Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Uganda's newest course (in the making)

While it may not have looked like much in June 2009, the recent purchase of this course in the offing by the Serena folks ensures that this will be a very nice resort some day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How uptight can you be: Why I refuse to join UGC

Deo Akope wins the prize for Uganda's most uptight golfer!

We thought we would start the new year off right with a round in Kampala. We underestimated the stupidity of the rules that may or may not be enforced at the Golf Club in Kampala.

Four of us showed up for a 9:30 round, but were met by a randomly enforced "dress code". So poor Steve, who is used to playing in jeans and a t-shirt in Fort Portal had to buy a shirt from the pro shop AND borrow a pair of 3/4 length trousers from the locker room attendant. "Appropriately attired" (or so we thought, we teed off and played 3 holes before we were confronted by the Assistant Teaching Pro who had watched us come down #3 from the driving range.

I imagine we insulted his notion of the "etiquette of golf", as we play what we call "Fort Portal Rules", a more relaxed version the R&As rulebook. What we do is play "ready golf", where you can hit when you are ready, as long as another player isn't about to hit. This speeds up the game tremendously, something that is desperately needed at UGC.

His ultimate complaint was that Steve, whose borrowed pants had an elastic waistband had no fly on his trousers, and thus had to be "discontinued"!! Andy walked off the course in sympathy, while Micki and I carried on for another few holes until it was clear that our disgust at this episode had ruined our round.

This has to be the most randomly enforced, arbitrary rule in the history of golf. The notion of what is "proper" is so deeply ingrained at the UGC, that they seemingly would rather focus on what one wears on the course instead of the condition of the golf course itself (shite) or good corporate governance (large sums of money regularly go missing from the clubs coffers).

Indeed, the notice boards at this course are filled with minutiae regarding what one can and can't do at this club. However, there is no dress code posted as there is supposed to be on the boards.

Amongst other stupid rules found in the "Uganda Golf Club Rules and Regulations" are:

"It is an offense to induce any member of staff to leave the services of the Club"

"Members, or guests are not allowed to sit in the Captains Chair or ring the Captains bell"

The strangest rule is that you "must have a bona fide handicap" in order to play, yet is seemingly impossible to get a "bona fide handicap", since the handicapper is rarely around, and when he does give a handicap, he seems to pick a number at random.

I've been playing there as a guest for 4 years, played in Club Nites (and even won some prizes) yet have been unable to get a "bona fide handicap". Several members I have spoken to have also been unable to get one of these elusive identifiers.

From my discussion with lapsed and prospective members, it seems to me that more folks would join the club and play more often if the club had reasonable and imartially enforced rules.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare is Over Invitational and Family Picnic

To celebrate Billy's birthday, and the victory of Hope over Despair, we decided to make our monthly round a family affair.

Namulonge is a perfect place for a family outing, acres of space, security, nice people...and a golf course (of sorts), what's not to like!

The fairways were long after a lot of rain and the usual " the tractor is not yet fixed". the green were as bumpy and as unpredictable as always.

Big thanks to uncle Gary for his driving and BBQ skills

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ugandan Independence Day Dutch vs. English speakers Entebbe Invitational

Ugandan public holidays are both the best and worst days to play. Usually the big clubs will have a competition, so play is slow, on the other hand, there is no traffic, and one can drive to golf in a reasonable time. The solution to the conundrum is to either play early OR go to a smaller course. (Lugazi or Namulonge). In mid-October we tried the early route with mixed success.

5 of us met up and played Entebbe at 0900 in 2 groups, the Dutch crew included Billy (an Englishman who lived in Belgium for 10 years, McTim, and American with 7 years in Amserdam, and Olav, one of the flower growers from Wagagai Farm. Simon and Andy were the English team, but they went off the back side, and by the time they got to the front nine, the pace of play was glacial, so they retired to the 19th hole early.

The cloggies slogged it out and finished (well almost, as we skipped a hole and a half, dropping our balls 120 yds from the pin on 18 and turning it into a par 3). It was the only hole on the course where we all managed a par!

