on 011 301 4448 or natalies@ramsaymedia.co.za

Started in 1991, Smith Turf is the sole distributor in Southern Africa for Toro equipment. 011 284 2000 www.smithturf.co.za

GolfTimeSA delivers online tee-time reservations and golf club IT. 012 665 2299 www.golftimesa.co.za

Suppliers of Prolink GPS Management Systems. 082 901 6184 www.goprolink.com



Art, science and

Few professions offer a more beautiful workplace, but the job is not as glamorous as it may seem.

Dean Whitsen, one of the famous trio of brothers who have made greenkeeping their profession, makes a strong case for a school-leaver or even someone who is looking at changing careers to consider becoming a course superintendent.
As depressed as the job market may currently be, the demand for suitably qualified turf managers has remained strong. The fact that several companies are contracted to maintain golf courses and many other recreational facilities requiring well-maintained turf grass, would suggest that there is a shortage of individuals capable of taking on this responsibility. The huge investment recently made in soccer stadia prior to the World Cup is likely to boost the demand for greenkeepers even more and, while the construction of many planned golf courses is likely to remain on hold until our economy picks up, there can be no doubt that the golf estate market will experience another boom in the not-toodistant future. When this happens, we are likely to see a growth in related facilities such as driving ranges and pitch-and-putt courses. In the meantime good groundsmen are needed to maintain cricket pitches, rugby fields, athletics facilities and many other sporting facilities, not to mention the many government and institutional grounds. The history of greenkeeping in golf as a profession is rather blurred, and earliest references would suggest that when the game grew in popularity and moved from the traditional ‘linksland’ from which it had evolved the golf professional became responsible for the maintenance of these ‘manufactured’ courses. These individuals would also design and construct the new inland courses, teach golf, manufacture golf balls and clubs and repair equipment. As every aspect of the golf industry has changed dramatically over the years, greenkeeping has become a highly specialised profession, and more recently the course superintendent’s function has changed and developed. In the 1950s it was common for the greenkeeper to spend 90 percent of his time on the golf course, but nowadays this time has been reduced to about 35 percent and he is expected to handle budgeting, scheduling, personnel


February 2010

Golf Club Management

management, research, design and planning. The days of a greenkeeper being little more than a glorified labourer have long gone, and now those in charge of a club’s most valuable asset have become important members of a management team that is critical to the success of a private, public or estate club. As the profiles of greenkeepers have changed, it is interesting to note that a survey conducted in the United States showed that the average greenkeeper was 41 years old, had been fully qualified for 11 years, and had worked at two different courses during his career. Not surprisingly, this survey also showed that those greenkeepers that had obtained an advanced qualification and were certified earned higher salaries and could look forward to the opportunity of greater advancement. The job description of greenkeepers does vary from one position to another, but normally they are entrusted with the maintenance, operation and management of a golf course. This can involve supervising construction projects and well as general maintenance. The job also encompasses the repair and maintenance of construction equipment and the rendering of professional advice, opinions and assistance to the club’s board of directors or managing body as required. The course superintendent is also required (or should be) involved in all long-term planning meetings. He should report to one of (and only one) the general manager, green’s chairman, owner or director of golf. This is often a contentious issue, but there should always be a clear chain of command – if he is expected to take instructions from managers, club captains or every committee member this can only cause problems. Besides being responsible for the maintenance of the course and equipment, a greenkeeper might also have to look after the likes of the golf cart fleet, the landscaping of the clubhouse grounds, tennis courts, swimming pools or other recreational facilities, a sod farm and nursery and other areas. The administrative duties include the preparation of annual budgets and a range of record-keeping that encompasses payroll, inventory, weather data, maintenance procedures, pesticide applications, etc. A good greenkeeper will have an advanced knowledge of agronomy and turfgrass management practices, a working knowledge of course construction principles, practices and methods, as well as a thorough understanding of the rules and strategies of the game of golf. Besides having a high degree

Dean Whitsen is the course superintendent at The River Club in Johannesburg.

of administrative skills, he should be able to solve problems and make decisions and have a good knowledge of laws and regulations affecting all facets of golf course management, including those pertaining to safety, employment and environmental standards, to name just a few. So how does one best go about launching a career in greenkeeping? The first step is to find a job at a golf club, perhaps during a holiday or for a temporary period, as a member of the maintenance team. Another opportunity is to study at an American university, many of which offer internships at courses linked with the college. Taking this route one is virtually guaranteed employment after the completion of one’s studies. But there are other ways of entering the profession. Besides attending a college or university that offers courses in greenkeeping (these should include at least a diploma in golf greenkeeping or a diploma in sports turf technology) and then pursuing higher qualifications such as a diploma in golf course management or a Bachelor of Sciences degree in turfgrass sciences, a candidate can begin with an apprenticeship in the workplace and obtain experience before embarking on a formal education process. There are online courses available that can be done at home, or for example the Tshwane University offers a Bachelors degree in turfgrass management. The university also offers short courses in turfgrass management, turf pest control, etc. The Environmental Institute for Golf Online offers a range of courses, such as applied turfgrass physiology, advanced principles of insect pest management, risk management and communication for golf course superintendents and many more. Before choosing a career in greenkeeping, the person should realise that this will involve long hours and a lot of hard work – as with other careers in golf, it is not nearly as glamorous as it might appear, but the rewards are great. Yes, you will get to play golf, but not nearly as much as you might think. Working outdoors might seem attractive when compared with being office-bound all day and every day, but a considerable amount of time will be spent at your desk behind a computer. Being able to socialise and interact with members of your club is another plus, as is the opportunity to be creative. You will certainly learn many skills, and occasionally you will be praised when your efforts are noticed. This job does mean that your efforts can be physically seen, and in many ways you will be your own boss. Should you become one of the best in your field you will be well rewarded financially, but if your aim is to get rich quickly, you had better pursue another avenue. If are passionate about working with nature, and can handle all the frustrations that this involves, welcome to the club.

