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!