Entebbe has the best fish n chips of any course in Uganda, altho, now that I think about it, it maybe the only course where you can get fish n chips, but it's still quite good, and good value.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

1st Annual Barack Obama East African Eid ul-Fitr Match Play Invitational

I'd forgotten how difficult the Mehta Club course is for those who have never played it before. I took 7 unsuspecting high handicappers to Lugazi yesterday for the "1st Annual Barack Obama East African Eid ul-Fitr Match Play Invitational" and, well unsurprisingly, I won the Obama for President t-shirt. To be honest, I left the prize at home, so didn't tell them about it, as I didn't want to disapoint them. I'll give it away next time (when we play Entebbe, hoepfully ont the 9th of October, our next public holiday). The guys (and Clare) couldn't help but pull out their drivers on the tees, and of course found that Lugazi will bite you if you challenge it. Lot's of time spent looking for lost balls in woods/swamp/long grass. Here are some of the worst offenders ;-)

Personally, I played a very conservative course management round, irons off the tees, and got 10 pars and a birdie, with only one double for an 81 (I think). The wheels came off a bit on the last four holes for me and my team, and our string of 5 straight pars gave way to 4 bogeys.

Good thing we played Criers n Whingers or the score would have been truly astronomical. We played morning and afternon matches a la Ryder Cup, with Clare and I dominating Simon and Aubrey 4 and 3, while Steve n Billy beat Micky and Andy 2 and 1 in the morning Fourball.

After a huge Indian lunch, We played threesome BestBall against each other, and I believe that Micky, Billy and I (team score 39) crushed Aubrey, Simon and Steve. A tropical downpour put paid to adding up the scores, as we rushed to pay the caddies and get in the cars before the storm broke (some made it and some did not).

The wettest ones found their bladders stimulated by the sound of so much falling water, so we made the Collne Hotel in Mukono our 19th hole. When we got tback to the Game, we found Steve's car had been clamped, but got that sorted easily.

All in all a fine day of golf, the Ndali Lodge crew were amazed to find what a little gem Lugazi is. They claimed that the Toro Club is just as hilly, but I remain skepitcal. Next time. I hope to get them to play a Shambles at Entebbe. We'll try and pull in the Entebbe Dutch flower crowd for this one.

We also need to investigate Ranch on the Lake, as they appear to have a very ambitious plan! This would be ideal for a weekend round, as we could all take the kids and leave them poolside.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Namulonge Redux

During Golf Around Uganda, I played Toro Club with Simon, Bill Reynell, Andy Roberts, Aubrey Price and met Clare Murumba both involved in the Uganda Golf Initiative, a group I'm hoping to help do more outreach with to caddies/youth around UG.

The Kampala-ites in that group are shaping up to be my new weekly match.

Our first game, (Billy, Simon and I) was a hilarious return trip to Namulonge, where we played a mix of Skins/Bingo, Bango Bongo and Match Play, as it was Ryder Cup week.

Next week, we'll go to Lugazi, where Andy, Clare, Aubrey and hopefully new man about town Micky will join Simon Billy and I for a full round and Indian lunch. I'm hoping to convince them to play Bag Raid !!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Virtual Golf Around Uganda

In order to share part of my experience during Golf Around Uganda: The UG Golf Quest 2008, I have created a virtual tour of golf (and a few other non-golf places) in Uganda which can be played in GoogleEarth. In order to view this tour, you will need to have Google Earth (or it's ilk) installed. If you are in Uganda, please take the file from here. If in another country, this link will be faster.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Uganda golf courses; a subjective rating

There are 4 natural "tiers" that golf courses in Uganda fall into. The tiers and the clubs that belong to them (alphabetically) are:


  • Mehta Club
  • UGC


  • Entebbe
  • Jinja
  • Kabale
  • Kinyara
  • Mary Louis Simkins
  • Toro Club
  • West Nile Club