Modern greenkeepers spend only about 35 percent of their time admiring the spectacular views, the rest is spent behind a desk.


Randpark’s Doug Bain takes a look at the much-maligned virtual clubs, golf development, the role of provincial unions and our national governing body.
The mere mention of virtual clubs, golf development and our sport’s administration invariably stirs up emotion, heated debate and sometimes acrimonious discussion, especially over Charles Glass’ finest at the 19th hole. So why would I dare mix all these up in one article? While I was reading Jan Marais’ recent article (The changing face of the golf market, GCM October 2009) I was reminded of an idea I shared with the CGGU and some Gauteng affiliated clubs at a recent meeting. Firstly, I must applaud Mr Marais for a most insightful, thought-provoking article; one which contained many home truths and one that I am sure will not sit well with some, especially our amateur controlling bodies. But that is the curious thing about the truth – it often hurts. I share all of Mr Marais’ views and ideas save for one; that is that the unions could or should downsize or perhaps splinter into smaller associations or governing bodies, each with fewer responsibilities than they have at present. I believe it high time that the unions and the SAGA take a far more active, strategic and synergistic role in the control and administration of amateur golf in our country. In many cases this is happening – the CGGU has embarked on a recent strategic planning session under the astute leadership of its president, Kevin du Preez. The SAGA, I believe has also formulated a long-term business plan, something that should have been done years ago. Many clubs are facing the daunting combination of dwindling membership, ageing membership structures, reduced corporate rounds, and fierce competition from many golf estates. All the while, our expenses are increasing exponentially due to higher wage demands, increased fuel and fertiliser costs and a rand that never strengthens materially to reduce the cost of new machinery. Not to mention our dear friends at Eskom with their proposed 200 percent electricity tariff hike over the next three years. These, together with many other factors, are forcing clubs to think a little out of the box, pushing them into turbulent waters and bringing on paradigm shifts that even the most traditional of clubs are instituting. But are our amateur controlling bodies doing the same? We could ask what they are doing to meet the demands and idiosyncrasies of an ever changing golfing environment. Are they thinking out of the box, as the clubs are being forced to do? We have to retain and grow affiliated golfers, and find alternative sources of income rather than simply looking to the clubs for special perround levies, and to the already subscriptionburdened club members in terms of hiking the annual affiliation fees to cover, among other things, development expenditure? So where exactly am I going with all of this? I would put the following on the table: The SAGDB has collapsed and I am not even going to venture down the road as to why. Most club managers and committees spit blood at the mention of virtual clubs (and by ‘virtual’ I include those societies who do not have a golf course or are linked to a particular course via some form of agreement, ie those smaller clubs that offer cheap affiliation cards). I certainly sympathise with the poor pro shop staff who are forced to implement club pricing policy. In most cases this policy is aimed to prejudice these poor souls who would dare to join such a ‘loathsome’ organisation. It has become tiresome listening to club officials that bemoan the ‘scourge’ that they believe the virtual clubs to be; for 10 years, at AGMs and other meetings, we have listened to the arguments against these organisations. Virtual clubs are here to stay, whether we like or not, because there is a market for them and understandably so – why would anyone want to cough up between R6 000 and R10 000 subs for a club where they are likely to play less than five times a year? Virtual clubs do provide emerging golfers with a sense of belonging, a handicap and they make the game both more affordable and accessible for the occasional, beginner or corporate-day golfer. Traditional clubs, rather than moaning about the potential of losing members to virtual clubs, should look at their own house to see if it is in order, to see if their facilities, service levels, retention strategies (value adds) and attention to detail is up to scratch – if members are not proud of their club they will leave. Unions are, or should be, looking to initiate, drive and control their own development programmes at a regional level. Johann Rupert is sick and tired of throwing money down the bottomless development pit while the industry itself does not come to the party. So let us turn this whole virtual club thing on its head, let’s turn a negative in our industry into a positive, and let’s remove the control of the virtual club industry from the hands of the unscrupulous capitalist opportunists who have cheapened our industry and enriched

