fairways & beyond

Umhlali Country Club is one of the busiest and best-run clubs in South Africa, and, despite the heavy traffic on the course, it is a wonderful golfing experience.

At only 5 943m off the back tees, it isn’t a long walk, but it feels endlessly interesting as it winds through the beautiful indigenous vegetation of the local area. It’s the trees, the occasional water hazards and the slopes which keep the attention as each round progresses.

Having started life as a rural nine-hole track, it was upgraded by the then greenkeeper Peter Matkovich in the 1980s, and the man who became a premier course architect is still part of the fabric of the club. He still plays golf there on a frequent basis and greenkeeper Robin Naicker consults with him when he visits the club.

How does the club keep its membership happy? They continually do member-retention drives, and customer satisfaction training is done frequently to give players a great experience from arrival to departure. They send out annual surveys to see how they can improve and they have instituted some of those suggestions, like their change-room revamp and now the halfway revamp. Umhlali strives to keep a happy family environment.


Greenkeeper Robin Naicker

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In 2019, Umhlali won the annual John Collier Top Club Award on World Environment Day in June. This award is given to the club that leads the way in applying the principles of people, profit and planet into their value system, embracing environmental compliance, good governance and transparency. Umhlali strove to meet the goals in environmental management planning, biodiversity, landscape and cultural heritage, water resource management, turf-grass management, waste management, energy management, education and working environment, communication and public awareness, governance, risk and compliance.

In that same year, the Club Management Association of Southern Africa (CMASA) declared Umhlali to be Club of the Year. The areas where they excelled were standards in management, financial control, productivity, and service and efficiency of the club through ongoing training and practice. They received outstanding achievement for the pillars of transformation, statutory compliance and training. Umhlali was recognised again in 2022 when they won the Club of the Year award.

Having hosted a Sunshine Tour tournament in 2022, and the GolfRSA Women’s Inter-Provincial Tournament in early October, Umhlali has worked out how to manage big incoming events. For starters, there is no specific parking reserved for members – it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes admin between the organisers and management of the club to ensure tournament officials and players are happy. And they keep members happy too, for example by arranging good reciprocal rates with neighbouring courses when the course is closed.


Everything you need to know about what’s on offer at Umhlali Country Club.

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On course, the best positions to watch tournament action from are behind the 4th tee box, and the 18th green which looks down the 17th fairway. At this spot, you can watch your favourite player come down the final stretch.

The toughest hole on the course is the stroke-one 15th, which is a 422m par four. Coming from a drivable par four, on the 14th, the 15th starts with a demanding drive with out of bounds to the right, and a water hazard and a tree to the left. The approach shot is up the hill, with a steep run-off to the front left section of the green, and two greenside bunkers protecting the green on the left. The 15th also has the slopiest green on the course.

All this is achieved under the guidance of general manager Derick Reinke, a well-known and respected individual in the golf industry. He runs a tight ship but has an open-door policy to staff and members as well as visitors. He is known to manage his staff well and allow his managers to run their sections/staff without too much interference. He enjoys the competitive and social sides of playing golf at the club.

African Turf Academy

The African Turf Academy had some of its students assisting with work on the Umhlali course during the Women’s Inter-Provincial Tournament this month. 

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