Kenyan golf courses remain in shape despite virus enforced inactivity

Wednesday May 13 2020
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Karen Country Club which was to host the Magical Kenya Open from March 12 to 15, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY

By LARRY NGALA

Traffic on most of Kenya’s golf courses is currently low because of the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected the sporting activities all over the world.

And since the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) suspended all golf competitions as well ordered the closure of the golf club houses, only a handful of golfers have been seen in golf courses.

And the few who have visited the clubs are either practising on the golf range, or playing a few holes since the caddies are not available to offer their usual services.

However even in the absence of golfers, green keepers and course managers are busy making sure the golf facilities are in their best condition such that they will be ready to host any event once competition resumes.

Most golf courses in the country have remained in immaculate condition.

The ongoing long rains have however slowed down some work in some courses.

One of the courses that has remained in its best condition and ready to host any major event, is the par 72 Karen Country Club course.

One of the six 18-hole golf courses in the greater Nairobi Metropolis, (others are Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Muthaiga, Sigona, Limuru and Vet Lab Sports Club), Karen has been intermittently hosting the annual Kenya Open golf championship since 1967.

Last year however, Karen had the honour of becoming the first course in the country to host the Open, now known as the Magical Kenya Open, in its new status as a European Tour event.

Before the government suspended all social gathering activities in the country in order to stop the spreading of Coronavirus, Karen Country Club was to host the Magical Kenya Open from March 12 to 15.

“It was obviously disappointing for us in the course management as we had done everything to make sure that the course was in a better condition than in 2019. All the same, we will keep on working and making sure the course stays in the same condition and ready for any major event, be it the Kenya Open or other international tournaments’’ said Daniel Kiboi, the Course Superintendent.

One of the most respected course superintendent or green-keepers in the country, Kiboi says his team is working on the course as usual to make sure that Karen maintains its reputation and stature.

“Usually the European tour officials tell us how they want the course set for the open, and so we do exactly that, but even after the open, we have our on programme which we strictly follow to make sure that the course looks great and in acceptable condition.’’

He says a number of club members are using the course every day but that does not stop him and his staff from preparing the course. “The course workers are there and they are continuing with their day-to-day activities of cutting the grass on the fairways and repairing bunkers,’’ said Kiboi who has been the course superintendent at Karen for the past six years.

At Muthaiga Golf Club, which is basically the home of golf in the country because of the fact that, it hosts the 90-year-old Kenya Golf Union and its subsidiary bodies, club captain Snehal Patel said:“The course is taking a real beating due to the current weather but we have amazing course and ground staff. This coupled with the help from caddies is keeping the course in good shape and more than ready when golf activities resumes in the country.’’

Patel said the club has started charging members a small fee of Sh300 per round. He said he was using the money to give caddies some basic maintenance jobs on the course like repairing divots, pitch marks and looking after bunkers as they currently don’t have any jobs to support themselves.

“I have put them in a rota system so as many as possible get the opportunity to earn something,” he said. “For now we are just happy that we can keep the course open for members and maintain it well despite the adverse weather conditions.’’

PARTIALLY OPEN

Nyali Golf and Country Club green keeper Gulam Khaku said the course remained in its usual tip-top condition despite the current rains at the Coast.

“At present, as the entire world is dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, the Nyali Golf and Country Club continues to be partially open for golfers subject to limitations such as self-caddying, keeping the flag stick in the hole extra. The golf course continues to remain in tip top shape with course maintenance carrying on as usual. Both fairways and greens are in super shape for any forthcoming competitions,’’ said Khaku.

The par 71 course, which has over the years hosted both top amateur events and professional tournaments like the Safari Tour, has always been well maintained.

At Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Kenya’s oldest club, resident professional Charan Thethy whose responsibilities includes the golf course, said there had been routine maintenance of the course like cutting of tees, fairways, short roughs, aprons and greens.

Thethy said general tidying up of the course is also being done, that is, sweeping of leaves and twigs, cutting around tees, greens, bunker edges, water hazards and flower gardens to to make it look neat.

MAJOR REPAIRS

At the hilly Sigona Golf Club, which is also among the well maintained course, resident professional John Wangai said, the management had taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, to carry out a number of activities on the course to make sure that it remained in its usual great shape.

“At Sigona, we are doing normal course maintenance but we have already closed our back tees to allow them to recover and be opened after the pandemic. We have also been doing major repairs and patchwork on the affected greens which have now fully recovered.’’

Wangai who is also captain of the Professional Golfers of Kenya (PGK), says the club has embarked on deep rough clearing under the trees just to make sure by the time things normalize the course shall be ready. "We have also taken the advantage of the ongoing rains and replanted our nursery bed with Bent grass and kikuyu grass which will serve as a back-up for repair in case any green, tee box or the fairway is damaged when we open up."

At the scenic Limuru Country Club, club captain Fred Ikana says the course remain in its usual great condition and ready to resume competition when Covid-19 crisis is over.

“We have continued to keep our course in impeccable shape and condition and shall be ready for competitions and tournaments as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us. Our ongoing irrigation project is at its final stages. We encourage our members to patronise our course observing all the spelt out Coronavirus guidelines.’’ said Ikana.