Virtually a different


February 2010

Golf Club Management

themselves and from those clubs who have prostituted themselves by partnering with these organisations. I would like to see each union initiate its own virtual club or golfer’s society. “Oh my sack,” I hear you say. “That’s going to put the unions in conflict with the very clubs they represent”. Not if it is done in a constructive and consultative manner. Surely it is far more beneficial to see the control and income of the virtual club industry vested with the unions. The clubs control the policy and constitution of the unions, the unions are there to represent the clubs and to implement policy of which the clubs approve. (Well, that is how it should be anyway; if regions have a cart-before-the-horse structure whereby they dictate to the clubs, then it is up to the clubs to change this anomaly.) Therefore it is the clubs themselves that would ultimately control the virtual club members. Advantages of such a virtual club structure/culture are or should be made to be: Giving clubs access to the database of such virtual members who live in their catchment areas. Union control over these player’s handicaps and non-score entry. Clubs can dictate entry criteria. Disciplinary procedures involving these players can be more effectively managed because the unions are more likely to care about such issues compared to a virtual club driven by maximising profits. It has been estimated that we have about 170 000 affiliated golfers in the country. When you see that the likes of Observatory GC (PlaymoregolfSA affiliation), Hillside GC and Akasia have 4 734, 2 386 and 3 360 members respectively, I reckon, conservatively, that 25 000 of these are ‘virtual club’ members paying an average of R1 000pa (PlaymoregolfSA’s cheapest membership is R1 800pa). If 20 000 of these joined the Union Players Societies about R20 million would flow into the coffers of the unions nationwide, providing a healthy cash flow for development programmes and more. Unions would no longer be sceptical about the union fees they are being paid by these virtual clubs as they will have inherent control over this. Knowing that these members are contributing directly to golf in the country, especially development, I like to believe that clubs would be far more accepting of a Union Player Society member in their pro shops than a member of Tweebuffelsmetwhateverfontein GC. Now if you were the habitual golf day pot-hunter looking to secure that commercial handicap or a genuine occasional golfer looking for a cheap affiliation, would you rather join Woods’ Tangle GC, Plaasbad GC or the Union Players Society which is endorsed by the SAGA and all affiliated clubs – no more fights in the pro shop, no more being made to feel like a second-class golfer. And if you are a club, would you rather take a booking from a member of Skukuza (who has never laid eyes on an impala let alone Kruger Park’s famous golf course), Helmut Schumacher from Worcester on his annual golfing holiday to SA that definitely does not include a round in that picturesque Boland town or Phillipoulis Gerhardus Janse van Rensburg Jnr from Akasia GC who, like me, has no idea which union he is affiliated to, let alone where Akasia is. Clubs are responsible for the make-up of union executive committees and in turn the SAGA and we should ensure that these comprise a healthy balance of expertise, eg lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs, senior managers, etc. Just like clubs, they need a healthy mix of strategic thinkers and visionaries to make brave decisions today that guarantee success and sustainability tomorrow. Personally I believe the unions will not be brave enough to endorse such a paradigm shift, but no-one can deny the financial opportunity that exists which does not have to be at the expense of clubs as these type of societies already exist – rather let’s bring all these ‘virtual’ members into a few societies controlled by the unions.

Doug Bain is the CEO of Randpark Golf Club and is currently the CMASA’s Manager of the Year.

Golf Club Management

February 2010



PROVING ITS WORTH in turfgrass management
One of the most environmentally friendly products for application in soil supporting turfgrass has been successfully tested on a soccer pitch to be used during the 2010 World Cup.
Greenmaker is a natural mineral comprising 99 percent clinoptilolite, a member of zeolite family – a group of minerals that are most useful for acting as chemical ‘sieves’, as well as being highly effective as a water-retainer. Recent testing of this wonder product would suggest that this eco-friendly substance more that substantiates the importer’s claims. At Orlando Stadium, one of the premier venues that will be used during the 2010 World Cup, the experiments with Greenmaker, conducted by contractor Turftek, came up trumps. In the first experiment, an area in the shaded portion of the pitch alongside the touchline, where severe compaction was preventing adequate drainage, an area was verti-drained using 20mm times to a depth of 150mm. A dressing mix, comprising 150kg of Greenmaker and 0.08m³ of soil, was applied. After three treatments, with 450kg of Greenmaker applied, it was very clear that the drainage has improved dramatically and the turf was much healthier than it had ever been. In the area most prone to wear and tear, in the goal mouth, an area of 30sqm was dug up and 20 percent mixture was prepared using 1.2 tons of Greenmaker with the soil. The new turf sods were planted on top of this. Again, the vitality of the new sod proved that the root system was relishing the effects of the product. The cost of treating this 30sqm area with Greenmaker came to R7 200. Greenmaker is capable of absorbing up to 70 percent of its own weight in water and nutrients and minerals, and then slowly releases these nutrients into the root zone. The product absorbs 660 litres of water per cubic metre. The three-dimensional structure and the nature of the material allows for up to 15 times the amount of absorption of nitrogen and potassium. The product also retards the leaching out of minerals. Importantly, Greenmaker is proven to absorb and bind harmful heavy metals such as zinc, manganese, lead and nickel. The correct application of Greenmaker has the following results: Improved stability Permanent improvement in structure of the growing medium Optimum water and air management Fewer problems during drought conditions Less mould Limited thatch build-up Better rooting and vitality A reduction in maintenance Better water absorption Optimum nutrient delivery Accelerated turf development Vertical drainage A reduction in leaching-out of fertilizers and turf protection substances Greenmaker, developed in the Netherlands, has been backed up with considerable research undertaken by the University of Applied Agriculture and has been analysed by laboratories such as TNO and STRI, the most recent studies taking place in January 2009. The product has now been recommended by the USGA.

