Four Ways St Francis Links Overcame The Challenges Of Covid-19
When handed a lemon, make lemonade1st Apr 2022
Now that COVID-19 has changed in status from a pandemic to an endemic, many are reflecting on how they coped financially and spiritually when the disease was at its worst.
Jeff Clause, CEO at St Francis Links, is one of many who has recently taken stock of this experience. He oversees one of the most prestigious residential estates in South Africa. It’s conveniently situated on the Eastern Cape coast with easy access to good schools, a university and bustling shopping malls.
While its location lent itself to residents being able to access services during the height of Covid, the estate was not immune to the challenges that came with managing a residential estate.
Many flocked to St Francis Links during the pandemic to seek the solace, quality of life, security and care that it offered. This boosted the occupancy rate of the estate from 54% to 80%.
But the closure of beaches and river spots and the cancellation of events meant a reduction in income for the estate as fewer people were able to visit St Francis Bay. Action was taken to shift the focus on providing quality experiences at the estate, rather than catering for the masses that would normally come and visit pre-Covid.
Clause says these challenges were something the estate embraced. In his words, the team went about turning ‘lemons into lemonade’ and this resulted in post Covid opportunities. Here’s how this was achieved:
1. Turning accolades into opportunities
The multi-award-winning signature Jack Nicklaus golf course on St Francis Links has been a key differentiator for the estate. Clause says: ‘The Jack Nicklaus Signature course is the “anchor tenant” of the estate – our premium store! Every year the course has achieved higher and higher rankings. It has attracted top tournaments including the 99-year-old PGA Championship that reached TV audiences worldwide.
‘The accolades lead to opportunities. The opportunities bring people and investment. The investment leads to greater consumer confidence and more people come to The Links.’
2. Maintaining the Jack Nicklaus golf course
Ensuring that the signature Jack Nicklaus golf course was well maintained and blended into the surrounds was of utmost importance to give visitors and residents a good experience.
Clause explains: ‘Our course, with its wide corridors, allows the golfer space to play the golf course and not the rooftops! The better golf estates have ensured a great balance between playing the great game of golf and braaiing on the veranda.
‘The larger corridors also provide the homeowner with privacy. The homeowners who have chosen to build near the course, where permitted, benefit from the amazing views.’
3. Turning visitors into ambassadors
Clause says that every member of the estate and club teams helps to ensure that visitors have a great experience and will be back for more. He adds: ‘They understand that when someone comes through our gates for golf, conferencing, weddings, kids’ parties or simply breakfast or lunch, they are potential new investors in property, homes, or the other products we offer. If we exceed their expectations, they become ambassadors. If we have contributed to great memories, they’ll be back!’
4. Achieving and maintaining high standards
From the start, it was the ambition of Clause and the St Francis Links team to create ‘something special’. Their efforts have paid off. In 2007, St Francis Links was named the Best New Course in South Africa. Since then it has won numerous awards, including South Africa’s Best Golf Course for 2021, and more recently it has moved up three spots to land the fourth spot in South Africa’s Top100 golf courses listing.
‘Today, we have achieved a great balance in playability, conditioning and shot making, without compromising the challenge that comes with playing golf. The SATop100 courses will always spark debate as to who deserves to be what, and we are very pleased to be in the company of other great courses,’ says Clause.