There are five Championship golf courses around Nairobi, and there are nearly thirty courses through Kenya, most situated in beautiful upland settings. The Kenya Open (handicap three or under) attracting world golfing stars takes place every March and the Kenya Amateur Championships (handicap seven or less) in November. Even in the wet months the sun normally shines long enough to complete eighteen holes!
Muthaiga Golf Club: 6676 yards – par 71 – 18 holes
Playing golf in Kenya can be a novel experience as evidenced by the fact that Kenya is the only country in the world to have the following rule: 'If a ball comes to rest...close to a hippopotamus or crocodile, another ball may be dropped at a safe distance, but no nearer the hole, without a penalty'.
The Club is under going a major course renovation program, with more water the principal new feature. Just 15 minutes from Nairobi centre and at 5,500 feet altitude, the course is a par 71 over 6,702 yards for men, and par 72 over 5,864 yards for ladies. The opening par-4 is a difficult downhill dogleg followed by a trick par 3 with a fast sloping and breaking green. The par-four number eight is as difficult to reach in regulation two as its index one rating suggests, while hole nine with its drive over the river ravine below requires some extra concentration. On the back nine, the principal challenges are the long par-four fourteenth, the tight approach on the par-four sixteenth, and the long par five eighteenth.
Home of the Kenya Open Golf Championship - part of the European PGA. Past winners include Ballesteros, Woosnam and Canizaes.
Member's Wednesday and Thursday club nights are always fully booked, as are weekend competitions. The club is very popular for corporate outings. Muthaiga's resident professional is Charles Farrah, widely regarded as Kenya's most popular golf tutor.
Leisure Golf Club: 5833 meters – par 72 – 18 holes
Located on Kenya's south coast at the popular Diani Beach resort, Leisure is a young but rapidly maturing championship course. The principal challenges for most golfers are in reading blustery winds and coping with the humidity. Visiting professionals recommend golfer's take two towels - one for drying the sweat off your hands before each shot! The greens are superbly true. The annual Diani Masters pro-am event held in early October is extremely popular with overseas and local golfers. Leisure is about an hour's drive from Mombassa city, but just a few minutes from nearby Ukunda airstrip, serviced by local operator schedule air services from Nairobi.
The course par is 72. Off the men's gold tees it plays 6.083 yards, and 5,841 yards off the yellow tees. The ladies yardage is 5,082 off the red tees and 4,891 off the yellow. On the outward nine, the short, par-4 first requires a thoughtful approach shot. A cross-wind often influences aim on the par-3 third. An accurate tee shot down the right on hole four is needed for a clear second to the green. The index 1, par-4, sixth hole is usually played into a strong head wind. Similar windy conditions often make the par-5 ninth extremely difficult to reach in regulation three for the average golfer.
The second shot on the difficult par-4 tenth must take out trees in front of the green, while any tee shot left off the fairway on the par-4 eleventh requires a blind second shot over trees. The par-5 thirteenth may also be subject to strong head winds. Perhaps the most interesting and scenic hole at Leisure is the par-3 fifteenth where the tee shot into a cross or head wind must carry the lake. The par-4, seventeenth is long while the second shot to eighteen must carry the big dip over a planned water area.
Leisure's resident professional is John Davies.
Nyali Golf & Country Club: 6510 yards – par 71 – 18 holes
Golfers that have played Nyali say it is the most challenging golf course in Kenya. The course is long in addition to having to cope with coastal winds and humidity. The par is 71 over 6,510 yards for men and 5,431 yards for ladies. The most difficult hole is the index one, 425-yard par four fourth. Other challenging holes on the front nine are the par-3 sixth with its undulating green, and the green hazards at the par-4 seventh. On the back nine, the par-5 eleventh and par-4 thirteenth cause problems for many golfers. Careful course management is needed for the par-3 eighteenth to avoid overshooting the green into the club house verandah!
Club night is Thursday. Nyali's resident professional is James Kingori.
Rift Valley Golf Club: 6580 yards – par 72 – 18 holes
Although still taking root on the local circuit, the course looks set to earn major international kudos for its spectacular setting and challenging character. The first player to break the 71 par here, the Irish professional David Jones, described it as the best young course he had ever played on.
Hole number 3 which is a par 3, is the signature hole, with stunning views over Lake Naivasha. Hole number 17 at 548 yards, a par 5 is a blind dog-leg right and is one of the most challenging holes on the course.
In general the course has several hazards including water and the occasional zebra and warthog! The greens are extremely well manicured and maintained. There is a driving range and a putting green.
The course was designed by Thomas Fjastad and is a pleasure to play for the golfing tourist.
Sigona Golf Club: 6519 yards – par 71 – 18 holes
When we asked Limuru's golfers which course they felt was the most fair and challenging in Kenya, the majority verdict went to Sigona. The reasons given included difficult tee shots, long par fours with potentially difficult second shot lies, and fast breaking greens.
Just 20 minutes from Nairobi city centre and at 6,600 feet altitude, Sigona is one of the most challenging eighteen hole courses in Kenya. For men, the course is a par-71 over 6,696 yards from the yellow tees, and par-72 over 6,874 yards from the back tees. The ladies par is 73 over 5,853 yards. Beautiful mature woodlands, slopes and elevations, and fast, breaking greens make for a memorable round of golf.
Club night is Wednesday and weekends are busy with member competitions or weekend golf.
The resident professional is former Limuru scratch golfer, John Kiondo.
Windsor Golf & Country Club: 6751 yards – par 72 – 18 holes
Just 25 minutes from Nairobi centre, the Windsor course is carved out of a natural forest setting at 5,500 feet altitude. From the front tees, the course par is 71 over 6,407 yards for men and 5,579 yards for ladies. From the daunting back tees, the course par is 72 for men over 6,751 yards, and 73 for ladies over 5,816 yards. The main course management issue on virtually every hole at Windsor is to stay on the fairway. Rough is generally unforgiving, while in many cases, the adjacent fairway dense woodlands are unplayable. The par-4 holes one, two, nine and eighteen have scenic water settings. The par-5 fourth and par-4 eleventh are extra-long. Two interesting second shot options are available on the par-4 fourteenth, while the second shot is critical on the par-five fifteenth.
Club night is Wednesdays, while Windsor also boasts a modern hotel complex.
The resident professional is Peter Njiru.
Karen Golf & Country Club: 6893 yards - par 72 - 18 holes
At an altitude of 6,200 feet and just 20 minutes from Nairobi city centre, Karen is one of the best manicured and maintained golf courses in Kenya. It is particular scenic when the magnificent course flora is in full bloom. The standard tee yardage is 6672/par-71 for men and 5951/par-73 for ladies. Off the back tees, the course par for men is 73 over 6934 yards. The course is reserved for members only at weekends, club night is on Thursdays, and the course is regularly booked for corporate outings. Karen's principal challenges are its longer par four holes (numbers 6, 9, 13 and 17), a tricky par 3 with water (number 14) and fast greens (some with difficult-to-read breaks). Apart from the 'loop' (holes 10, 11 and 12) and the fourth hole, Karen is fairly flat, while virtually all fairways are forgiving.
Karen's resident professional John Limb Jnr., has an excellent reputation for golf tuition.