Best Golfing Vacations and Resorts
One of Kenya’s best-kept secrets is its numerous golf courses that nestle in some unusual settings. It is quite common for some wildlife to pay visits to a gold course whilst you are busy playing a round of golf. And then there are some courses where once can get drunk on the surrounding spectacular scenery, especially when the scenery is crowned with the forests and snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya or the turquoise waters of the Indian ocean fringed with white, sandy beaches.
Best Undiscovered Golf Destination
Kenya is the proud recipient of the prestigious IAGTO Award for the Best Undiscovered Golf Destination in the world for the year 2009. The country has some 40 golf courses of which 13 are 18-hole courses and 10 are used for championship events. 6 courses are within a 20 mile radius of Nairobi - Kenya's bustling capital. The oldest 18 hole course is Royal Nairobi Golf Club founded in 1906, while the latest is the David Jones designed Vipingo Baobab Golf Club on the coast of East Africa, which opened in July 2009.
Kenya's Muthaiga Golf Club is the host of the Kenya Open, part of the European PGA Challenge Cup. The 18-hole Muthaiga Golf Course was completely remodeled by renowned South African Golf Architect Peter Matkovich in 2003 and a delight to play for professionals as well for amateurs.
Ideal Weather Year Round
The weather in Kenya is ideal for golf all year round. In the highland areas the temperatures are in the low 20's and at the coast in the high 20's or low 30's. There are 12 hours of daylight almost all year round and, depending on the season, 4 to 9 hours of sunshine. During the two rainy seasons, (April and November) the rain usually falls before 10 am and after 5 PM and almost never when you are playing! More and more clubs have installed sophisticated fairway watering systems to keep the course green during the dry seasons.
Many courses are at an altitude of more than 1500 meters (5000 ft) truly giving you an additional 10% yardage to your stroke. Most clubs have a pro-shop where you can buy whatever you need. Though there are no golf carts available, Kenya has the luxury of caddies. Usually the caddies are very good players themselves and will not only carry your bag and look for your ball in the rough, but advice on local rules, assist with your swing and generally be your companion and mentor.
Most of Kenya's golf clubs are private membership clubs and organize many competitions, but also at club nights and weekends most courses are closed for visitors, and it is advised to book your tee-times through Catalyst Travels to avoid disappointment if the golf courses are closed.
For the visiting golfer, Kenya has a broad appeal. An avid golfer can fashion his safari to include wildlife viewing as well. A golfer who prefers to laze on the beach can still fit in a game or two and the business traveler, with an afternoon off, can easily play his favorite game right on his doorstep. You don’t have to move far from the green in Kenya to discover a world of travel opportunities. Kenya offers endless choice of activities suited for adventure or relaxation.
No matter how you want to spend your time off the course, you’ll find plenty of options. Next time you are on a Kenya Safari, remember to pack your golf clubs.
Some of the most famous golf courses that Kenya has to offer are:
Vipingo Ridge Golf Resort
Vipingo Ridge Golf Resort on the North Cost of Mombasa lies in the centre of a 2,500 acre former sisal estate. The property rises from just above sea level to a 140 metre high ridge before falling off again to the scenic lake and game conservation area to the west of the site.
The two golf courses at Vipingo Ridge are the first in East Africa to be built to a truly international standard, with the world-renowned USGA specification being used for all aspects of the course.
The large and undulating greens at Vipingo Ridge are cultivated with fine Bermuda grasses to guarantee fast and true putting surfaces. A fully automated irrigation system and a large inventory of new green-keeping equipment ensure that the playing surfaces are maintained in pristine condition all year round.
Kenya’s world famous wildlife is never far away. A round of golf in Kenya can often be a nature walk in itself, with a remarkable profusion of bird life and wildlife surrounding the greens.
Great Rift Valley Lodge
Since it opened in 2000, the Great Rift Valley Golf Course has earned a reputation as one of the most challenging and breathtakingly beautiful of all Africa’s championship courses. Set on the slopes of a small dormant volcano with un-spoilt scenery in all directions, most holes on this course enjoy stunning views of mountains, plains, lakes and both escarpments of the Rift Valley itself. The four finishing holes are the best and hardest to be seen anywhere.
The quality of the greens is very high and regarded by most golfers who have played here as the best in Kenya. There is rich birdlife on the course and true to Kenya’s reputation as the “birthplace of Safari” guests will even see a visiting zebra wandering across the fairways!
