In 1899 the railway line from Mombasa, on Kenya’s south coast, reached the swampy land known by the Masai as Nyrobi. It had taken more than 3 years to reach this point due to amongst other things, the infamous man-eating lions at the Tsavo River. When it reached this point a major depot was established as the center of operations for the continuation of the line further north to Lake Victoria and up into Uganda. In 1900 the spelling was changed to Nairobi and Kenya’s future capital was born.
In 1921, the wife of the Kenya Railways manager, Mrs Couper, established a Golf Club for the Kenya Uganda Railways staff and in 1924 it opened its membership to non-railways staff.
The course still revolves heavily around the railway line, which passes straight through the middle of the course. The only hole though where it comes into play is the 2nd, where your tee shot could cause some damage to a passing train if not connected well!
When I arrived at the club in the morning, the weather was looking rather ominous, but I was assured by my taxi driver that it wouldn’t rain again today. The rain wasn’t the only thing stopping me though, when I checked in at the Pro Shop I was informed that I would only be able to play nine holes, as there was a tournament going off at midday, and as it is only a 9 hole course, I wouldn’t be able to turn once it had started.
The green fees were again very reasonable at KES1500 ($15), which is the same whether you play 9 or 18 holes, a caddy is compulsory though and costs an additional KES300 ($3) for 9 holes or KES500 ($5) for 18 holes. That being said it is still a very affordable option in the heart of downtown Nairobi.
As I was about to tee off on the 1st hole the starter asked me if I wanted to join up with one of the members, which as it turned out would allow me to play 18 holes instead of just 9, either way I wouldn’t have minded joining him, as I am very used to teeing up with locals or other visitors where ever I play.
I rented a driver again, this time for KES500 ($5), but it was almost identical to mine at home, so was happy to pay a little extra to have that familiarity and off the 1st tee I had a very familliar push into the right hand rough to start the round!
My playing partner was both twice my age and handicap and was retired from the Kenyan Ministry of Finance, where he had worked for more than 30 years. He is now a member of the Club and normally plays here three times a week, so was a good guide for my first time on the course.
The round started relatively well and on the second hole I almost drove the green of the 322 yard Par 4, but after that it took me another five holes before I parred the Stroke 1, Par 4 7th, playing 457 yards.
To be honest I was struggling to come to terms with the distances I was hitting the ball again, for some reason I am just not used to teeing off on a 200 yard Par 3 with a 7 iron!
Once we got to the 9th, the tournament had started and we had to wait a while before there was an opening for us. While we waited, our group grew to three, as Peter, a Canadian pilot with KLM Airways, joined us for his back nine as well. In the end we tee’d off on the 17th (8th) hole, which also runs away from the club house, and by the time we finished the 18th, the 10th was free for us to go!
The 17th changed from the 387 yard Par 4 8th, to a 237 yard Par 3, which I somehow put pin high next to the green with a 5 iron. The rest of the back nine was again a struggle, the fairways being quite narrow and the thick trees on either side rather unforgiving.
My rented driver was causing me more trouble than it was worth and for the last few holes I put it away completely, something I probably should have done a lot early as my 4 iron was going 250 yards off the tee anyway. Probably the biggest shock of the whole round was the 180 yard 9 iron for my second shot on the 12th hole. “Can I take this altitude home with me? Please!”
The course was in great condition though, and despite the light rain that was falling for most of the back nine, we had great conditions! Playing out of the trees on almost every hole though was getting a little tiresome and at one point I was feeling pretty beat up by the course, a feeling a haven’t felt since playing the Berhampore course in Wellington, New Zealand a few years ago!
This was definitely a step up from last weeks round at The Golf Park at Ngong Race Course, but with the mandatory caddy, it came to almost double the cost, which is still only KES2000 ($20) for 18 holes. Shoestring?? I think so!
I will definitely come back to the Kenya Railway Golf Club again, if for no reason but to improve on my poor score from today and to do it without a driver in the bag!
On Sunday I start my next tour, three weeks back through the Serengeti, across to Zanzibar, down Lake Malawi and finishing at Victoria Falls, which will hopefully be the next round for The Shoestring Golfer, maybe this time on the Zimbabwean side….