In the old days, long before golf was ever played in our beautiful country Kenya, the practice of using the green as the teeing ground to the next hole was very common.
I can only imagine how the greens were peppered with divots. The practice must have also created delays as the team behind had to inevitably wait until the green was clear in order to play to their approach shots.
This custom was replaced by introducing a patch of turf a short distance from the green where golfers could tee up.
Today, we cannot imagine the game without a “tee box”. In fact, the Rules require us to start play on the teeing ground on every hole.
As far as tee boxes go, I think that the sixth at Nyeri Golf Club is the most enchanting. On a clear sunny morning, the view of the majestic Mt Kenya peak is just breathtaking.
It almost feels like hallowed ground from where every golfer should pay homage to Ngai wa Kîrînyaga (God of Mt Kenya) as my forefathers did.
This weekend, the tournament that is aptly named after this majestic mountain, the Mt Kenya Challenge, will be played at the Nyeri Club.
In its 66th year, this tournament has traditionally served as the second tournament in the Kenya Golf Union’s quest of identifying the best amateur golfer in the country.
The Mt Kenya Challenge usually comes after the Sigona Bowl. This year’s “Boiro”, as the golfers at Sigona Golf Club refer to the tournament, had a dramatic finish when John Karichu from Limuru Country Club and Daniel Nduva from Nyali Golf and Country Club had to go for a play-off after they were tied for the lead at the end of three rounds.
Karichu won the play-off to clinch the first tournament of the year.
Sigona Bowl was however very badly organised. For the first tournament of the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship, it was a major let-down.
The tournament was over-subscribed and it almost looked like the draw was prepared by people who have never played golf in their lives.
Let me digress; in the movie “Rise and fall of Idi Amin”, there was a scene where someone told Idi Amin that the country had no money. His answer? “Print some more!”. The first time I watched the movie, as a teenager, I must admit that I thought that that made sense.
Back to Sigona Bowl; when competition committee realised that they had more people on the draw than they could fit in the morning session, and bearing in mind that they had to play two rounds on the first day, someone came up with the “bright” idea of reducing the starting intervals to five minutes. Problem solved!
They would now be able to get all the 135 golfers started before 9am and all golfers would be through with the first round by 1pm and be on time to finish the second round by 6.30pm… that is how it looked on paper.
The reality was that only the first two groups were able to start at the time that that they had been allocated.
By the time the last group was teeing off (well over an hour late), the first group had been waiting to play their second nine for more than an hour and a half.
The delays had a ripple effect that led to most golfers not enjoying their round. By the time the sun set, several golfers had not completed their second round.
The maximum number of golfers that the golf course could comfortably hold was 96 if they hoped for them to play two rounds.
The perfect starting interval for three balls is 10 minutes and the bare minimum is eight minutes.
However, since the first hole at Sigona is a beautiful, drivable but risky par four, I would give it 10 minutes. By trying to jam 135 golfers in the course, the committee was doing what matatu operators used to do before the Michuki rules.
If the committee did this deliberately in order to please the sponsors, then they inadvertently ruined the brand image of the sponsors.
If the golfers were told that the round of golf was sponsored by a company, at the end of their bad round where they had to wait at every turn, then the brand association was definitely negative.
Instead of talking to people who had had fun on the golf course, the sponsors spoke to sour people.
I hope that this is the last of the golf committees who do not know the capacity of their golf course.
I sure hope that this will not be the case for Mt Kenya Challenge this weekend.
After all, Ngai wa Kîrînyaga is very close to the Nyeri people for them to commit such sins.