One of Kenya’s best kept secrets is its numerous golf courses. Few places in the world offer such perfect ingredients for a fantastic golf holiday, as Kenya. The opportunity to play your favourite game, to see wildlife (sometimes on the course!) and to relax on the beautiful white sandy beaches during the same holiday is unique.
In the early 1900s British colonists began developing golf courses all over the country. They realized that Kenya had a favorable climate and beautiful setting for the construction of some of the world’s best courses.
One of the most appealing features of golfing in Kenya is variety. From the beach clubs set among palms and casuarinas with stunning views of the sapphire Indian Ocean, to those dominated by the perennial snow-cap of Mount Kenya, there is a medley of courses each vying for priority as the most attractive location. One is built on the slopes of an extinct volcano!
Kenya has 36 golf courses of which 10 are 18-hole, nine of which are used for championship events. Six are within a 20-mile radius of Nairobi – Kenya’s bustling capital. The oldest course is Royal Nairobi Golf Club (7021 yards – par 72 – 18 holes) founded in 1906, the latest is the Windsor Golf and Country Club (6751 yards – par 72 – 18 holes). There are several new courses under construction and a number are being up-graded from nine holes to 18 holes.
The weather is ideal for golf throughout the year. On occasions you might need a sweater or a jersey, but will usually play in a polo shirt.
In the highland areas, the temperatures are in the low 20’s and at the Coast in the high 20’s or 30’s. There are 12 hours of daylight and, depending on the season, four to nine hours of sunshine. During the two rainy seasons, (April and November), the rain usually falls before 10 am and after 5 p.m. and almost never when you are playing! More and more clubs are installing sophisticated fairway watering systems to keep the course green during the dry season.
Many courses are at an altitude of more than 1500 metres (5000 ft.), giving you an additional 10 per cent yardage to your stroke.
Most clubs have a pro-shop where you can buy whatever you need. Though there are no golf carts, Kenya has the luxury of caddies. Usually the caddies are very good players themselves and will not only carry your bag and look for your ball in the rough, but will advise on local rules, assist with your swing and generally be your companions and mentor. Kenya’s golf clubs are generally quiet, especially during weekdays. One or two clubs do not admit visitors at weekends but most do, except on competition days.
Visitors who want to play golf are best advised to approach one of the several tour operators organizing golf holidays. A few specialize only in golf safaris and give a personalized service. Many of the larger general tour operators now offer golf in their programmes.
For the visiting golfer, Kenya has a broad appeal. There is everything for the fantastic golfer, whilst the avid golfer can fashion his safari to include some wildlife viewing as well. A golfer who prefers to laze on the beach can still fit in a game or two and the business traveler, with an afternoon off, can easily play his favorite game right on his doorstep. Many city hotels have made arrangements with local courses for temporary membership for their business visitors.
Kenya has it all and golf is no exception.