Drive to expand golf resorts' range
IT is just over four years since the debenture-based, non-profit Golf Resorts Club was launched. And in the process of keeping its promise to founder members of expanding into holiday resorts other than golfing ones - here and abroad - it has witnessed membership leap in 18 months from 100 to 240.
The Golf Resorts Club, based at Dainfern Estate in Johannesburg, was launched to coincide with the boom in golf estate development. Its rationale? Not all should be lost for individuals and companies whose budgets do not stretch to a patch of land, not to say a house, overlooking the fairway of an Erinvale, a White River Country Estate or a San Lameer.
Along with their families, friends or business associates, people should be able to spend holidays on golf estates for a fraction of what it costs to buy in to one of them. In other words, Golf Resorts Club membership provides the perfect opportunity for golfers and other holiday- makers to own only the time they use and not a whole property.
And though on the surface the scheme appears to work against the sales efforts of golf village developments, developers view it as a shop window that broadens the market appeal of the golf resort concept as a whole.
Golf Resorts Club debentures cost R1 600 each and there is an annual subscription fee of R42 a debenture. A one-off sum of R16 000 - that is 10 debentures - plus an annual R420 buys you a four-night midweek break a year in perpetuity. A weekend break costs R24 000; a full week R40 000; and a full week, which cannot be split, at peak time - Easter, July or December - costs R80 000 (50 debentures).
Marketing director Toby Deenik - who acknowledges that word of mouth is now making his job easier - points out that subscriptions have escalated by about 5% a year, "whereas the investment value of the debentures has increased by about 27.5% a year". Therefore, a membership makes it possible for you to hedge against inflation by eliminating future accommodation costs.
Members are permitted to accumulate debentures or use them in advance - a tactic pinched from the timeshare market - so that, says Deenik, there is no threat of the "what you don't use, you lose" practice of some syndicated property ownership schemes.
An attraction, too, is that membership comes with the guarantee that the club will buy back the debentures at the initial purchase price after 10 years. However, since the debentures are fully transferable, members are entitled to negotiate their own sales.
Golf Resorts Club now owns villas - mostly three-bedroom ones - at Selborne and San Lameer on the Natal south coast, White River Country Estate (the original showhouse), Sun City, Kruger Park Lodge and Erinvale in Somerset West. What's more, recent developments have added to the appeal of a membership.
One is that the club is now affiliated to timeshare giant Resort Condominium International (RCI). This gives members the right to exchange their Golf Resorts Club holiday for one at more than 3 300 worldwide resorts, including game, fishing, snow-skiing, mountain, beach and, of course, golfing ones.
Second, the club recently concluded a reciprocal arrangement with Sable Bush Lodge, currently under construction on the 10 000 hectare Mabula Game Reserve, a two-hour drive from Johannesburg. This gives members a stake in a patch of local Big Five bushveld. Sable Bush Lodge, available to members from September, sleeps eight adults in four en-suite bedrooms and is furnished, self-catering and serviced.
"Also," says Deenik, "in June we are acquiring a second unit at Erinvale, where our existing one overlooking the 18th fairway is the most popular of the club's destinations. We plan a second one at San Lameer and are also holding talks with Johnnic Properties with a view to acquiring a house at its new development, Cape Atlantic."
The club has also launched a loyalty programme, providing members with exclusive offers and discounts, and a referral system based on multilevel selling techniques that provide members with incentives to get their friends, families and colleagues involved.
"The only thing we haven't got in our portfolio," says Deenik, "is a property at a top-class trout development. That's what we'll set our sights on next."
ý Linda Stafford is a senior editor of the Financial Mail