The Kenya Open golf tournament has been held since 1967. This year, the tournament became a European Tour event and was played at Karen Country Club in Nairobi.
Over the years, golf has generated a lot of interest in the region with club level tournaments attracting many players and enthusiasts across the countries. However, most clubs charge high costs for membership keeping many people away.
Now anyone with a love for the game can play at the Nairobi Golf Simulator. My curiosity was piqued by the idea so I found my way to Rosslyn Riviera Mall to see what it was all about.
The simulator is on the second floor of the mall and I was welcomed by the chief executive, Winnie Ng’ethe.
She ushered me into a large room with a giant screen and a floor fitted with a green wall-to-wall-carpet to give the feel of a golf course.
On one side, against the wall, is a display rack holding several clubs. Next to it is a stand with golf balls in a bag.
On my first golf training, I was cautious when making a back swing for fear of hitting the roof. I also wondered how hard I could hit the ball in the room.
I learned that the screen serves as the play area, displaying a realistic image of a golf course. Ng’ethe assured me that the screen would handle any ball I hit.
“It doesn’t break. If it did, we wouldn’t be in business,” she said.
With every hit, the computerised screen collects data and projects information about your performance. You can see the lie, angle, ball speed, trajectory, spin, distance covered as well as where the ball has landed.
The simulators allow guests to practice or play over 20 golf courses around the world, from Abu Dhabi to London, and hold skills competitions such as longest drive and closest to the pin..
The golf simulator gives learners and players an opportunity to train with an experienced coach, and exercise or warm up for an upcoming tournament at any time of day without breaking the bank or worrying about the weather.
“To play at a golf course, you need to become a member or be invited as a guest, and you need a kit. Here, you do not need any of that. We have kits for ladies, men and even juniors, and you do not need to become a member to be trained by us,” said Ng’ethe.
Annual golf membership can be as high as $5,000 for the top clubs, or just over $100 for the lower end.
At the Nairobi Golf Simulator, a half hour session costs between $10 and $30. For 18 holes played for two hours, charges are $60. Ng’ethe has already served more than 350 clients since the place opened in July.
The simulator is open seven days a week, from 8:00am to 8:00pm. Clients are required to make advance bookings.
Besides affordability, you can have a club fitting, which is a test that assesses your height, wrist, fingers and arm length to determine the best club size. This information is useful when selecting a golf kit.
Although this is a first in East and Central Africa, simulators have been around in other parts of the continent. In 2016, Golfzon, a South Korean company, put up a simulator in Durban, South Africa.
In 2017, a golf academy to train students using a simulator was set up in El Jadida, Morocco.
Ngéthe hopes to have more golf simulator in the rest of East Africa, and will also hold a talent search for juniors who could eventually get sponsorships to golf clubs.