More information on this revolutionary product can be obtained from Anthea van Breemen: Tel: 082 773 1960 E-mail: anthea@avbmarketing.co.za Website: www.greenmaker.nl


February 2010

Golf Club Management


Errol Mills, vice president of the CGGU, has never been one to mince his words. The Central Gauteng Golf Union, by far the most powerful in South Africa, looks set to bring some order to the current free-for-all when it comes to club memberships, which has benefited a few clubs that embarked on a campaign to simply ‘sell’ handicaps and affiliation cards.
The ‘virtual club’ debate has raged for some time, and it has become clear that to the vast majority of traditional clubs they are an anathema. Of course those golfers that have bought their memberships online have argued that their own clubs had little for them, and for mostly purely economic reasons they signed up to receive an affiliation card and with it the handicapping service. They have mostly been viewed with a jaundiced eye, and even brandishing an affiliation card, their legitimacy has been questioned. It is fair to say the clubs that sell these ‘virtual’ memberships are only in it to make a quick buck, and fostering the culture of the game has never been high on their agenda. “The Central Gauteng Golf Union has compiled a business plan that will take the union through to 2011. This plan identifies the fact that we need to grow the game – we have to grow memberships of clubs and we need to increase rounds of golf,” says Errol Mills, vice president of the CGGU. “We have also identified certain unscrupulous, capitalist opportunists in the marketplace that have created these ‘virtual clubs’ targeted at some 200 000-odd golfers in the Central Gauteng region of responsibility. In order to bring some sanity back into the golfing industry the CGGU will form an entity that will be called ‘Get Ready for Golf’,” he says. Get Ready for Golf will: Enroll potential golfers Introduce golf to individuals through open days Teach golf etiquette Teach golf rules Certificate each member Manage coaching programmes with resident coaches Arrange golf games at pre-booked times at our golf clubs Manage handicaps through a central server

set to tackle ‘virtual clubs’

ABOVE: The Gauteng Union’s C team were triumphant during the International Teams tournament hosted by Maccauvlei. BELOW: President of the CGGU Kevin du Preez (left) with Errol Mills.

Issue affiliation and handicap cards Introduce golfers to clubs and facilitate membership for them at agreed entrance levels after a pre-determined period of membership with Get Ready for Golf Create value-added benefits to membership Eliminate the barriers for entry of non-affiliated golfers to traditional clubs. “All this and lots more will create increased membership at our golf clubs, more rounds, and deny the unscrupulous bandits who currently operate in the marketplace,” says Errol.

Golf Club Management

February 2010



SAGA server’s integrated
A momentous period in the history of the South African Golf Association (SAGA) has culminated in the introduction this year of a series of significant developments in the way the golf handicapping system is run.
The consequence of the significant developments in the way our handicapping system is run is that all affiliated golfers will be provided with an integrated solution involving a handicap central server linked to a ‘mustgo-to’ website and a handicap card with cross-swiping capabilities at all golf clubs, at no extra cost to the golfer. Central to the developments is the fact that the SAGA has recently secured an agreement with National Golf Network (Pty) Ltd (NGN) that will see the SAGA buy out the contracts held between NGN and individual golf clubs. The buy-out and other related developments have positive implications for all stakeholders in amateur golf in South Africa, including individual golfers, golf clubs and companies providing software services to golf clubs. As the roll-out of new services to golf clubs and golfers gets underway, it may be helpful to sketch a picture illustrating how the various recent developments ‘fit together’. contain a database of all affiliated golfers. The SAGA will provide an SAGA affiliation card (which will also act as the SAGA handicap card) to all affiliated golf clubs. These magnetic cards will be personalised and distributed to golfers through affiliated golf clubs. The SAGA handicap server is to be managed, on behalf of the SAGA, by Albatros Datenservice GmbH (Albatros), a company the SAGA appointed after a thorough and transparent tender process concluded last year. Albatros already operates successfully in a number of European countries and has a tried-and-tested system for central handicapping in an environment in which a number of service providers operate, making it ideal for the South African context.

