Randpark Urban golf destination
Randpark Club offers not just 36 holes of golf, but a complete lifestyle experience.
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 18th green of the Firethorn course in front of the Randpark clubhouse.
The golf villas at Fairway Hotel & Spa.
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.