How do we grow the game of golf in Kenya? This is a question that continues to plague not just golf but really all sports in the country. This question has been asked of football, rugby, volleyball, basketball, boxing and other sports in Kenya. And the script is the same across the board, the disciplines all seem to lack a clear vision on how to identify and nurture talent.
Rugby has had some success in getting the game played very competitively amongst secondary schools and today some of our top stars are from non-tradition rugby schools – in other words more and more young Kenyans, across the country are getting into the game, receiving instructions and getting a shot at playing international rugby.
Football is widely played across the country, literally every village has a semblance of a football field, which may also double up as the chief’s camp or cattle grazing field. However, the governance structures of football over many decades continue to squander opportunities to grow the sport locally and regionally.
The same could be said of volleyball and basketball, the facilities, many dilapidated, are scattered across the country making those sports accessible, but for some reason, read poor governance, the sports simply refuse to grow.
Golf, on the other hand, suffers from an access problem, there are only about 35 golf courses in Kenya and all of them, literally all of them are private members clubs that restrict access to wanjiku.
Non-members may gain access on certain days following payment of green fees or what you may refer to as temporary membership fees – ranging from Sh2,000 or so at upcountry clubs to about Sh4,000 at Nairobi clubs and even up to Sh15,000 at some places. These green fees, combined with other incidental charges such as caddy fees, Sh1,000 to Sh2,000, make access to the game near impossible to most Kenyans. Of course, you could join a club and be free of the green fees – but for that you require Sh100,000 to Sh1 million depending on which club you desire to be a member.
And, there is no guarantee that once you have the money that membership will be guaranteed – at many of the clubs, having the cash is only but one of many criteria to be admitted as a member!
So, how does a boy from Shauri Moyo or Bondo or Kwale or Maua start playing golf? The answer is simple – they don’t!
Did I mention that you need about Sh30,000 to buy a fairly poor set of golf clubs? Most of the weekend amateur golfers, who can’t a straight ball to save their lives, play with equipment worth Sh200,000! The new drivers, that big club they swing as though possessed by the devil, will set you back Sh50,000 plus, and those putters they huddle over at the greens will cost you Sh20,000 and above.
So, the boy from Shauri Moyo must now find a cheap second hand set for Sh30,000, pay green fees of Sh2,000 (assuming he gets past the security guards at the gate) pay Sh1,000 for a caddy, have golf balls worth Sh2,000 and even if he plays in Bata Bullets, he will still need to buy those for Sh500 (I could be wrong about that price, most weekend golfers wear Sh20,000 golf shoes). And hold on, the young boy will also one golf glove like Michael Jackson – another Sh5,000, and the golf polo shirt – a nice one from Gikomba will be Sh300 and so on and so forth.
But is it all doom and gloom? Can the current golf fraternity help the boy from Shauri Moyo to access the golf course, get equipment freely, get professional instruction and play the game?
The answer is yes. If members of any golf club donated all their old equipment, shoes, gloves and this was kept at the club to be used by children from the neighbouring primary school, if the same members paid Sh200 per month towards professional instruction for the same children and if the same allowed those children free access to their grounds, for a few hours every week, the boys and girls from Shauri Moyo may one day access the game.