The picture starts with the introduction of the SAGA handicap server. The SAGA handicap server will act as a repository on which the scores of all affiliated golfers will be stored and official handicaps of these golfers calculated in accordance with the SAGA handicap system (the method of calculation). It will form the single source for the verification of official SAGA handicaps. The SAGA handicap server will also

Indicates contractual relationship







Between the SAGA and golf clubs Albatros to fulfil technical obligations of the SAGA The SAGA to invoice Cost to golfer R100 (incl VAT) for the first year

Albatros contracted to manage on behalf of SAGA Albatros to fulfil the SAGA’s technical oblibations in terms of the SAGA handicap system and its implementation Calculate and verify handicaps

Must-go-to golf portal for amateur golf View handicaps and record scores via different means including cellphones


February 2010

Golf Club Management

Under the terms of a five-year contract, Albatros, who are to set up a South African company to fulfill its obligations, will provide the hardware (file servers), the software and the expertise to develop the SAGA handicap server system. It will provide a state-of-theart system that will enable the SAGA to fulfil its various objectives, including, among others, managing the affiliated golfer by means of a unique identification system provided by the SAGA handicap card, providing a statistical basis for the revision of the SAGA handicap system, providing affiliated golf clubs and the affiliated golfer with a facility to query a given affiliated golfer’s handicap, and enabling stakeholders like affiliated golf clubs and golfers to extract data, both current and historical. To do this, Albatros will house its file servers in South Africa. It will be setting up an office in Cape Town, initially, Durban and Johannesburg. A call centre will be established in South Africa as well. support for the hardware and software installed on the hardware at each club. By the start of February 2010 the SAGA handicap server will have been populated with all current data of all affiliated golfers and golf clubs. By this time, a piece of software will have been remotely downloaded, by Albatros onto terminals at all golf clubs, ready for activation on an agreed date. This will provide the new and user-friendly web them with a similar agreement, but this time between the SAGA and each golf club, in which the SAGA, through the SAGA handicap server, will fulfil its obligation to provide the golf club with a handicap system and a means of providing its affiliated golfers with a handicap. The SAGA has ensured that the new system will not cost the individual golfer more than is stipulated in the current NGN and club agreement. The handicap fee for

“... an inextricable link between the SAGA Handicap Server, the SAGA website, golf clubs and affiliated golfers is created...”
interface used by golfers and golf clubs to interact with the SAGA handicap server. As mentioned earlier, the SAGA will issue new SAGA affiliation cards which will operate as the new official handicap card. This will replace the current SAGA affiliation cards (black cards branded with the Srixon logo). The current handicap card (a black card branded Srixon) will operate on the swipe card readers at golf clubs to start with, however, after an agreed period of time, only the new SAGA handicap card will be recognised as the official handicap card. As these current NGN and club agreements expire, the SAGA intends replacing the first year is R100 (including VAT) and from there on in accordance with the NGN and club agreements. The NGN and club agreements will remain valid, meaning that those golf clubs under contract remain bound to the terms of the agreements irrespective of the fact that they are being assigned to the SAGA. The upshot of the system is that an inextricable link between the SAGA handicap server, the SAGA website, golf clubs and affiliated golfers is created, enabling each to operate optimally, while strengthening the whole, all to the benefit of South African golf.

A critical development in the overall picture is that the SAGA website is going to be overhauled. The objective will be to create a ‘must-go-to’ golf portal for news, information, scores, etc, but also a dynamic site where golfers can access their handicaps and handicapping information. To facilitate the effective operation of this service, there will be a strong working relationship between Albatros and an SAGA-appointed website partner.

The final element to the picture is how individual golf clubs fit into or link to the SAGA handicap server and the SAGA website. As far as the SAGA’s buy-out of contracts between NGN and golf clubs is concerned, the SAGA, through its partner Albatros, will fulfil all of the technical obligations NGN has been required to fulfil in terms of the NGN club agreement, only in relation to handicap services. The SAGA will provide replacement hardware for clubs on a regular basis going forward. This hardware will be given to Albatros that in turn will ensure that golf clubs receive the hardware and that it is successfully installed on behalf of the SAGA and operates reliably. Furthermore, Albatros will ensure that golf clubs receive adequate

