Randpark Ur­ban golf des­ti­na­tion

Randpark Club of­fers not just 36 holes of golf, but a com­plete life­style ex­pe­ri­ence.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life Passings - By Stu­art McLean

GGolf clubs to­day face new chal­lenges to re­main vi­able and suc­cess­ful, and Randpark Club has re­de­fined it­self as the “ul­ti­mate ur­ban golf des­ti­na­tion” in its quest to be recog­nised as one of the lead­ing so­cial golf clubs in South Africa.

The man­age­ment team and com­mit­tee at Randpark see the club’s role to­day as of­fer­ing its mem­bers more than just a place to en­joy the sin­gu­lar pur­suit of golf, which the Cen­tral Gaut­eng club has done over many years with its im­pres­sive 36-hole fa­cil­ity. In re­cent years it has mor­phed from a golf club into a com­mu­nity life­style club.

Com­ple­ment­ing the large club­house, on ei­ther side of it, is the lux­ury Fair­way Ho­tel & Spa, the wed­ding chapel and The Brew­ery. In­side the club­house, with all its bustling ac­tiv­ity, is the Red­hub cy­cling stu­dio, a Kidz space, and con­fer­ence fa­cil­i­ties. Out among the two cour­ses are run­ning trails which are used for fun runs. There’s a fresh­ness about ev­ery­thing.The Golf Shop has been ren­o­vated re­cently, while the dou­ble-decker driv­ing range has been given a makeover and part­nered with Call­away to of­fer a new state-of-the-art fit­ting stu­dio, retail shop and re­pair cen­tre. It was re­launched on June 23 un­der new range man­ager Phil Sim­mons, for­merly the golf direc­tor at Mount Edge­combe.

Randpark’s meta­mor­pho­sis be­gan in 2011 with a R26-mil­lion in­vest­ment into the up­grade of its two golf cour­ses by Golf Data. They were mod­ernised and re­branded in 2013 as the Bush­wil­low and Firethorn, to re­align the two cour­ses with Randpark Club.There were ma­jor changes to the cham­pi­onship Firethorn lay­out, with Golf Data de­signer Sean Quinn build­ing seven new holes.

“The cour­ses needed mod­ernising and flash flood­ing from the stream flow­ing through the cour­ses was a ma­jor prob­lem on Firethorn, con­tin­u­ously dam­ag­ing greens and sur­rounds.The cour­ses were re­designed to im­prove these prob­lem ar­eas and en­hance playa­bil­ity,” says Fran­cois Swart, Gen­eral Man­ager of Randpark.

Swart took over the reins at Randpark fol­low­ing the pass­ing of visionary CEO Doug Bain in 2014. Swart had been the club’s food and bev­er­age man­ager for six years, and work­ing to­gether with club pres­i­dent Garth El­liott he is fo­cused on estab­lish­ing the club as a brand that peo­ple as­so­ciate with qual­ity and en­joy­ment, not just golf. Last year he achieved his Cer­ti­fied Club Man­ager qual­i­fi­ca­tion from the Busi­ness Man­age­ment In­sti­tute, Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity, the 13th per­son in South Africa to do so.

“I see this qual­i­fi­ca­tion as es­sen­tial in lift­ing the club to the next level,” says Swart. “Our aim is to add value for the mem­ber, and cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for their fam­i­lies.A new mem­ber pack­age at Randpark will in­clude 3 nights at the Fair­way Ho­tel, a 30-minute cus­tom fit­ting as­sess­ment with our res­i­dent teach­ing staff at the re­vamped range, and a cy­cle ses­sion with Red­hub.We add value at Randpark.We are re­launch­ing the ten­nis academy, and con­fer­enc­ing is strong.”

