In the month since I last played golf, I headed off from Victoria Falls to start my training on the East Africa leg of the overland tour circuit, travelling through beautiful Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and finally ending up here in Nairobi, Kenya.
Along the way I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, both the blessing and curse of the life as a tour guide, see some amazing places and experience a whole new part of Africa I had never before witnessed.
As expected, the golfing opportunities were not forthcoming, but when my colleague, Mia, showed an interest in a few golf lessons along the way, we purchased the only club we could find, a 60 degree wedge, and some balls at a supermarket when entering Malawi. The first practice opportunity came on the beautiful, long, Kande Beach on the shores of Lake Malawi. I think I made use of the club a lot more than she did and one or two impromptu lessons followed, one in the middle of the night after our Fancy Dress party, my outfit of tight brown leggings and Leopard print blouse, probably not regulation on the PGA teaching circuit, but they proved effective and the results spoke for themselves.
I was hoping to find a course on Zanzibar Island, but the old club closed down many years ago and they have yet to develop anything new, the affordability of a new course on Zanzibar would probably be out of the range of the Shoestring Golfer’s budget, but I can hardly think of a more beautiful setting to play golf in.
Once back on the mainland, we had a few long days of driving to get across to Arusha, the springboard for our adventure into the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
With more game viewing experiences already under my belt than most people get to have in a lifetime, I was still looking forward to this excursion, where I had heard the wildlife viewing was amazing….and it didn’t disappoint! In the two days we were game driving, we saw more than 50 Lions, 5 Leopards, 3 Cheetahs, a Cerval Cat, Elephants, herds of Wildebeest, Buffalo & Zebra and a number of Hippos, all with the backdrop of the endless African plains of the Serengeti and the out-of-this-world Ngorongoro Crater.
Before I knew it, we were in Nairobi and the tour was over, my first East African Experience a truly memorable one. What lay await was a couple of weeks of chill and prep time before my first solo tour heading back south to Victoria Falls, there would also be time to scout out some of the budget golf options available in this massive African city of 3.4 million people, the first of these, The Golf Park at Ngong Racecourse.
Set inside the race track, The Golf Park is a tight 9-hole layout with alternate tees to make a slightly different back nine available if you want to make the turn. As you know, my last round was at The Livingstone Royal Golf & Country Club and cost a shoestring $20 for 18 holes, so I was hoping The Golf Park would be just as affordable, and at KES1100 (Kenyan Shillings) it worked out to around $12 for the 18 holes!
I had borrowed a set of irons from one of the guys who works at our Nairobi workshop, but decided to rent a driver for an extra KES100 ($1), and although it was a rather low-tech Spalding 1-wood it did the job quite well.
Unlike my round at Vic Falls where it took me six holes to realise I was playing at altitude, this time I checked beforehand and saw that I would be playing at around 1700m (5500 feet) above sea level, that being said, I still had a hard time coming to terms with hitting my sand wedge 130 metres. The front nine was a bit up and down, but I managed to shoot 40 on the Par 35 layout of three Par 3′s, four Par 4′s and two Par 5′s.
I had been given a tip that the samoosas at the Half-Way House were particularly good (which they were), so stopped briefly to refuel before playing the 30 metre shorter back nine.
I always feel on courses like this, that the second time around should be decidedly better, but as is usually the case, the little bit of course knowledge I had gained was totally equalised by the inconsistencies of my swing and the inability to hit the ball where I am aiming!
I wouldn’t be a true South African rugby supporter if I didn’t make some reference to yesterdays upsetting loss to Australia in the World Cup Quarter-Final, so let me just say that my reading of the greens was about as bad as Referee Bryce Lawrence’s reading of the yesterday’s game, and while my lack of judgement only led to a number or disappointing three putts, his lead to the Springbok’s early departure from the tournament.
Fortunately I was able to put these extra putts behind me and managed to par the last four holes and come in with a 41 and a total of 81.
My taxi fare to and from the course came to almost double my green fees, but it was worth the trip through Nairobi’s notoriously bad traffic to enjoy this basic, yet enjoyable Shoestring Golf option, and with another week here in Nairobi, I hope to find at least one more affordable course, otherwise I might head back for another day at the race track.