Golf Club Management

February 2010



CAPTURING THE MOMENT Where art and science meet
Grant Leversha is recognised as one of the best golf course photographers in the business, and the quality of his work has received local and international acclaim.
All too often an enthusiastic manager or club member will volunteer their services to take photographs of their course and, however well-meaning, the results fail to do justice to the subject. Perhaps not wanting to offend the amateur photographer, clubs will then use these images for their scorecards, marketing brochures or for their websites. Anyone who has ever tried to capture that special image will know that there is a lot more to producing a great photograph than simply aiming and clicking. “It does amaze me that some golf clubs and certain estates do not seem to realise the value in showcasing their major asset in the best possible light,” says Grant. “I understand the current economic climate may be impacting on budgets, however, this attitude of compromise on having their sizeable investment professionally photographed has, in many instances, been the norm for years.” “Golf is a visual sell. More rounds translate into more revenue, and what better way to entice potential clientele with tantalising images. It is not merely a case of capturing ‘pretty pictures’, but rather combining aesthetics, the design elements and the challenges facing the golfers that comprise a quality artistic statement,” he adds. The equipment necessary to capture these images has to be leading edge. A thirty-five millimetre digital doesn’t cut it, and only medium-format sensors in excess of 60 megapixels can compare with, and in some instances better, 8”x10” sheet film, which was the benchmark in the film era for landscape art in the past. Some of SA’s top-rated courses understand this and that’s why Leversha is often the preferred choice when it comes to commissioning photographic services. His high-profile clients include some of South Africa’s leading hotel groups and corporates who value golf to be integral in their brand leveraging strategies. He is currently working on producing a collector’s volume of his work entitled Within an African Eden – Golf Courses of Southern Africa, which has the official endorsement of our leading golfing icons and captains of industry. It is to be a publishing first in South Africa across all genres of book publishing. The man behind the lense – Grant Leversha. Contact Grant on grant@grantleversha.com or go to www.grantleversha.com.


February 2010

Golf Club Management


Sun City recognised for the resort’s

Sun International’s Sun City Resort was the recipient of FEDHASA’s Imvelo Award as the best single resource management programme for water management. The resort was also a finalist in the Energy and Waste categories.
Imvelo, Nguni for ‘nature’, recognises leadership in the industry that represents the building blocks of sustainable tourism. The development and implementation of an environmental management system began at Sun City in 2004 when Isa Swart was appointed as environmental project manager. In 2009, Sun City received international recognition when it received certification by Green Globe International, a sustainability programme affiliated to the UN World Tourism Organisation. Both Sun City’s golf courses, the Gary Player CC and The Lost City, have further improved their environmental ratings and have been awarded ‘Birdie’ status by the Fairways programme. Numerous efforts have been made to implement environmental best practices, including the installation of a wash bay sump that separates oil from water (with the water being recycled back into the system) and the reduction of waste. Improved cultural practices to reduce water and chemical usage have resulted in a 30 percent reduction in pesticide use. The use of slow-release fertilizers also helps to prevent runoff and leaching. There is also an ongoing programme to eliminate alien vegetation on the resort. Considerable work has also been rehabilitating the water hazards, cleaning them out and stocking them with tilapia.

Antonie Els, director of golf at Sun City, is proud of the resort’s environmental efforts.

Go green, Go solar!
Self-adhesive, golf cart solar panel technology is now available in South Africa. Manufactured from revolutionary ‘amorphous silicon’, these easy-to install panels are flexible, lightweight, almost unbreakable and able to produce watts constantly during direct sunlight, under artificial/fluorescent lighting, in cloudy or shady conditions – and even during rain or stormy weather!

est New Voted ‘B he Year’ t Of T A Produc 009 PG at the 2 e Show is nd Mercha , Florida! ndo in Orla

Increase the endurance of your golf cart or fleet by 30% or more Improve your cart’s range between charges Extend battery life by up to two years Reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact Minimise your consumption of utility power by going solar

For enquiries and orders contact JLINX Renewable on:
TEL 021-863-1566 JOHANN 082 3310332 EDDIE 083 5445553 E MAIL info@jlinx.co.za WEB www.jlinx.co.za


Sandy Burnard, general manager of Kloof Country Club and executive committee member of CMASA, suggests a few survival measures that can insulate a club against the ravages of an economic downturn.
A strong club is one that can ride out the tough times. We need to make sure that our plan is able to handle the soft economy or an industry slump and we should have built-in flexibility within our plan in order to react quickly and nimbly in the face of change. for cash don’t buy it. Should you want to upgrade your facilities or improve your course, put a plan in place to do these upgrades and improvements when you can afford them. other clubs in your area and reach agreements to give reciprocity rounds of golf on certain days at certain times. Members like to play different courses, so let them have the opportunity to do so. Get your members on board with regards to finding and introducing new members by offering a club-specific incentive for every member they introduce.

Your club’s constitution may not allow you to introduce new categories. Sit with your committee and come up with new and cheaper membership categories, call a special AGM and introduce them as soon as possible. Clubs need to get their members back, especially from virtual clubs! We can offer them better facilities and a place where they belong for a very competitive price. Just ensure you do your homework when introducing new categories. When it comes to rounds of golf, go in a different direction – offer summer specials, winter specials, Christmas specials, etc. Know your average rounds per day as well, come up with specials to attract your members and their visitors on the off-peak days and maximise your round capacity on the course during these times. Think out of the box!

