Self-confessed golf addict Arthur Heinrich, who has been our Club Captain for the past seven months or so, started off his sporting life as a tennis player. That was his passion growing up in Cape Town. “I played tennis seven days a week for 10 years and made it into the Western Province second league, playing for Bergvliet. But I gave the game up when I went to university so I could have more time to study. This was the early 1980s and if you failed your first year you had to go to the Army. So I studied hard and made sure I passed thereby avoiding the Army until I had completed my degree. ”
Golf entered his life when he was 16 in Standard 9. His mother’s uncle introduced him to the game. “And from the moment I picked up a club, I became completely and utterly obsessed, joining Parow Golf Club late in 1981.” In between studies, Arthur worked hard at his golf – and he showed a flair for the game. “I set myself three goals: to play in the Stefan League, to one day break 70, and to play off scratch. When I first got down to a single figure handicap I started to play league in Western Province’s Challenge League, which is the league just below the premier Stefan League. I never did get to play Stefan League though. Twice I was a team reserve but everybody turned up so I didn’t get to tee it up!”
While still in Cape Town he switched clubs from Parow to Rondebosch but after just six months there, his company transferred him to Johannesburg and he signed up at Ruimsig.
Arthur’s obsession with the game is not only about making birdies and the occasional bogey (although not too many of the latter in his case as he has a reputation of saving par out of nowhere!). He is also obsessed with how the game is administered, caring deeply that everything runs properly. He, therefore, served on the finance committee at Ruimsig before moving to Randpark in 2011. “Derek Lloyd was the club’s golf director at the time and also my neighbour. I also knew him when we both lived in Cape Town so there was this connection and he was the guy who persuaded me to join Randpark.”
On the admin side, Arthur has always been involved at Randpark (unlimited golf being one project) and he served as one of the Directors of the Board before being elected unopposed as Club Captain in August last year, after being approached by a couple of members if he would be interested in putting his name forward for the position. And it’s been hectic since then – what with Covid, how to cut costs, the painful decisions of having to let some people go, and – on top of everything else – the drama with the Joburg Open because of the ugly, burnt patches on Firethorn’s greens, and it is still not certain what caused the damage. “Having to deal with the Sunshine Tour and the sponsors, as well as the embarrassment factor with the DP World Tour hasn’t been easy, especially since in the past for the Joburg Open where there has always been so much praise for the conditioning of both Firethorn and Bushwillow, which I think has had the best fairways I’ve seen.”
Also on the admin side, there’s a new Board, a new Finance Committee and a new General Committee. “I think there exists a good balance between corporate history and new eyes,” Arthur says. “There’s a determination to say to ourselves: ‘Let’s run this place properly.”
The Firethorn greens are much improved but still, a work in progress and the club’s plan is now to spend an inordinate time on the conditioning of both courses. “The focus is on detail. We want Randpark to look extremely well kept and neat everywhere. We are trimming down the river banks and even the out of play areas should look good. The areas around the tee-boxes and bunkers must be beautifully manicured, and the rough cut evenly and also easy on the eye. We want the whole place to look like a big garden. If a course looks perfect, people will think twice about not raking bunkers, or not fixing divots or pitch marks. There’s still some way to go with Firethorn’s greens but I’ve put out a challenge to Roger and his staff to have them perfect for club champs next month,” says Arthur who has started up a greens committee and runs a new members seminar.
If he didn’t get to play Stefan League in Cape Town, Arthur has happily succeeded in the two other goals he set himself when starting golf. He has twice broken 70, with a 69 at Ruimsig (“I’ve still got the ball,” he beams) and a 68 on Bushwillow three years ago. And, last year in a tournament at Lost City, was the first time he played off an official scratch handicap. So he’s a pretty handy golfer, has played scratch league for Randpark and – as a stalwart in the Bushwillow mid-amateur team, hasn’t lost a home game in two-and-a-half years. In short, in match play, he’s an infuriatingly difficult man to beat. “I’m not such a great ball striker and my swing, with its big loop, looks a bit like Jim Furyk’s. And I’m not long either. I mean, off the yellow markers on Firethorn’s back nine there are effectively six par-5s for me – the 12th and the 14th (which are regulation par-5s on the card) but also 10, 11, 16 and 18 which are long par-4s off yellow and I can’t get up in two at these holes so they play like par-5s for me!” Arthur compensates for not having the Wilco Nienaber power factor with club in hand by being an exceptionally good chipper and putter, and pretty handy out of greenside bunkers too – something of an up-and-down expert. “I just try to be a really annoying opponent,” he says with a chuckle. “I don’t let the other guy off easily. It’s pretty much a case of if you make bogey, you’re going to lose the hole to me …”
Our Club Captain believes we’ve got the best club in the country. “There’s such a great group of people here. And I mean both the members and the staff. There’s so much spirit and vibe and the place is busy and it buzzes. Sunday evenings really pump. It’s such a happy place. Yes, there is the odd complaint but this shows people care and we take people’s concerns seriously. The club’s infrastructure is a bit dated and a bit tired, but hopefully, overall, we’re getting there.”
Arthur has completed the R&A’s Level 1 and Level 2 rules courses run by GolfRSA, and now plans to extend this to Level 3 which is the referee’s course. A lack of etiquette and golfers not understanding the rules are his two pet hates.
Outside of golf, Arthur obtained a Bachelor of Business Science degree from UCT, then did go to the Army for two years before going on to complete an MBA degree at Stellenbosch. He has been in banking with FNB at a managerial level all his working life. His wife Brenda helps run the Johannesburg Bible College, his son Theo – an all-round sportsman – is a fitness guru and personal trainer and works for Warren McCann right here in the Randpark gym, while daughter Melina is studying for an LLB degree at Tuks.
A final word from Randpark GM Albert Clack: “Arthur’s great for Randpark because, you know, he gets stuff done!” And what better compliment than this …
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter