Green Fees: 9 – KES1000 ($10) / 18 – KES2000 ($20)
Rental Clubs: Below Average / 9 – KES500 ($5) / 18 – KES1000 ($10)
Caddy: Compulsory / 9 – KES250 ($2.50) / 18 – KES500 ($5) excl. tip
Phone Number: +254 20 272 4215
King George V once commented, “Golf always makes me so damned angry!”
Today I had the exact opposite feeling, and I am pleased to say that almost every day I play golf I can say that. Maybe it is because I do not get to play as often as I would like, so when I do play, I appreciate it and make the most of it. Maybe it is because of my last fifteen rounds, eleven of those have been on new courses and have been in three new countries, or maybe it is just because I am happy with the level of my game and besides not practicing or playing regularly, I am able to maintain a similar standard of play…….or maybe its a combination of all three. Whatever it is, I love it, I love golf and I love being able to share my passion with whomever may be out there reading this article.
Since getting back to Nairobi a few day ago, I have been looking at all the golfing opportunities again and trying to decide where my next round would be. I decided to call The Royal Nairobi Golf Club, to confirm their rates and check the availability of play for today.
It was then that I had the privilege of playing nine holes at the oldest golf club in Kenya, The Royal Nairobi Golf Club. In 1906 a nine hole course was developed and in 1922 they extended it to eighteen holes. During his reign as King (1910 – 1936), George V made a number of visits to Africa, and on one such visit he made a stop here in Nairobi and had the chance, like me, to play the course. In 1936 the club was bestowed with the title of Royal Nairobi, and reciprocates with other “Royal’ clubs around the World.
There have been quite a few other guides hanging out here at the camp over the weekend, so I was happy when Alfie, a guide with a different overland company, decided to join me this morning.
We left here in a taxi this morning under grey skies, but hoped we would make it through before any rain came down. As always the traffic in Nairobi was a mess, but we still got to the club quite quickly and were able to tee off before 10am, and with only a few drops of rain having fallen on the car windshield.
We weren’t sure if we were going to play nine or eighteen holes, so just paid for nine to start and again picked up one of the caddies who had followed our car in from the gate.
The guy in the Pro Shop said we could share a set of clubs and he got what I guess was their best set out of storage for us. An important part of this blog, apart from reporting on the conditions of the course and to the extent it conforms to the ‘Budget Golf’ bracket, is the quality and availability of the rental equipment.
Let’s just say that I think these were the same clubs King George used on his visit here almost a hundred years ago. Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the Ping Karsten III blade irons, from 1976, that were handed to us, were not the best set I have played with and I knew already I would have trouble hitting the Titleist 905 9.5 degree Driver, with stiff shaft, off of the tee box. Sharing the clubs did reduce the cost though, as we split the KES500 (Kenyan Shillings) (US$5) fee and who knows what their second best set would have looked like!!
The Green Fees for nine holes were also very affordable at KES1000 ($10) and the caddy fee would work out to KES250 ($2.50) for each of us over nine holes, making a total of KES1500 ($15), which can be exactly doubled for eighteen holes.
As we walked towards the 1st Tee and waited for The Starter to bring us a scorecard, I could see already that it was going to be worth it, the fairways an emerald green and the trees bright purple with Jacaranda blossoms, it was a beautiful sight.
Nicholas, our caddy was missing for our first shots, but fortunately mine had found its way deep down the fairway, even if it never got higher than six feet off the ground. I started off with two pars again, but on the 3rd hole I pulled a dodgy drive into a small creek running across the hole and had to drop out and ended with a double bogey. I was annoyed with myself, as the hole was only 347 yards and I really didn’t need anything more than a 5-iron off the tee to leave a wedge into the green, but the damage was already done and the score carded.
Standing on the 4th tee I knew I need to try create some extra club head speed with the driver to get the ball up in the air, so I tee’d it up a little higher and really threw my hands at the ball to try get it going. Now I know the tee box is not the place to be trying new things with a set of new clubs and the safer option would have been to tee off with an iron, but the result was fantastic and the ball sailed down the fairway, over running it slightly and unfortunately leaving me a tricky approach from behind a tree.
Walking up onto the 5th tee, was one of those great moments in golf when you just go “WOW!”, what lay ahead was a beautiful hole which fell away to the creek at the corner of the dogleg and then rose up again to the right. The hole was only 376 yards, so I knew if I cut the corner slightly I would end up close to the green, and so with renewed confidence in the driver, aimed up the right side. Contact was good again, but I pulled it slightly, overshooting the corner of the dogleg but ending up in a nice position with an open approach to the green.
The first of the Par 3’s was the 188 yard 6th hole, which was playing shorter than the card suggests, with the tees up a bit and running downhill all the way to the green. I decided on a 8 iron and allowed a little for the right to left breeze and when I hit it, it all looked good. Starring it down I watched it bounce almost on the flag stick, but then roll out just off the back of the green. My putt from just off the green almost dropped and I had a one inch tap-in for another par.
The most noticeable thing about the 7th hole was Nairobi’s massive Kibera slum sitting only a wall away just behind the tee box. The Par 3 8th was a good one for my playing partner, Alfie, who got his only par for the day and trumping my bogey.
After just missing my par putt on the 9th green, I turned to to Alfie to see if he wanted to continue onto the back nine, but he said he was done for the day, so we packed up and headed into the club house for a drink while we waited for our taxi to arrive. The Golf Gods must have been on our side, cause no sooner had we sat down on the veranda overlooking the 18th green, when the rain clouds that had been threatening all morning decided to release a downpour all around us. Good decision Alfie!
Of the three courses I have played in Nairobi, this has definitely been my favourite so far. The course is in excellent condition and the bright colours of Bougainvilleas and Jacarandas lining the fairways gives it a real special feeling. I was very happy with my round again and came off smiling with another 42. King George’s feelings couldn’t have been more wrong for me on this day.
In the next week I hope to return to Royal Nairobi to play the back nine and from there head north to see what golfing opportunities I can find in The Great Rift Valley. Until then, let me make it clear that Kenya is definitely turning out to be a good stop on The Shoestring Golfer’s quest to find affordable golfing options in new and exciting places.