Remember that cash is king! Ensure that your members pay their fees upfront and perhaps introduce upfront greenfee options that allow members to play as many rounds as they like at a reduced fee. By doing this you get your money upfront, and with cash you can pay your suppliers. Clubs can no longer afford to carry debtor’s books. Don’t allow members to run up accounts, let the members load their accounts with cash and then they can spend the credit they have. Allowing members to have accounts at the club is not a good idea because it means employing more staff to work in your accounts department to collect money every month. Often this causes bad debt and legal fees when handing members over for collection. We read articles all the time stating our economy is at a low and that we must get out of debt. We all try to apply this to our personal lives but forget that our clubs need to do the same. If you can’t afford to buy it

Good customer service will differentiate you from another club or similar enterprise. In an economic slowdown your members may be looking to cut costs as well. If you can, boost your customer service efforts towards existing members and be transparent with them regarding the importance of them being members. If you do this it’s more likely they’ll stay you with during the slowdown and support you and your management team. Do a survey – ask you members what they want – then act. STAY IN TOUCH: Let your members know you value their business by reaching out to them. Use newsletters, postcards and SMS. MAKE GREAT SERVICE A PRIORITY: Excellent customer service requires training your staff and constantly reinforcing the message that customers come first. Start with the little things, such as a standard way of politely greeting your members when they arrive. One of the most important customer strategies is to set up a system for responding to members

If you can afford to do it, a slowdown can be the perfect time to introduce a new product or category of membership that makes your club attractive. Surprise the industry and your competition while they’re busy worrying about their own future. At the same time work with

Postal address: Suite 374 Private bag X09 Weltevredenpark 1715


February 2010

Golf Club Management


Kloof Country Club’s turnover has dropped some nine percent in recent times, which does not include rounds lost because of the infamous mist coming down, but Sandy’s disciplined fiscal policy means that the club has remained in the black.

and visitors enquiries or complaints. The last thing you want is for your employees to provide inaccurate information to members or visitors, fail to provide a solution to a problem or quote policies that may not address the situation. Your goal should be to resolve issues during the initial customer contact or, when that’s not possible, within one business day. If this is also not possible, keep in contact with the member or visitor until such time as the issue is resolved. Do not leave customers hanging. Staff need to know exactly where to look or who to go to for answers. While it’s natural for new employees to rely on the wisdom of more experienced ones, you don’t want all that wisdom to walk out the door when someone quits. MANAGE MEMBER/CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS: Try to develop a history on your members. You can do this by ensuring you have the correct computer system that allows you to get

this kind of information. It is good to identify your members that are supporting the club in all areas and reward them.

a good back-up plan ready and never over react. You need to be a strong character to survive in this industry.

You may be surprised to find that your employees are willing to assist with ways to cut costs and improve service and products at your club. Smart employees realise their job status is tied to the overall health of the club. Communicate with them, show them respect and involve them in the decisions. Without your dedicated employees you don’t have a club. Empower them! As a manager at your club, it is important to keep your chin up, don’t always think about the failure or what could fail – be positive, take all employees into confidence, get strength from your employees and members, keep all communication channels open, have

The costliest mistake you can make during a rough period is to focus entirely on cutting costs to survive and abandoning new developments or upgrades. Keep up to date with repairs and maintenance. New categories of membership or improving your facilities can help differentiate you. When times improve, you don’t want to be caught with an empty development pipeline. Ensure that your plan is set out correctly and don’t plan any of your major capital spend in the first four months of the year! First see how many members resign and how many you gain before spending on capex items.

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

February 2010



Sound structure and strategy breeds success
De Zalze’s CEO Dave Hansen brought a wealth of experience in the leisure/hospitality industry to De Zalze Golf Club, and together with his highly motivated team he sets the example of what a 5-Star Golf Experience is all about.
Oudtshoorn-born Dave Hansen may have come from an area famous for its ostriches, but when it comes to running his golf club he has never been one to stick his head in the sand. Beginning his working career in the oil industry, in 1981 he became involved in a successful Squires Loft restaurant chain. During his years as a manager and a partner, and later as an owner-operator, besides acquiring a range of business skills, he learned a thing or two about people; those that worked for him and those who were his customers. Beginning its life as Spier CC, De Zalze’s course was first opened for play in 2001, and while the estate was being developed, the golf operation treaded out of temporary premises without any real customer facilities. But once the clubhouse was opened in 2003, De Zalze became recognised as one of South Africa’s premium golfing facilities. Of


Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 20 February 2010 Golf Club Management

course De Zalze has always had a lot going for it – a well-designed Peter Matkovich layout situated in one of the most beautiful regions in South Africa. Importantly, Hansen’s clear vision of the golf market in this region and the subsequent implementation of some astute planning has seen this club establish itself as a firm favourite. “Structuring our golf model along the lines of a leisure/hospitality business, we decided not to outsource (a buzz-word of the 1990s) certain revenue-generating departments such as food and beverage and golf retail. We also built our own golf course maintenance team, and when necessary we call in specialist consultants. Having full ‘in-house’ control of all aspects of the golf journey allows us to maintain and constantly improve standards of service, as well as providing positive cash flow for our business,” he says. “Many clubs lose vital revenue and margin from retail, F&B and golf rental income – this puts pressure on the only avenue they are left with to increase revenue – greenfees, subs and entrance fees.” Hansen points out that the most important management tools for running a successful golf operation includes planning and understanding where your club fits into the industry. “Factors such as region or location, whether you are in the golf tourist market or whether you are a member-driven club, must obviously shape your strategy, structure and management style. As living things, golf courses require 24-hour, 365 days a year attention. It is vital to be in touch with every department on a regular basis,” he says, and stresses the importance of training and keeping staff motivated and happy. “Having a content team is mandatory – the appointment of suitable managers and supervisors, coupled to sound HR policies and practices, is a critical key to success,” he adds. “Having the right controls in place, using proven systems to extract relevant data to manage products, margins and pricing is also vital to our business model, which includes accurate income and expense budgeting coupled with monthly reporting.” Hansen is also a stickler for attention to detail. “This is key in all departments,” he stresses “It is the sum total of small things