  • Mbarara
  • Tororo


  • Kasese
  • Lira
  • Mbale

Ranking them in numerical order is more difficult, and of course highly subjective. My rankings with reasons for placement:
  1. UGC - overall condition, best manicure, attention to detail
  2. Mehta Club - speed of greens, beautiful park, best food
  3. Entebbe Club - difficulty, length, views, termite damage
  4. Jinja Club - unique location, views, well maintained, except for greeens
  5. Toro Club - nice views, parklike setting, longest history, greens bumpy
  6. Kinyara Senior Staff Club - fab facilities, best pool, awful to putt
  7. Kabale Sports Club - wildlife, views, good course, greens are shite
  8. MLSMGC: Namulonge - flora, creative use of space, shaggy greens
  9. West Nile Club - putting surfaces awful, but a very nice loop
  10. Tororo Club - lack of maintenance, smelliest bog
  11. Mbarara Sports Club - needs a good thrashing
  12. Kalembe Mines Golf Club - needs several good thrashings
  13. Mbale Sports Club - maize planted on course, zero maintenance
  14. Lira Golf Club - it's a cow pasture/school/taxi stage/football stadium

Past and Future Golf Course

In addition to the places I played during "Golf Around Uganda", There are some former courses, most notably Gulu and Soroti, where housing development has taken precedence over golf, and the courses have been lost.

In Masindi (right), a former colonial course is being revived, although will now be only half its former size. A group of dedicated golfers has gained title to the land, but no design or major funding yet. With Kinyara so close, it will be difficult to sustain another course in the area.

Bulago Island folks had grand plans for a 18 hole championship course there, but realism scaled it back to a pitch 'n putt course. They never would have gotten the traffic to make it pay.

There once was a course between Entebbe and Kampala, somewhere east of Entebbe Road. The signs for it have gone, and even when they were up, the ex-course was impossible to find.

However, a new course is being built on the west side of Entebbe Road by the Akright housing development company. Allegedly it won't be a Uganda Golf Union club, but a resort course. On my way back from Entebbe, I did find evidence of course building (left) at Akright, although not a great deal, and it looks like it will be years before it's ready!

If you are a parent of the International School of Uganda, there is a small golf instruction area near the main gate, wedge work is all you can do here, but it's what I need to do most, so it works for me.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Entebbe Club

It's the longest course in Uganda, beating UGC by 350 yards. It has 2 very long par 3's, the longest par 4 in UG, and 5 par 5's. Play in the cool of the morning and bring water....lots of it.

Water is a main attraction here, although there is none on the course itself, Lake Victoria is just a short par four away, and you get beautiful views from many of the holes (bad light today, so maybe a picture next week).
In addition, you play along the Rhino enclosure and near the chimp island of the Zoo, so that's a bonus, as is the view of State House and a lovely old chapel and the cricket oval, with its art-deco pavilion lies in the middle of the course. You get the occasional jet fighter screaming overhead as well. All in all a busy visual golf experience.

It's got some very cute tee markers, the holes are named after club members

as usual, clicking on the small image gets you a large one

I've played Entebbe many times, even won a prize at a tournament last month, but never looked at it with a critical course design eye before. Entebbe is a monster, long, heavily bunkered and full of mature trees. Despite the dry conditions (I hit a 390 yard drive today!!!, well 290, with 100 yds of roll) the course still plays long. On 17, the longest par four, I hit a very good driver and a well struck 3 wood, and wasn't quite pin high. I even had to hit fairway woods on 2 of the par 3's!

Besides length Entebbe also defends its honor with dozens of bunkers in the fairways, rough and around the greens. They are well raked now, but it's heavy lake sand, not the light fluffy stuff, which makes for a harder sand save, especially if you try to "pick it clean". I'm a decent bunker player, and I was in the same bunker on 2 different occasions ON THE SAME HOLE today. Thank God it wasn't this one (left).

The Main challenge however is the trees and the high grass that grows around them in the rough. New stands of pine have been liberally planted around the course, which are a real menace to play out of. It's the mature trees that are the real obstacle though, forcing you to shape your shot around them or avoid them altogether. Besides the usual driving into a gap, several of the par 3's holes here force you to hit OVER very tall (and wide) trees or stands of trees .

If you go to Entebbe, bring plenty of ammo, you WILL lose balls here, and you WILL spend a lot of time looking for them. I guess that's part of what makes it so tiring. It's a real slog, but they do have a cart they will rent you for 30k UGX, they seem amenable to negotiate this price ;-)

The clubhouse is large, has a limited, though very good menu and a well stocked "pro shop". Snooker has it's own room (which seems par for Uganda), which it seems to be sharing with the flags for some reason. Perhaps they were lonely on the course?!

