Umhlali Country Club in Ballito on the KZN North Coast has been voted the 2019 Club of the Year, proving that you don’t need to be one of the big clubs to thrive in challenging economic times.
Umhlali, ranked No 68 among the Top 100 Courses, might be considered by some as a surprise winner of this new award from the Club Management Association of South Africa, yet their record in recent years suggests they were among the favourites.
Umhlali is a club which under recently retired General manager John Boyce placed an emphasis on adhering to modern business procedures, pushing the boundaries of data collection, and building customer satisfaction. They twice received the John Collier Award for good governance and environmental compliance in 2016 and 2019, the only KZN club to have been honoured. Their clubhouse received an excellent renovation in 2015, enhancing that experience.
Umhlali scored 96.5% in the seven criteria developed for CMASA in partnership with RCA Consulting. These are more objective and transparent, and inclusive of the collective club. The seven pillars are Benchmarking and Finance, Training, Legal Compliance, Environment Sustainability, Transformation, Guest Experience and Member Satisfaction, and Communication and Participation.
For new GM Derick Reinke the award was the result of years of hard work by management and staff at Umhlali to ensure every area of the club is improving, enhancing the value for members and guests. “It’s been a process at Umhlali in a challenging economic climate,” said Reinke. “Our approach was to add value to everybody visiting the club. We didn’t just discount our product. If people can have an enhanced experience at your club, then they will see value in what they’re paying.”
Reinke says the new CMASA criteria and guidelines served as the perfect checklist to ensure his team were meeting the standards they want as a leading country club in South Africa.
“We used all of those areas as a guideline to running a proper facility, and it showed that our members are generally happy with how we are running the club. How do we maintain this? It’s all about the finer things and the attention to detail, listening and seeing what the needs are. It’s the small things that make the difference, not just big things.”
Reinke is confident that the club industry, under the leadership and guidance of CMASA, is in a positive space.
“It’s been a tough past five years, but you can feel it changing and there is now a positive vibe. The managers are enthusiastic through CMASA’s guidance. I think the industry will grow from strength to strength
in years to come.”
Umhlali received R50 000 from Jonas Club Software, which has to be used for staff training at the club.