Dave Hansen’s captain’s dinner was a rousing success – turn to page 22 to read about it.

that make the real difference, whether on the golf course or around the clubhouse.” Anyone who has every visited De Zalze will know that this is a ‘pure’ golf club, and not a ‘wannabe’ convention centre or private function venue. “I believe that we cannot be all things to all people. I would suggest that clubs should decide whether they are in the golf business or the wedding business,” he says. “I do not believe that our regular Saturday golfers should be compromised to satisfy the occasional bride. “There can be no doubt that the golf industry is changing worldwide and rapidly – the pressure to keep up and to compete is relentless. We should all be aware of exactly where we fit into the golf matrix. The price of survival in a presently over-traded market is to adopt sustainable business practices, and it is imperative that each course embraces sound labour practices and assists in uplifting the surrounding communities by employing locally. The training of staff and supporting local industries is also key to a sustainable and successful future,” he says.

Under Hansen’s leadership, from day one De Zalze embraced the philosophy of ‘people, planet and profit’, and became the first golf club in South Africa to be certified as a member of FTTSA (Fair Trade in Tourism SA). This award is linked to fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. De Zalze’s turnover of staff since opening has been negligible – the team here clearly enjoys their work, and they do a great job of making members and visitors feel welcome. This club may lack the bells and whistles of other golf estates – do not look for a hair stylist, a masseur service or a beauty salon, you won’t find them, but this remains a 5-Star Golf Experience. “By not being the ‘most expensive and most exclusive’ we ended up with golfing visitors being happy to spend more money in the golf shop and on food and beverage. We adopted a ‘gate-to-gate golf journey’ philosophy, which consistently focuses us on service delivery, and our policy of ‘under charging and over delivering’ is appreciated by customers.”

Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 Golf Club Management February 2010 21



De Zalze’s recent captain’s dinner has set new standards by simply showing that a little extra effort can result in a five-star function with all the bells and whistles.

Dave Hansen, who is also our club manager of the month in this issue, was an exemplary host.

De Zalze might have been on the Winelands golfing map since late 2000, but it was only last year that the club officially opened its membership to golfers who were not property owners on the estate. “It seemed fitting to ‘start’ things off properly,” said GM of De Zalze Dave Hansen, “so we decided to organise a chairman’s dinner.” And in true ‘Hansen’ style, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill club event. The De Zalze clubhouse was designed with such events in mind, and a more perfect venue would be hard to find – the outside patio area flowing into the spacious indoor lounge area that allowed the 90-plus members and guests (who included WP Rugby chairman Pat Kuhn, Andre Markgraaff and a select few Stormers) to wine and dine with plenty of elbow room. With MC Casey Galloway guiding the way, the three past chairman of De Zalze, Ivan Palframan, Johan van Reenen and Flip du Plessis, all had the opportunity to pay tribute to the club’s history. After dinner, the assembled guests were entertained by Compleat Golfer’s editor Brandon de Kock as the main speaker, who explained his appearance thus, “Clearly Dave blew the budget on the food and wine!” And although it might have been meant as a joke, a cursory glance at what was on offer revealed a standard that will be very hard to equal by any club in the country. Wines for the evening included the best of Retief Goosen, Waterford, Kevin Arnold, Spier Private Collection, Kleine Zalze (naturally) and Waarburg. And for the malt fans, Alan Schuman of Bell’s got his mates at Brandhouse to add a bottle of Bell’s Special Reserve to each table and throw in a tasting of Singleton, Talisker and Glenkinchie single-malts. As for the cuisine side of things, try a meticulously presented seafood starter and a perfectly medium-rare ribeye steak and frites for mains, prepared by Craig Cormack and Bertus Basson from the award-winning Overture restaurant in Hidden Valley Wine Estate. Oh, and let’s not forget a selection of fine cigars to finish off with – at cost! It must be remembered that Dave and his team have spent years building up relationships with the various wineries and chefs in the area, but still, the evening simply proved that your average ‘captain’s dinner’ really can be something very special. And although it would be crass to talk costs for the evening, one guest’s comment summed things up rather neatly, “You know, The Goose Expression retails for about R250 – and that’s more than we paid tonight for a seat!” Enough said.


February 2010

Golf Club Management