Festive Season message from GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn

As the end of one of the most challenging years in recent history approaches, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all golfers a safe and restful Festive Season.

When we look back on 2020, few people will have fond memories of a tumultuous year where the Covid-19 pandemic threw the world as we knew it into a tailspin.

It is likely that life will never be the same again following the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and my deepest sympathies go out to anyone who has lost family members or friends to the Coronavirus.

Despite the challenges, there were some positives for GolfRSA to draw on.

In February, as part of the SA Swing of events that included the SA Stroke Play and African Amateur Championships, we successfully hosted AON SA Amateur Championships at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

This was the first occasion that the men’s and women’s amateur championships had been played together and the event was a massive success. Casey Jarvis and Caitlyn Macnab each achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Stroke Play and Match Play doubles.

In March, as the Coronavirus took hold of the world, GolfRSA had some difficult decisions to make.

In the interest of player safety, we immediately cancelled or postponed national golf tournaments and tours. We then set about creating a risk mitigation strategy that would reassure government that the golf industry was fully prepared and equipped to safely reopen under strict Covid-19 protocols.

While golfers grew understandably restless, we worked closely with the PGA of SA and the Club Management Association of SA to engage with government and we were relieved to finally receive the green light for golf facilities to reopen in June.

A large number of people within the golf industry have suffered financial setbacks due to the closure of golf facilities for a total of 77 days. Many facilities were forced to cut costs and reduce staff numbers in order to survive and while rounds of golf have been encouragingly high since the end of lockdown, some facilities are still recovering.

Caddies and casual workers, many of whom live close to the breadline, have arguably been hit the hardest. GolfRSA launched the Help Fund to assist these vulnerable members of society and, over a five-month period, we were able to raise R4 million, which was distributed in the form of food vouchers to over 4 000 caddies and casual workers.

This amount was raised through operational savings at GolfRSA, voluntary staff salary cuts, donations from benefactors and a series of raffles and auctions.

In October, HNA recorded the highest number of monthly rounds ever on its system, which indicates that the sport, with its natural leaning towards social distancing, is heading in a healthy direction.

It was wonderful to see professional golf back on our courses this year and I’d like to thank the GolfRSA protocols team for their help in ensuring the co-sanctioned events ran without any hitches.

It is vital that we all continue to take great care and follow the Covid-19 risk mitigation recommendations as we enter the festive period, where so many more rounds of golf are played.

I do hope you take this time to relax and reflect on a difficult year, but most importantly, please stay safe and healthy and I will see you in 2021.



Grant Hepburn