My Usual GameJanuary 16, 2015

Golf among the zebras: reader's report from Kenya

Jeff Mwangi is a reader in Nairobi, and, starting today, he is the official East Africa correspondent of this blog. He took up golf two years ago, at the age of 40. That's him in the photo below, at the Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort, in Naivasha:

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He wrote to me recently to ask about golf simulators, for which he believes there is a large potential  market in East Africa: "I am looking for commercial ones to install in a shopping mall, and also in some of the golf clubs, for range training," he said. I told him I would try to help put him in touch with some manufacturers. Do you hear that, manufacturers? I've got a couple of other ideas, too. In the meantime, I asked him to tell me a little about golf in Kenya, and about himself. From his report:

Golf in Kenya used to be reserved for old men (rich geezers), but times have changed. Tiger Woods has been an inspiration to many young Kenyans -- who, incidentally, think that golf is an easy game. I thought so, too. I bought a second-hand kit, because kits are quite expensive here. I struggled on the the range, but a little training by the range-handlers gave me the confidence to try nine holes. I took countless strokes in my first game, but I managed to finish. I kept going, and for a while I played three times a week. But that was not sustainable, because it took up business time. Still, I did upgrade my kit, from a pro shop in South Africa.*

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Now I play golf for leisure, and I am working on reducing my handicap. (Don't ask me what it is.) I have won several prizes, including one called PIGA MINGI (which is Kiswahili for "hitting too many strokes"). I wish I had started at an early age -- and that is what I want for my children, who have started playing, too. The two photos below were taken at Milnerton Golf Course, in Cape Town, South Africa, which has the best views on the planet. The sound of the Atlantic must have made me miss the ball, but I guess I am still learning the swing.

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*Golf in Kenya can be challenging, and animals have the right of way. But the trends that will shape the future of golf are the same trends that are shaping the future of the planet: urbanization, the spread of digital technology, and resource and sustainability pressures. The middle class in Kenya are now looking at golf as leisure, and I am looking for a reliable supplier of golf simulators who wants to help encourage a golf explosion in Eastern Africa. Golfers here want a place where they will not be required to abide by an archaic, denim-phobic dress code, to speak in whispers in the clubhouse, or to be snubbed by the committee. They want to play fun golf on simulators that work! *

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Mwangi took the photo above at Lost City Golf Course, designed by Gary Player, at the Palace of the Lost City, in South Africa. "I drove there for miles," he told me, "but I was turned away because it was invitation-only. So the only thing I could do was take a photo of the beautiful course from the clubhouse and cool down with a few pints." Mwangi is still working on his game, and, if he keeps at it, maybe he'll qualify for Kenya's team in the East Africa Challenge Golf Tournament, which was held at Rift Valley in 2013 and at Entebbe Golf Club, in Uganda, in 2014. Kenya's team won both times -- its eleventh and twelfth victories since the tournament began, in 1999.

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