Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mbale: a dying golf course?

The Mbale Sports Club (of which I am now a member in good standing) has swimming, darts, snooker, squash, tennis courts (clay), and a golf layout. One can't really call it a golf course anymore, as it's (alleged) 9 holes have been given over to corn and pasture. There are half a dozen golfing members of the club, but the "course" gets virtually no play, (as it's virtually unplayable).

The Club has nebulous plans to restore the course, but apparently need some help. They have asked their local MP to get the Uganda Wildlife Authority (Mt. Elgon National Park HQ is nearby) to lend them a tractor and "thrasher", but this has not yet come to pass.

What I suggested is focus in the short term on the number one tee box and ninth green, so that members and local kids can get the feel of chipping and putting. it seems to me that in the long term, they must get as many children involved in playing, so that they have a future membership base. Youth Golf is very big in Kampala, due to the efforts of the Uganda Golf Union, and others. I'll be writing an open letter to the UGU suggesting they get more involved in Mbale. It would be a great shame to lose this par 73 course to the maize.

Since it took me several hours to organize someone to show me the layout, i was unable to complete the 9 holes because of impending darkness. I played about 6 holes with the 3rd being the most spectacular visually. One drives towards the huge mountain that dominates the skyline.

The day I played, I had a enthusiastic gallery of schoolgirls who quickly became fore caddies for me, along with club staff and a local player, George Magambo, who I played with the next day in Tororo. These kids must be encouraged to play and help maintain the course, I left them a few balls for chipping and putting practice, as there are some clubs for members use in the clubhouse.

the club was founded in 1952 by a wealthy Mzungu for his family and friends recreation. It's currently a bar/restaurant, with a bit of sports on the side. They do a nice plate of fried goat and chips.

Your second option for "golf' in Mbale is the Mini golf course at the Mt. Elgon hotel. Nice "concept" hotel, not too expensive, and the golf course actually reaches the hotel at it's furthest point from the clubhouse. Made of concrete, the putting surface is very fast, but true, providing a nice 30 minute diversion for the enthusiast.

A few holes actually have you "jump" over water, which is a rare feature. What would be most useful is to get the kids in for some putting practice, while the Mbale Sports Club waits for their greens to be cut.

Mbale has a Barclay's (in a beautiful, restored art deco building)
and a Stanbic/Standard and Chartered. These banks sponsor tournaments in Kampala, they could easily help put Mbale course back in shape!

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