WEEKENDS on the South Coast were the perfect catalyst to lure David Rootham away from Sydney.

And Kiama Golf Club, one of the busier clubs on the South Coast of NSW and its happy bunch of members fitted perfectly into his plans.

Like most clubs, Kiama has enjoyed a revival of interest in golf with both membership numbers and rounds of golf at unprecedented levels.

The club currently boasts just under 1000 golfing members but it’s a sign of the club’s popularity that there are almost 3000 social members.

Rootham explains that the town of Kiama has also undergone some significant changes and progressed from a sleepy seaside town to become a busy weekender/day trip destination.

“Our club has had to ensure we offered products and services to match that tourist influx,” says Rootham.

“We think our members are a pretty happy bunch – and yes, they enjoy their golf at Kiama.”

Rootham’s journey to Kiama began when he studied hospitality management after finishing school and he began working in some Sydney hotels before choosing a different pathway.

He took an entry-level position at Kareela GC in Sydney’s south, which turned into a perfect move as he stayed there for 15 years and worked up to become the GM for the last four of those years.

BUSY BOYS: (Left to right) club president Jim Cooper, GM David Rootham and superintendent Mark Yates on the first tee at Kiama GC.

“My wife and I spent most of our weekends during this time on the South Coast, so when the GM role at Kiama GC came up is seemed a great fit,” he said.

“I began at Kiama in 2011 and commuted from Gymea for the first six months to make sure it all worked.

“It turned out to be a really great role, so we moved the family down to Berry and we have been there ever since.”

Kiama Golf Club has an interesting history.

The club was originally situated in the Kiama CBD and only moved to the site of an old dairy farm (the current site) in the 1930s.

Since that time, it has expanded from a nine-hole course to 18, developed the clubhouse from the proverbial tin shed to a modern, thriving hospitality venue with a 120-seat restaurant, a sports bar and main lounge and outdoor deck with postcard views back over the Illawarra escarpment.  

Superintendent Mark Yates and his team utilise an improved maintenance fleet to keep the course in top condition all year round. The club has continued to improve with the addition of a new GPS-managed cart fleet, improved warm-up facilities, extended cart paths and an improvement of the use of recycled water for irrigation. 

The recycled water program continues to provide great water security for the club and helps keep the course in perfect condition, regardless of the weather.  

“We are fortunate to have had a number of dedicated golf pros in our golf shop headed by Elle Sandak,” says Rootham. “Our pro shop has become a real go-to for golfers in the area.

“While we don’t have a waiting list, we will look at various tools to help ease pressure on our timesheet. 

“For our next membership cycle we will look at things like joining fees, ‘re-joining’ fee and a wait list to ensure we can offer existing members the best possible experience. 

“Some of the pressure on our time sheets comes from one of our key members’ benefits which is that they are able to play social rounds for free. 

“We’re seeing a large percentage of our total rounds as members’ social rounds. This has been a great benefit to our members and the club during the pandemic, but there needs to be a balance with fee-paying rounds to ensure we can generate enough revenue to maintain the course to the right standard.”

So, how does the future look for Kiama?

“I would like to see the club continue to increase its role in support for the Kiama community in the Kiama Tourism market and improve our ability to bring larger golf events to Kiama,” said Rootham.

“To do this we are looking at some major clubhouse/pro shop renovations as well as several projects on the course to continue to be competitive with our neighbouring courses without losing the underlying charm of playing at Kiama GC.

“These projects include, increasing our cart fleet, extending our cart path network, improved water security, improved teaching facilities, continuing greens renovations and improving general presentations of the course.”

“We’re not as long as some courses but this often lulls golfers into thinking the course is a pushover. It isn’t. While there are very few below-par rounds, I think our members take pride in the fact that visitors look at the distance of the course and think they will crush it, but it actually takes some cunning course management to get round in a good score.”

Rootham says golf clubs are great places to work.

“For me, the variety in all aspects of the club is what makes it so much fun,” he says. “Golf clubs draw a wide variety of people as members and they all have something to offer. It’s what keeps me thinking and keeps the staff on their toes.

“I also love the variety of work. To have to move from high-level strategic discussions with the board to dealing with equipment maintenance then out to inspect the course then back to deal with suppliers provides a great challenge and certainly is never dull.”

Yet Rootham says the best thing about Kiama is the camaraderie of the members and the friendliness of the club.

“We really benefit from being part of the Kiama Tourism Hub. 

“More and more Kiama is used as a weekender or a base to explore further around this region and we certainly play a part in providing a draw for tourists to our region.

“We also benefit from being a little separated from the main CBD, we act as the ‘local’ for the Kiama Downs, Minnamurra, Gainsborough area. 

“Our challenge is trying to provide a facility that will draw people out of the Kiama CBD.

“In terms of tee time sharing, we were grateful to have a number of clubs around us who graciously agreed to share some tee times for our members who could not get to our course. 

“It was a great example of the industry looking out for each other and the golfers of the region.”

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