In the latest of our series of getting to know the people behind the golf clubs in South Africa, we stop off at Hermanus Golf Club.
Give us a brief rundown of your journey.
I grew up in Hermanus and joined the club in 1994 and have been associated with it for over 27 years in some or other form. I started my PGA apprenticeship in 2006 under Julian Shaw and worked at Hermanus Golf Club for many years before I was appointed golf operations manager at Arabella. While at Arabella I was approached to get involved with a project in Zambia, upgrading Nkana Golf Club and its facilities. There I started the first golf academy for juniors. I was part of the Zambian Open organising committee. After Zambia I was a consultant for a golf operations company in Central Africa. In December 2020 I was appointed golf operations manager at HGC.
How did you get into golf?
My dad and my two older brothers used to play and I started playing golf from when I was four. I never really had any aspirations to play on Tour.
Many people think that being a golf operations manager means you are on the course three times a week. How often do you get to play?
When you start off in the golf industry everyone thinks you play a lot, but that is not the case. I play golf on some of my days off. This is only about three to five times a month and most of those rounds are usually a quick nine holes here and there.
What are some of the differences in managing a 27-hole facility as opposed to an 18-holer?
A 27-hole facility allows the greenkeeping staff to have nine holes available to attend to every morning without any hindrance, and even some days when it is quieter. A further benefit is that there are always 18 holes available during hollow tining. The nice aspect of a 27-hole facility is that the members can play three different courses. HGC makes use of a morning and afternoon configuration, which allows us to accommodate 120 players in the morning and 180 players in the afternoon. Each course can accommodate 60 players at a time.
I imagine the course is quiet for nine months of the year but gets pretty busy over the December holidays.
Hermanus used to be a small fishermen’s village that attracted mostly South African holidaymakers, but the town has expanded immensely over the past 30 years. It has a high population of retired people, and a lot of them are members and have time to play. Young and established professionals who use golf as a networking tool also live in Hermanus. Our club is not as quiet as most people think.
What are some of the perks and challenges of working at a club like Hermanus?
It is one of the most beautiful towns in South Africa. In winter, Hermanus is slightly warmer than Cape Town and in summer it is a bit cooler. I love a place where there is a vibe, and there is always a buzz around the club with people young and old. Some of our challenges became prominent during Covid when many of our members were unable to travel abroad during the winter months, resulting in a much larger number of golfers in our town during lockdown. Due to this we could not accommodate as many visitors as we would have liked to due to limited tee times.
Do you think we could see a professional Tour event held at Hermanus?
At the moment there’s no talk of hosting any professional Tour events at the club, but the course off the back tees is a great test and I’m sure if it ever does happen the Tour players will enjoy the challenge. I would love to see a professional event being hosted at HGC.
How do you ensure visitors have a memorable experience at Hermanus?
Visitors are vital to all golf clubs. If they come to HGC, they should be treated as any other member or player. We have a very capable and friendly team at the club and we all know how important it is to make sure every player has a memorable experience every time they play the course or set foot in our club. Our members support us all the way and they encourage us to maintain a high standard of service. You should never rest on your laurels so it is important to keep looking for areas to improve to make the visitors’ experience more memorable.
What is the membership structure at the club like?
The average age of members is over 60. As mentioned earlier, most of the members are retired people and they love playing golf. Our membership is more or less the same as the numbers before Covid. Figures show that Hermanus has been one of the fastest-growing Zoom towns in SA. This has resulted in many young professionals joining the club. With the help of our pro shop staff and coaches we have started to get the junior programme going. Part of this programme is the par-three course that we have set up on the third nine, which will encourage the kids as it is a fun course to play. Even some of our Friday Sundowner competitions are now making use of this ‘course’.
– Interview by Brendan Barratt
– This article first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!