The Great Rift Valley Golf Resort is situated in the heart of the Rift Valley at an altitude of 2,200 mts. The course is par 71, it has water features on 5 holes, and the greens are Bermuda type with speeds around 8. The fairways are lush, planted to kikuyu grass. Caddies are available. Facilities include 275mt range & practice green, chipping and bunker.
Windsor Golf Hotel And Country Club
For all golf enthusiasts, Windsor offers a challenging but pleasant 18 Hole championship golf course. This undoubtedly is one of the best golf courses in Kenya and is said to be the best in Africa for a host of golfing events. The championship design and length (7,277 yds) of the course is the centre of attention and deservedly so. It threads its way through coffee farms and indigenous forests with high and low terrain, giving it character and design quality.
The Golf Course boasts lush, springy fairways, fast, true greens and a sprinkling of attractive water hazards with 73 well located sand bunkers and unforgiving roughs make this course a truly challenging experience. Situated at an altitude of more than a mile above sea level (6000ft), the ball will travel 10 yards further than at sea level.
Even for the non-golfer the course is a beautiful walking experience luxuriating in the wonders of nature with bird life, fish, flora and fauna in abundance.
One of the most beautiful golf courses in East Africa, Leisure Golf Club - Diani Beach, Kenya.
The course offers a standard of care and maintenance that will satisfy all your demands. The courses designed by Thommy Fjastad are characterized by rolling fairways, challenging bunkers, appealing water features and impeccable greens. Inspired by stunning terrain, the 18 hole golf course offers panoramas of tropical impressions, whose beauty will inspire you, and challenge you to improve your level of play.
Excellent practice facilities are available, including a putting green, chipping and pitching areas and a driving range.
The challenging 18 hole, Par 72, Championship course measures 6,084 meters (6,632 yards) and is a venue for top international golf tournaments.
The full size driving range has a chipping green and bunker for practice. There is a well-stocked Pro Shop and the Club House has all facilities including food, beverages, and changing rooms.
Tips and Tricks
When to play
The main tourist season in Kenya is from mid December to early February. Although it can be quite hot and dry at this time, the heat means the larger animals tend to congregate at watering holes in the national parks – making them easier to see. There are two rainy seasons in Kenya: the short rains in November, and a longer wet season that usually lasts from the end of March to early May. The rainy seasons actually provide one of the best times for golfers to visit Kenya, when there are fewer tourists on the courses and the hotels are less well frequented. The rain itself also presents generally good golfing conditions, with most of the rain falling at night and leading to lush fairways and greens that hold.
Playing at altitude
Nairobi’s finest courses are all at an altitude of between 5,500 and 6,000 feet and the Great Rift Valley’s course is at 7,000 feet. At high altitude, air pressure is less than the sea-level pressure and therefore less oxygen is absorbed into the body. Allowing a day for the body to acclimatise before playing will reduce the possibility of fatigue, dizzyness or headaches – all symptoms of altitude sickness. And if you do feel like you’re struggling, take the buggy! The effects of alcohol are worse at altitude and it is recommended to avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water, especially in the first few days. The good news however is that the lower air density means your drive will improve by 10-15%. An hour on the driving range is therefore a good idea to assess which clubs work for various distances.
Keeping cool and staying warm
At the Coast, the weather is usually hot and humid and it is important to avoid dehydration, which can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Drink plenty of fluids, avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks which speed up dehydration, and wear loose, light coloured clothing and a cap. Sun-block cream is essential. In Nairobi and particularly in the Central Highlands and Rift Valley, temperatures can be very warm during the day but drop significantly as the sun sets. A sweater or slipover is therefore just as important as sun-block cream!
It is highly advisable to book your itinerary so that your transport, accommodation and tee-times are well-arranged. If you are planning your trip independently, don’t crowd your itinerary. Traffic during rush hour can be very slow and internal flights can be very busy during the high season. If travelling any large distances (>200km) consider flying rather than driving, as Kenya’s roads are far from perfect.
It is prudent to check the airline’s policy on golf bags via their website. Policies are frequently changing and no-one wants unexpected excess baggage charges at the airport.
Caddies rely almost entirely on gratuities so a tip is always warmly welcomed – even though Kenyans are extremely polite people and it will never be demanded.
Take a camera
Whether it’s the panoramas, the on-course wildlife or relaxing at the 19th hole, your memories of golfing in Kenya will be treasured.
And finally ...
Play more than one course! Kenya is blessed with such varied scenery; it would be a shame to miss any of it.
Let us be the Catalyst to your Golfing vacation in Kenya!