Golf in the land of 1000 hills
On Tuesday, July 2nd 2019., I landed in Kigali, Rwanda for a regional HR conference organized by the Institute of Human Resource Management, Kenya. The chauffeured ride by Innocent to my hotel was in a brand new Volkswagen Teramont and I could not help but notice the extreme cleanliness and order in Kigali. Once I checked in at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre and registered for the conference I headed off for a quick lunch at the Java House across the street at the Kigali Heights Mall. Surely, old Kenyan habits die hard I must say. Nevertheless, the portions there were too large compared to the Kenyan Java’s and I struggled to finish my meal. I headed off to the Kigali Golf Club with the extremely spacious VW Teramont that had done my airport pick up at a very pocket-friendly cost. I must say moving around in Rwanda is much cheaper than Nairobi, considering the luxury ride I used. This was a concept that had been put in place by Volkswagen and the Rwandese government that has a very brilliant automobile revolution through an integrated mobility concept.
The golf club was located about 10 minutes’ drive from the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre. A great thing about Kigali was the very light traffic that made moving around so much easier. Later in the day, after my game I met up with Eugene Murenjekha, a Kenyan who is at home in Rwanda and an official of the club, who made me understand how relaxed it was for golfers to play easily after and before work because of the light traffic in the capital city.
I arrived at about 3 pm at the club and it was easy reciprocating from my home club, Royal Nairobi Golf Club. I was only required to pay just about Five Hundred Kenya Shillings to use the course. At the tee box, the starter arranged for me to play with 19-year-old Rwandese International amateur golfer, Emmanuel Nkurunziza from the club who was playing with his brother. The three of us got off to a good start and started to enjoy our round of golf. The course is currently a nine-hole course but they mentioned that it should revert to 18 holes once the construction of the other nine holes that were closed across the clubhouse is complete.
Once you tee off, you cannot miss the beauty of the Kigali hills which I must admit is very breathtaking. It is disappointing that my Garmin Approach watch does not have the Kigali course on it. I had to rely on the distances given by my caddie and my fellow golfers. To make matters worse, the distances are in meters and I had trouble making the club selections or reading the distance markers as I am wired in yards. This has an effect on the first few holes where I generally use a bigger club than I should. The greens in the club are well maintained and were mostly medium-fast with some large-sized greens. There are not too many hazards to worry about, but they are enough to make the game interesting. There is a river flowing through the course and this helps in keeping the course green. The temporary range was oddly in the middle of the course which I found a bit strange but worked for the locals.
Once I got in the groove, I was hitting longer drives and distances as long as Emmanuel and his brother and they coined the nickname ‘Handicap 5’ for me as they did not believe my playing handicap. At the halfway, we took some time to have some drinks at their clubhouse which I must say is impressive and better still you are able to purchase with cash. There is a slight hold up in the second nine, but we were able to get a through as we were much faster than the players ahead. The courtesy displayed by the other players was also good and worthy to note. The game went on well and I was able to complete the 18 holes before 6 pm. I carded 27 Stableford points which was not too bad for a first time on a new course after blanking 6 holes. I made Par on 5 holes, a bogey on 1 hole, double bogey on 6 holes but did not score on the rest with by going out of bounds and difficult putting on others.
We had some drinks at the clubhouse after the game and I got introduced to Eugene the Kenyan- Rwandese at this point. The bites and drinks at the clubhouse were reasonably priced. We enjoyed a couple of drinks with Eugene as I got to know him better and the two young men I had played with. Eugene invited me to play club night the next day. It was time for me to enjoy the drive back to my hotel in the VW Teramont once more. It was a pity I could not play the Club Night that was on the next day as the conference would be in full swing and I was headed back on the morning of July 4th to Nairobi for a speaking engagement later that day.
All in all, for anyone in Kigali, on business or pleasure I do recommend the Kigali Golf Club as a place to enjoy great golf. Make that stop the next time you are in Kigali.