Gilgil Golf Club – Great Rift Valley

Holes:  9
Green Fees:  9 – KES300 ($3) Weekdays / 9 – KES500 ($5) Weekends
Rental Clubs:  None
Caddy:  Recommended / 9 – KES250 ($2.50)
Phone Number:  +254 72 274 5330 / Sue Brendon (Club Secretary)
Website:  None

The small town of Gilgil sits on the main highway between Nakuru, in the north, and Nairobi, in the south, in what is known as The Great Rift Valley.  The Rift valley starts officially in Lebanon and makes its way through the Middle East, 6000km down the eastern side of Africa and ends in Mozambique.

One of the most well known sections of the Rift Valley is here in Kenya, where the ancient tectonic activity has created an area full of beautiful lakes, volcanic craters, awesome rock formations and generally, just amazing scenery.

On the road heading to Hell’s Gate

A few weeks ago I started looking at the possibility of doing a short golf tour through the region, in an attempt to find more information on the golf options The Great Rift Valley holds.  As the search for up-to-date information proved futile, it further solidified the need for this trip to take place.  What I realised though, was that going on my own was going to be too expensive and I needed to find some people to share the rental car expense with.  This would mean however that I may have to compromise on all the golf I wanted to play.

Fortunately for me, one of my guiding colleagues, Alfie, arrived in town and he and one of the guests from his last tour, Todd, were looking to get away for a few days too.

Game spotting from our bikes in the park

We decided to head up to Lake Naivasha, where we could visit the Hell’s Gate National Park, which despite being home to a number of dangerous predators, allows you to enter both by bicycle and on foot.  We chose to hire some mountain bikes from the lodge where we were staying and spent an amazing day cycling through the park, taking in the beautiful surroundings and getting to see some cool animals from the seat of our bikes.
The guys were happy to go along with part of my earlier schedule and agreed to join me in Gilgil, so I could at least get one round of golf in, and as it was only a short drive out of the way, it wouldn’t cost us too much time, or petrol money.

Before I left Nairobi, I searched on Google Maps for the Gilgil Golf Club and scribbled down some rough directions that I hoped would get us there, like all the other numbers I had found and tried to call, theirs was not working, so I wouldn’t be able to phone and ask for directions if we got lost….which we did!

After a few kilometers of scenic side roads, we asked a local lady if she knew where the club was, which she directed us to with no problem.  As she was heading in the same direction as us, we gave her and her young daughter a ride back to the main road, where she pointed out the Golf Club, right where we had turned off.  In our defense, there was no signage on the front gate posts, so it was quite easy to miss.

The 337 yard Par 4 1st hole, crossing the C77 between Gilgil & Nyahururu!

The club house seemed quite deserted, but we found someone to help us and who said it wouldn’t be a problem to play, the problem we did have though was that they had no rental clubs.  After a quick phone call, one of the caddies agreed to come down and to rent us his clubs if we wanted them.

Sinking my par putt on the 2nd ‘Brown’

When he arrived a few minutes later, his set was a mix of different irons ranging over a period of about 40 years at least, some duplicated and others missing completely.  What he had though was better than nothing and Alfie and I decided to give them a go.

Alfie admitted he had never really played golf before, but when the Green Fees turned out to be only KES300 (US $3) for nine holes, he said he would give it a try anyway. Todd was happy to put his feet up in the lounge of the club house and wait for us there!

When we stood on the first tee we realised we had actually driven straight through the course, as the 1st Hole actually crossed the road we had driven past on!

Coming in to the Par 4 3rd ‘Brown’

I won’t go in to too much detail about the course, only to say that it was absolutely amazing!  They only have nine holes and no greens, only ‘browns’ which were a hard clay type surface, covered with  thin layer of fine black sand, which looked almost like poppy seeds.  After getting used to the speed of the ‘browns’ there were actually quite true and I was surprised how well they played, it did take me a few holes to realise that you can’t fly the ball up onto them though, otherwise the ball just bounced off the back, but rather you need to land the ball on the fringe in front and run it on!

Playing off the overgrown railway line on the 450 yard Par 5 6th Hole

Our caddy, who’s clubs we were using, must have been a magician in a past life, cause he miraculously found our balls on a number of occasions after they disappeared into ridiculously thick grass and bush!

Without him I think we probably would have got lost ourselves, as a maze of pathways led us from one hole to the next and with no markers, his information regarding the length and par of each hole on the tee box was crucial.

On the 8th green it started to rain and was coming down quite solidly as we played the last hole, but the experience had been fantastic.  Including the Caddy Fee and the rental of his clubs, the nine holes had come to only $8 each, a budget golf option any golfer on a shoestring can afford.

And if you need a tip on how to find it: Just after you drive past the Pembroke House School, you cross the 1st Fairway and the entrance is on the left!

Enjoy it, but take a few extra balls!

Looking back down the old railway line and the 360 yard Par 4 4th Hole

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