Getting out of a bunker can be a tricky prospect, but it always comes down to just three key points: your creative mind visualising the best possible outcome, your set-up at address and the quality of your strike at execution.
When it comes to creating unique member experiences at a golf club, the theory behind a well-played bunker shot rings true. ‘Creativity’, ‘set-up’ and ‘execution’ all take centre stage on the coveted guest-to-member quest for every golf facility. New-age concepts and amenities from adventure putting courses, to FootGolf, touchscreen hitting bays, on-course comfort stations and outdoor cinema experiences on the driving range are becoming the norm.
For the golfing purists out there, is there still much of a line in the sand?
Full disclosure. As the son of a modest golf pro, I grew up on the golf course. Most mornings were spent on the back of a motorbike holding a can of spray-paint in one hand while clutching on to my dad with the other. He would drive around the course, park on the side of each green and then show me the giant steps required to pace out the metres, from front to back and side to side, before we decided on the next pin placements.
I quickly fell in love with this game as well as the people at my first home club, Warren Hills. From the office staff (where my gran worked) to the barmen, pro shop team and some of the most charismatic caddies you can imagine.
On busy days at the club, my brother and I would have putting competitions well into the night, under the faint light stretching from the verandah. The only short breaks we had were to sneak in through the service door of the bar to grab a Crunchie and Fanta from Grandpa Lloydy. His face lit up every time he saw our little heads popping up from behind the bar counter, as Shephard the barman would always make our entrance as theatrical as possible. The club and the people who frequented it were what made our experience unforgettable.
Long before the golfing bug bit my brother and me, those elements were ‘the hooks’ that got us into this great game. How different is that to what newcomers go through these days, when looking for a club to join? The ‘new member’ seeks out clubhouse amenities and personal connections as much, if not more, than they search for the slickest reading on the stimpmeter when choosing a club to join.
Golf clubs that have achieved the balance between offering a pristinely maintained layout and world-class amenities are hard to find, but they are out there. Locally the front-runners are, without question, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, Serengeti Estates and Pearl Valley.
One of my new favourites and the most recent addition to my golfing bucket list is Troubadour Golf & Field Club in Nashville. It’s an 18-hole championship layout by Tom Fazio with five-star on-course comfort stations and practice facilities and no dress code.
An open-air cinema, wellness centre, custom-built putt-putt course, boat club, archery range and even their own live music amphitheatre no doubt bring in a continuous stream of new members each year (source: thetroubadourclub.com).
Despite being around golf my whole life, I admit that my own journey has revolved more around the people I’ve met along the way, than any round I’ve ever played. I hope your home club and the people in it are a source of joy for you too – because if we rely on a great round of golf to keep us happy, we might all soon be wearing a straitjacket.
– This column first appeared in the June 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!