It’s hard to believe Francois Swart, the newly-appointed General Manager at Randpark, is only 31 years old. But this KZN-born man is an energetic, enthusiastic, hard-working, friendly and goal-orientated man who has been constantly on an upwards move ever since leaving Amanzimtoti High School where he played all the sports with a good deal of skill.
His attitude to life runs on these lines: “Don’t hold back, I need to grow, work hard, and bite off the next piece on the way to the top.”
First on his career list was a Hotel Management Diploma (he also has financial and business management diplomas and is working towards a B.Comm degree) before he became the Food & Beverage Manager at St Francis Links working alongside Jeff Clause.
Then, at just 24, he was appointed General Manager at the five-star Dawson’s Trout and Game Lodge near Badplaas in Mpumalanga.
Both these posts lasted just under three years before, warming to the golf industry, he took up the demanding job of Food & Beverage Manager at Randpark with its 2400 members.
And it was here that he came under the mentorship of Doug Bain, one of the country’s finest CEO’s ever who tragically passed away last year after a brave battle with cancer at just 42 years old.
“Working closely with Doug was extremely valuable and, besides gaining knowledge about the hospitality industry, I learnt about the financial side of running the club,” Swart says.
“The loss of Doug was a massive blow to the whole team at Randpark, not to mention his wife and two children. And to me, especially since he was also young, he was an absolute inspiration.”
The knowledge that Bain had imparted to him meant that Francois was now a possible successor as GM and after a six-month probation under the guidance of the committee he was duly appointed and he’s loving the challenge.
After a tough time financially as a result of the R22-million upgrade to Firethorn and the extensive flood damage on top of that, the club is now back on a sound footing and marketing itself aggressively.
A limited membership special is in place where newcomers pay no entrance fee, while Swart has plans, for instance, for a Randpark Running Club, using the two courses as a top quality, after-hours facility.
He is also toying with the idea of people joining what he calls a Randpark Nine-Hole Club.
“The club has five nines at our disposal – two each at Bushwillow and Firethorn, and of course the par-3 Creek 9 facility in Montgomery Park. Some people say golf takes too long but you can play nine holes in two hours, and just an hour if it’s at Creek 9,” he explains.
Swart insists that the club is in a healthy position. “Our food and beverage side is doing really well, as are our golf carts and golf days.
“Then of course we have the superb clubhouse, pro shop and driving range as well as The Brewery and Martin Whitcher’s very fine golf school.
“On top of that we have two fabulous golf courses, but I think most important of all is the friendly membership culture we have at the club. Our goal is always to look after our members first.”