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New facility promises exciting experience for local golf enthusiasts

Sunday July 14 2019

Winnie Ngethe, one of the directors of the Nairobi Golf Simulator at Rosslyn Riviera Mall in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU |

Winnie Ngethe, one of the directors of the Nairobi Golf Simulator at Rosslyn Riviera Mall in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

LARRY NGALA
By LARRY NGALA
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Do you want to practise on the range or play golf at a quiet environment while even taking a drink? Then, the Nairobi Golf Simulator at the fabulous Rosslyn Riviera Mall along Limuru Road in Nairobi could just be the place for you.

Ordinary amateur golfers in Kenya who are used to practising at their club driving range or at the putting greens may prefer what they are used to, but that could only be because a big number of them are yet to see a golf simulator. And why indoor golf? Indoor golf caters for players of all skill levels, from the recreational “weekend warrior’’ to the scratch golfer.

And the Nairobi Golf Simulator provides a high class, private and conducive environment for any golfer to practise his or her game year round. Winnie Ngethe, a golfer who picked up the game while living in Washington State in the United States of America and who is now back in Kenya, and her partners Eve and Allan Ngethe are the people behind the Sh9.5 million project.

“You can play with friends and enjoy a few drinks at a Mexican soul food restaurant across our golf studio. Keep your game sharp during the cold rainy weather in our indoor high-end golf simulator studio which currently has 27 championship courses for one to play, which will test all aspects of your game. One person can play 18 holes in 45 minutes,’’ says Winnie.

Although not the first simulator to be introduced in Kenya, the facility at the Nairobi Golf Simulator is the first golf clinic of its kind not only in Kenya, but also in East Africa. The only other African country with similar facility is South Africa and Togo.

Winnie says the golf clinic will provide golfers and aspiring ones with a simulation and launch pad for social game play in virtual world-class golf courses and driving range.

“Here, a golfer can have lessons, game analysis, club fittings, and ball fitting, done by our golf specialist. Our golf studio presents the golf market with new and exciting concept of all -weather practice which will improve overall performance of golfers. With an indoor virtual putting green and a real turf putting, we will benefit our golf professionals as they prepare for such tournaments, like the forthcoming Karen Masters,’’ says Winnie.

Winnie says scores of Professional Golfers Association (PGA) professionals discovered how best to use the Foresight Sports, a leading launch monitor technology, which proved to be a game changer.

“Technology has moved on, have you as a golfer?’’ she quips, adding that the system is ideal for social game play, practice and entertainment competitions such as longest drive or nearest to the pin.

The accuracy of the system also makes it ideal for the professional to use for coaching and custom fitting, which truly enhances the experience for players.

“The Foresight Sports Golf Simulator offers the perfect solution for golfers and aspiring ones all year round. This is the first and only system that combines the accuracy of the industry’s leading launch monitor with the functionality of a high-end entertaining.’’

Ngethe says her prices are fair, particularly on grip fitting using HMT One, shaft fiiting, lie angle checking, altering club length, additional wrap and course monitoring. These range between Sh400 to Sh1,500 for one or two clubs. Things like Junior Golf Clinics for a pack of four to eight golfers goes for Sh4,000 an hour, same as corporate group package.

Golf coaching by a professional goes for Sh2,500 an hour.

“With our launch monitor, will provide the most accurate and most relevant to the player. Our pure data can be used for club fitting, ball teeing, tee-fitting, gap analysis, distance control, club optimisation, coaching, practice, social and competitive golf and even hole-in-one and long drive competitions,’’ says Winnie.

For now, one can play 27 different course different courses in different parts of the world. However, Winnie says a new software is on the way, which will provide a player with as many courses as 50. On the other hand, the studio has different sets of clubs for men, ladies and juniors, although one can also carry his or her clubs.

Joining Winnie at Nairobi Golf Simulator Studio is one of the most experienced golf-fitting experts, Patrick M. Njuguna.

Njuguna has worked with golf shops for more than seven years, doing club fitting and assisting golfers with their choice of golf clubs. That is where Njuguna developed a huge interest in knowing more about golf clubs, and ended up with professional training in that area in the USA.

