Going the Distance in Kenya
March 2, 2016
By Eric Lahman, USGA
In the sports realm, Kenya is widely known a global powerhouse in long-distance running. However, it’s also a country with a long golf tradition, trailing only South Africa in number of courses on the African continent. The Kenya Golf Union (KGU) is working to grow the game, and the USGA strongly supports the KGU as a partner in this endeavor.
I recently had the opportunity to assist the KGU with USGA Course Rating System™ training in the capital city of Nairobi. About 40 attendees learned the process of Course Rating and “by-the-book” procedures in a classroom setting, followed by two days of on-course rating at Karen Country Club and Kiambu Golf Club, a picturesque nine-hole course that plays as an 18 due to the presence of two separate greens on most holes.
An interesting aside: Karen C.C. was founded in 1937 on the former site of a coffee plantation, and was the setting for the Academy Award-winning 1985 film “Out of Africa,” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Until the 1960s, the course was home to a wide array of wildlife, including baboons, buffalo, lions and zebras. Today, it plays host to the Barclays Kenya Open, a Challenge Tour event on the PGA European Tour, contested March 17-20, 2016.
Representatives from several areas of Kenya converged on Nairobi for the three-day session, looking to give back to the game they love by getting more involved with the KGU. Through this effort they became qualified USGA course raters of the KGU and will be able to assist the union by rating a number of courses that require the service.
Kenya has a little more than 40 courses, with another 10 being planned and currently under construction. This includes land that was recently donated by the government to the KGU to become its national golf training facility, and Kenya’s first official public golf course, Kasarani Golf Club. The plan is for it to include a practice facility and a regulation 18-hole course. The KGU has begun work on the practice area, which will be completed first, and is working with a local architect on the 18-hole project while seeking another architect to provide expertise and feedback throughout the process, and additional funding to speed along the development.
The KGU was founded in 1928 and has approximately 8,000 golfers with a handicap. The union is licensed by the USGA as the exclusive golf association in Kenya to utilize the USGA Course Rating System. With training complete, the KGU will use the USGA’s Course Rating program to calculate its ratings, which will be available on usga.org. This will in turn provide tourists who have a Handicap Index® a means to post their scores in Kenya against a valid USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating®; and will be useful in the move toward a World Handicap System.
The USGA’s partnership with the KGU is a terrific example of how cooperation between golf organizations can lead to a stronger, healthier game worldwide.
Eric Lahman is the USGA's manager of Handicap and Course Rating Administration. Email him at email@example.com.