One of an estate management or board’s primary functions is its role as an asset manager and asset protector. In this activity it will oversee the efficient workings of all the estate’s functions and facilities with the principal goal to ensure the well-being of the key common assets. As a result these activities will help to ensure the protection and enhancement of property values, thereby safe-guarding the best interests of the principal stakeholders – the homeowners.
Any deviation from this path will almost inevitably lead to a compromise in the delivery standards that the estate has set for itself and the neglect of management’s overriding duty of care and good governance to all of the homeowners. However, it is essential that this custodial role also allows the estate the scope to develop, mature and evolve in response to changing circumstances, and to the dynamic of the ever-developing needs of residents.
‘Effective leadership is key at every stage of a business’s life, but never more so than when it is restructuring, setting itself new goals and implementing essential changes to achieve the strategic goals that have been set by the Board of Directors,’ comments De Villiers Botha, Chairperson of the Pecanwood Homeowners Association.
Against the continued challenges posed by an under-performing economy, high interest rates, consumer insecurity and both national and municipal service delivery issues, residential estates have remained a comparative haven of reliable services and stable property values. But Homeowners Associations (HOAs), boards and management teams should be wary of complacency. They need to be particularly cognisant of changing issues and new threats, and must be proactive in finding solutions to these problems and steering a safe path forward.
Pecanwood embarked on an intensive programme of reinvention in 2016. This involved a period of reflection in which management realised that it is not enough to efficiently run the estate’s day to day operations and keep costs down, but that it also needs to be creative and continually innovative in order to stay ahead in terms of new opportunities and changing threats so as to maintain or improve the estate’s market position and property values.
The reinvestment in infrastructure and improved maintenance procedures has been across the board. Coupled with consistent marketing and promotional activities this has reversed the national trends in golf of lowered course rounds and membership numbers. The figures for Pecanwood are statistically significant in their own right (an increase of just on 15%) but this value is considerably amplified when viewed against the overall trends. These changes show particularly strong growth in visitors’ rounds, which has been achieved by improved marketing activities, and offering better value packages – and without discounting.
Happily, it would appear the benefits of the interventions have not been limited to the golf course’s numbers as the median property price has now returned to its pre-2015 levels and to this can be added the fact that, based on research by Lightstone Property Solutions, the growth in Pecanwood’s retail property prices at 6%, beats the national average of 4%, and is well ahead of Gauteng’s 3.5%
The estate is almost 22 years old, so it was essential to identify a strategic plan that addressed changing demographics and lifestyle expectations. In this key context Pecanwood HOA’s CEO Francois Schoeman comments: ‘One of the key challenges is to differentiate between the benefits of preservation and the dangers of stagnation. I say this because many estates’ boards feel it necessary to cling onto the original vision for the estate when the marketplace, the homeowners, and their expectations, have clearly moved on. An estate is like any business in that it needs to be allowed to evolve in order to keep pace with or stay ahead of market expectations. All of these factors make it necessary to be prepared to move forward at all levels and especially in terms of strategy, concept and delivery. In this continuing and evolutionary process, enhancement, adaptation and reinvestment are essential ingredients to ensure that communities age gracefully while remaining relevant.’
The ‘newer’ Pecanwood, which is a work in progress, has changed a number of its key service providers so as to offer cohesion in terms of its vision. It’s not just a new brush that is sweeping clean, but a whole new team of new brushes all sweeping in the same direction.
Par for the course
This has seen a dramatic improvement in the estate in general and the overall conditioning and presentation of the golf course. The overall impression is at a new high, and all the niggly housekeeping elements are being given the attention they need. In preparation for hosting two of South African amateur golf’s more important events – the SA Stroke Play Championship and the Seniors Inter-Provincial Tournament – the clubhouse and its surrounding garden areas were given a comprehensive uplift.
Pecanwood’s golf course is almost back to a level with which its designer Jack Nicklaus would be proud. The layout is not long by international standards, and the higher altitude of the Highveld makes the ball travel further than at sea level. These factors, combined with the superb conditioning, led to a new record low score being posted by the winner of the 2018 SA Stroke Play, Oliver Gillberg from Sweden.
It’s a layout that requires good strategic sense and control, rather than just strength and length. This is typical of many of Jack Nicklaus’ course layouts, which is unusual if you consider that Nicklaus was, in his prime, one of his generation’s longest hitters.
The standout holes would be the signature par-3 13th with a tee shot played along the edge of the Hartbeespoort Dam with the Magaliesberg as the backdrop across the water. There are a number of other memorable holes including the par-4 14th and 15th holes, which are known locally as the ‘super bowl’.
The estate has three restaurant areas: the golfers’ Halfway House, and terrace area, the formal restaurant in the Country Club, and the Boat Club Restaurant. These facilities cater for a broad range of function types, from the typical halfway house fare for golfers through to much more elaborate requirements of more formal occasions, and the menus and offerings are continually evolving in response to internal and external customer expectations.
Beyond the fairways
In redeveloping a sense of community, one of the agreed goals was to create a series of activities to restore the fuller functions of a country club, and for it to take its rightful place at the heart of the community. This included the need to structure new revenue streams and corporate partnerships, which have laid a foundation for the country club to be self-sufficient for the foreseeable future.
The estate is surrounded by some of the best MTB trails in the country, which has developed a keen group of enthusiastic estate mountain bikers who set off into the surrounding countryside to test their skills and stamina every weekend.
The Boat Club has seen a change in its management function, and steps have been taken to keep the moorings area and access channel clear. The Boat Club’s restaurant, which boasts a spectacular view across the water to the distant Magaliesberg, has also recently been renovated and updated.
As many residents will tell you, Pecanwood offers homeowners and residents a combination of two worlds: easy access to the metropolitan areas of Gauteng, so that ‘big city’ living is just around the corner, while the estate itself retains a country lifestyle feel, with activities and features that are included in the levies and which cater for almost every taste:
- The Boat Club with its fully serviced marina and dedicated restaurant has lawn areas with family-friendly braai facilities, a swimming pool and a playground.
- The Country Club includes a gym, a spa with beauty salon, a crèche, tennis courts, a banqueting hall, boardrooms and small lounges for meetings and family events.
- The first Jack Nicklaus signature golf course in Africa includes a full practice range and golf pro shop.
- The Village Green where the indefatigable hospitality coordinator arranges the Easter Carnival and an extensive supporting programme of events, like Halloween, comedy nights, quiz evenings, outdoor movie events, street braais and themed dinners which take place throughout the year and appeal to all generations of Pecanwooders.
It is safe to say that Pecanwood, which never really went away, is well and truly back and – with its new look and redeveloped facilities, services and infrastructure – offers a distinctive lifestyle.