Randpark, with a large fleet of 80 carts, is strong in host­ing cor­po­rate “one-stop shop” golf days. On the day I vis­ited Randpark both cour­ses were be­ing used for a golf day in­volv­ing 296 golfers, fol­lowed by din­ner in the club­house where the club was ca­ter­ing for 310 guests. It’s the abil­ity to look af­ter such big groups that gives Randpark a sig­nif­i­cant edge

over its ri­vals.

With cy­cling pop­u­lar among golfers, it’s in­ter­est­ing that Red­hub have moved their bike fit­ment stu­dio from the Cresta Cen­tre to a golf club. Randpark has 2 500 mem­bers, of whom 1 700 are full mem­bers.The two sports are a good fit, and is added value to the Randpark mem­ber.

Swart is am­bi­tious about Randpark host­ing an­other co-sanc­tioned Euro­pean Tour event on the new Firethorn course, which was the venue for two South African Opens, back in 1995 and 2000. It re­cently held the Sun­shine Tour’s Fi­nal Q School event, and an IGT Tour out­ing. Randpark is also home to the Cen­tral Gaut­eng Golf Union of­fices, and their North­ern Open is held at the club in March.

“We cer­tainly would be keen to be part of the Euro­pean Tour if of­fered an op­por­tu­nity, and hav­ing 36 holes makes us an at­trac­tive venue,” he said.“Both cour­ses have now set­tled and ma­tured and the fair­ways are lush again.The green-belt sur­round­ings at Randpark make for re­mark­able pic­turesque scenery, and play­ing our cour­ses feels like an es­cape to the coun­try­side.”

The mem­bers en­dured four years of work and dis­rup­tion dur­ing the re­mod­elling of the two cour­ses, and the club did lose some of them, es­pe­cially dur­ing the construction of Firethorn when it was closed for nine months. “I ap­plaud those mem­bers who un­der­stood the im­por­tance of the ren­o­va­tions by get­ting in­volved and in­vest­ing in the project,” says Swart.“Both are now great cour­ses and a true test for golfers.”The Firethorn moved up to No 30 in the 2016 rank­ing of Golf Digest’s Top 100 cour­ses.The Bush­wil­low was No 61.

Randpark ac­tu­ally has a third course, al­though it’s not on the prop­erty, but a few kilo­me­tres away at Roo­sevelt Park.They op­er­ate and con­trol Creek 9, a 9-hole pub­lic fa­cil­ity Par 3 course. It’s a

proper Par 3 lay­out, not a Mashie, and is fre­quented by play­ers of all ages and vary­ing abil­i­ties, with a re­laxed dress code. It’s also the home of Foot Golf in South Africa.

Main­te­nance at Randpark is su­per­vised by two head green­keep­ers, Roger Innes (Firethorn) and Ivan van Heer­den (Bush­wil­low), and they re­cently ini­ti­ated a novel monthly chal­lenge to mem­bers which in­volves the two of them play­ing a bet­ter­ball match against two mem­bers, with the losers hav­ing to plant two River Bush­wil­low trees supplied by the club.

The Fair­way Ho­tel & Spa over­looks the first hole on the Firethorn course, and the prac­tice putting greens ad­join the ho­tel’s out­side en­ter­tain­ment area. It is an ideal base for golfers vis­it­ing Gaut­eng. For golf groups there are seven specific golf vil­las, each with a four-bed­room unit, plus kitchen, lounge and braai area.The king­size bed­rooms have their own TV, bath and shower, and can ac­com­mo­date two peo­ple.The ho­tel restau­rant is named Balata, a fa­mil­iar word for an older gen­er­a­tion of golfers who grew up play­ing golf balls with a thin balata rub­ber cov­er­ing.

The golf vil­las at Fair­way Ho­tel & Spa.

The 18th green of the Firethorn course in front of the Randpark club­house.

From top to bottom: The new par-5 sec­ond hole on the Firethorn course; Randpark GM Fran­cois Swart with head green­keep­ers Roger Innes (left) and Ivan van Heer­den

(right); A fes­tive crowd on the up­per deck of the club­house.

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