Kenya is packed with sights, tastes, flora and fauna unlike any other golfing destination. Rob Smith thoroughly enjoys a few days in and around Nairobi
Golf in Kenya
Despite being a fan of golf in Africa’s extremes, north and south, I had never before visited one of its more central countries. It was therefore a thrill to head to Kenya for some golf and a few days based in and around its bustling capital, Nairobi, where the 2-hour time difference means jet-lag is not an issue. My first port of call was the award-winning Windsor Golf and Country Club which is also an elegant hotel comprising a cluster of Victorian-style buildings.
I was very impressed by both the quality and conditioning of the design which runs through gently undulating woodland bordered by coffee plantations. Beginning with an extremely tough par 4 with a green protected by water and trees, there is also great variety with dog-legs left and right, attractive and strategic bunkering.
Each hole runs through the trees, and there is beautiful wildlife at every turn.
The very attractive and inviting par 3 at thirteen is followed by a supremely tough signature hole at fourteen which calls for a fearless approach over the river. I thoroughly enjoyed the unobtrusive presence of Sykes’ monkeys on some of the fairways and in the rough, and a post-round lunch by the pool was the perfect way to cool down after a round.
Seve Ballesteros and Ian Woosnam both won the Kenya Open at the colonial and historic Muthaiga Club which boasts a very enjoyable course with two quite different nines either side of a road. Not far from Windsor, the course has been regularly upgraded over the years and it twists and turns through the tallest trees with water hazards a regular feature.
Heading out of Nairobi on our drive up towards the Great Rift Valley, we stopped off at a very pretty course offering embarrassingly cheap golf. Sigona Golf Club is another with history, designed by the eccentric but brilliant Tom Simpson, and although it is in the suburbs, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. There are some narrow drives and tough angles with the pick of the best being the 7th which doglegs uphill and to the left. The drive at the next has to be the tightest in Africa, and I was pleased with my handful of pars, especially at the par 5s either side of the turn.
The Great Rift Valley runs an astonishing 6,000 kilometres down the eastern side of Africa to Mozambique, and my introduction to it centred on the superb game and golf resort of the same name just to the north of Lake Naivasha.
There are several really good holes such as 9 and 17, but whilst others are less distinct, this becomes a non-issue when you are playing in paradise. I have never before had to wait for a zebra to move out of my line of play, or enjoyed seeing such an array of birdlife which included black-headed oriole and Fischer’s Lovebirds. Stunning!
En route back to Nairobi, we had time for a 3-hour canoe safari on Lake Naivasha which included a stroll round Crescent Island and the chance to look at the elegant giraffes, eye-to-kneecap. The absolute highlight was an encounter with a pod of hippopotami, the most dangerous animal in Africa. Our guide took us as close as possible, an experience that I will treasure forever.
Although my schedule didn’t allow me to fly down to Mombasa, there are also some very good courses on the coast, particularly Nyali and the excellent Vipingo Ridge. For any golfer looking for somewhere different with fabulous weather, the most reasonable prices and the bonus of a variety of safari options, I cannot recommend it more.