“ I trained in the United States of America at Arizona Phoenix where I earned my certificate in golf fitting. My fitting job entails customising or tailoring the clubs like putters, drivers, irons hybrid clubs and golf balls to the right specifications of a golfer,’’

Njuguna says, adding that a large portion of errant shots and eventually poor golf scores can be attributed to non-fitted golf clubs a golfer uses.

Each part of the golf club, from the grip, shaft flex, club lie angle, and shaft weight can adversely affect a player’s golf shots. Golf fitting helps one to know and have better distance, accuracy and increased confidence with each club.

“Playing with properly-fitted clubs will give you the confidence and consistent performance and equally enjoy the game by achieving the correct shots on the course any time.’’

He says knowing how far and in what direction the ball will fly for each club before one takes the shot is a big advantage in beginning to manage their game towards better results.

Many golfers often do not know why their handicaps never go down and yet this could be attributed to playing with clubs that have wrong specifications,’’ says Njuguna.

“Golf fitting assists golfers to know their swing speed, the impact point with the club, the carry distance, back spin, side spin and the club head data analysis.”

Njuguna insists that in club fitting, five steps are observed. They are interview which is finding out specifications of clubs a golfer is using and their performances, static measurement which is helping determine the height of the clubs, dynamic swing test which tests a golfer’s swing abilities, analysing ball flight to know the trajectory of the ball flight, and on course monitoring which means monitoring the performance of a golfer while using a particular type of equipment.

Meanwhile, Winnie who started playing golf as an amateur in 2015 says the studio was part of a big idea which, when seen in the context of setting up of a Wellness and fitness Centre, was going to offer other services like massage and physiotherapy.

She however did not manage to find a place suitable for such a centre, and decided to first set up the simulator which opens seven days a week.

“I always had the passion for golf and as a social golfer living in the USA, I started my experience by playing in a facility like the one we have here, and this is one of the reasons why I decided to introduce it here. Expensive as it is, I believe it will benefit a lot of golfers special our professionals who want to prepare for a big events in such an environment. It does not mean I have given up the idea of setting up a wellness centre,’’ she adds.

A mother of one son named Ngethe Thairo Jnr, Winnie, who is a citizen of both Kenya and the United States of America where she resided for 30 years, is an entrepreneur and an investor.

She ran a home care business for 15 years in USA and started relocating to Kenya five years ago. Before then, she would come home at least twice or three times a year.

But why focus on wellness, fitness and lifestyle?

“In 2013, I came across a story on CNN which predicted good times for pharmaceutical start-ups in Africa that really made me think that if I brought wellness, fitness and lifestyle changes back home most of us would stay away from popping the pills that were being predicted that we will all need due to our changing lifestyles in Africa. That was the beginning of Global Wellness & Lifestyle (K) Ltd which was registered on February 2014 in Kenya.’’

She registered Global Wellness & Lifestyle Company with the intention of putting in place a unique fitness, wellness and lifestyle facility here in Kenya.

But why choose golf?

“When we were growing up, our now late dad Jidraph Ngethe Thairo joined Vet Lab Sports Club. Dad was always in such high spirits when he would go to play golf at Vet Lab. When he returned, he would still be in very joyful mood. Thus, I developed interest from an early age in finding out what was this that made dad so happy. I never had the opportunity to play golf in Kenya, before I left for the USA. I learned how to play golf at a Pro Shop in the USA that had a driving range and an indoor golf simulator. When it would be cold outside, we would practise on the simulator,’’ she says.

“That’s where I developed interest of investing in indoor golf simulator, and to bring it to Kenya when I returned home. I finally returned home from the USA in 2018 to finally engage in business. Since then, some of my family members have invested in the Global Wellness Concept.’’

Located in Rosslyn Riviera Mall, the Nairobi Golf Simulator an indoor golf facility is a unique learning and training facility.

“Our GC2 Launch Monitor and HMT is one of the world’s famous launch monitors used by PGA professionals to practice and get real time data analysis of their game,’’ Winnie adds. Besides the golf clinic, she intends to set up a gymnasium that will lessons in kick boxing and suspension, and weight lifting.

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