There are plenty of caddies here, but not early in the weekday mornings. Caddy Day is Monday, and caddy fees are 4/6k for Junior/Senior caddies. There are 5 caddies who own their own clubs (hand me downs), and all the caddies share them. Green fees are 4k if you are a UGU club member, 30k for non members. Clubnite is Fridays, and it's 5k (going up to 8k soon). I like Entebbe, it's a laid back, never busy and has a lovely setting. I think the termite damage to the greens may be the only thing that keeps it out of the top echelon of Uganda courses.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Uganda Golf Club: Kitante, Kampala

This course, at Kitante in Kampala, is widely regarded as the best course in Uganda, and at the moment, it certainly is! Hosting the Interregional tournament in August 2008 means that the course is in fantastic shape in July.

A great deal of effort has been put into the course and clubhouse facilities over the last few years, and it really shows. The greens are fast and true, the tee boxes are shaved, bunkers raked, rough mowed to a reasonable level, (they are punitive normally) and other facilities have been upgraded.

The showers for example, are the best anywhere in Uganda, unlimited hot water, seats to rest on and even monogrammed towels!

The wealth concentrated in Kampala allows the club to charge 2 million UGX as a joining fee, and membership is 1 million per year. Those fees plus some corporate sponsorship allow the club to maintain the course and clubhouse to a very high standard. The downside of course, is having billboards splashed all over the course, and clubhouse:

They do the basics right, things like built in sprinklers, and proper tee boxes

but the attention to detail is also well done, with things like numbered flags and tee markers with benches

I have seen the course in drier conditions, but never in such peak shape, the greens are immaculate (below left) and holding, even in the dry conditions. You get extra roll when it's dry, I hit driver and then just a 5 iron into the downhill par 5 8th (below right), normally a driver/5 wood/wedge hole for me.

What makes this course such a thorough examination of your golf game is the layout in a valley, which gives lots of hilly lies and slopes to hit towards for a favorable bounce. Kitante Creek runs through many of the holes, and it's possible to hit into the water twice on several of the holes (I have done it many times). The front nine is easy compared to the back side, which is much steeper and fatigue enters into the equation at about the 12th hole, which I think is the signature hole on this course.

12 (right) is a longish par 4, with trees left and right off the tee, O.B. right, swampy hazard left, Kitante Creek running diagonally right to left across the hole, and a large Mango tree in the fairway. The hole plays more like a par 5, as a short drive makes you think about laying up, or aiming a long iron/fairway wood at the big lipped bunker short and right of the green.

If you carry the bunker (left) and land in the 5 meters or so just past it (or aim at the pin, and risk going in the water), you will have a birdie putt on a green that slopes right to left and back to front.I parred this hole as part of "Golf Around Uganda: UG Golf Quest 2008", thats only the second time in 3 years I have gotten a par. There is no place to miss here, as over the green is very bushy, guaranteeing a lost ball. Four is an excellent number here, and IMO is not the hardest hole on the course (that's #15 in my book).

This is urban golf, with some interesting cityscape views, including my favorite of the Kibuli mosque, and Garden City, which is O.B. on two holes.

I would join this club in a heartbeat, if they had a pool for my kid. Another downside is the amount of play that Kampala gets. Weekends a round of golf takes ~6 hours, far too long IMHO, slow play on the part of the members is also part of the problem. Fridays are often reserved for corporate tournaments, so the course is closed often.

Caddies are "professional", they have a dress code (of sorts), set fees (6k, but give them 10), and are alloted by a Caddie Master, unless you have a favorite, then you can specify who you'd like. Ask for Henry, if he is not there, Pius or Nelson are also good.

Monday is Caddie Day, they play for free, but only have one set for dozens of guys. The caddies are, as usual, generally better players than the members. There are one or two tournaments for caddies annually, some have turned pro, but very few have sponsorship to do so. Caddies aren't allowed to play in some tournaments, in many cases, they are treated as second class citizens, both in person and as a class.

UGC has lots of good young players, I see groups of youth practising on occasion, but do not know the details of the Youth Program. I played earlier this summer with a 14 year old girl who kicked my butt!