When golf enthusiast Steve Daly and a group of like-minded residents took over the running of the golf club at the Sardinia Bay Golf & Wildlife Estate, they had little idea what lay ahead of them.
Now, two years later, the club manager looks back on their achievements with pride, while acknowledging that improving the golf offering remains a work in progress.
Daly said estate developer Pete Featonby-Smith, who is a member of the Homeowners’ Association, handed over the responsibility in 2020 after it had been managed privately for many years.
“Essentially his message was, ‘If you are complaining about the course, why don’t you run it?’.
“So, on February 1, a group of golfers on the estate formed a committee and took over. The only instruction from the developer was, ‘Don’t let it cost the residents money’.
“We set things up,” explained Daly. “I was the president and we appointed a club manager and then six weeks later Covid hit us.”
With the lockdown and no traffic through the course, the manager decided he could not continue and suddenly Daly found himself thrust into the dual roles of president and club manager.
It was not something he had anticipated when he retired to the Eastern Cape in 2019 from Johannesburg after selling his business in the fast-moving consumer goods market.
Daly said he and his wife initially settled in Kenton as they had a holiday home there but discovered that the lifestyle didn’t quite suit them.
“After my wife did some research, we found this house on the Sardinia Bay estate, and we moved here just over two years ago.”
His first impression of the golf course was not all that positive.
“It was a bit of a goat track and I wasn’t really enamoured with the course, although we loved it here on the estate.”
Because of his love for the sport, he found himself involved in the administration when the HOA took over.
“When we started, I was the president and retired and the other four members were working, so it landed in my lap to oversee the daily operations,” said Daly.
“Then it was agreed that – in the interests of good corporate governance – I could not be president and club manager at the same time, so Wayne Broedelet took over as president.”
When the first lockdown ended in June, 2020, Daly said they were flooded with golfers.
“Everybody wanted to get out and there was chaos for a while,” he recalled. “There I was trying to take the green fees while controlling tee-off times with guys all over the course.
“It was challenging, but we traded out of all that and put things in place like employing a bartender and constantly working on the course.
“Gradually, we saw progress and then what happened is that we started making more than we were spending. To the surprise of everyone we paid back the advance from the HOA and still came out with a nice profit.”
Since then, Daly described a journey to transform the course into a viable option for golfers, while understanding that they served a niche market.
“Look, the guys who play at Humewood or PE Golf Club are not necessarily going to play here, but there certainly has been a rise in the standard of our golfers,” he said.
“We understand it is an entry-level course, but we are doing everything we can to encourage golfers to stick to the etiquette and protocols of the sport.
Although the club is affiliated to the SA Golf Association, many players don’t have handicaps.
“They just want to have a good time on a decent golf course. We don’t have competitions on weekends but are very busy with the morning tee-off times (7am to 11am) on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Daly felt the secure environment and wildlife were drawcards.
“You can play here and get very close to springbok and zebras and, being an estate, it is very safe. There are no concerns on that score.”
Although it has been a steep learning curve, feedback has been positive.
“I think we started with one weedeater,” said Daly. “Now we have our own machinery to cut the greens and fairways.
“We have also received assistance from Humewood, for which we pay, with things such as hollow tining.
He said projects are ongoing and although some are long term, it was satisfying when these took shape.
“We have upgraded to six golf buggies, which is a great way to generate income. It helps with funding to improve our facilities.
Although residents are automatically members of the club, it caters for the public as well. Standard, senior and student packages are available.
Tee-off is between 7am and 4pm from September to April and between 8am and 3pm from May to August.