The Kenya Open was first held over 50 years ago, in 1967. The list of past champions includes any number of European Ryder Cup players, but remarkably also boasts three Major winners – all Masters champions - in Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and most recently Trevor Immelman. Throughout its distinguished history, the event has been held at Muthaiga Golf Club over forty times with Karen Golf Club hosting for another ten. Obviously, these were the tracks to play first.
MUTHAIGA GOLF CLUB (**** ½)
We visited Muthaiga on Monday before the 50th Kenya Open was being played there and final qualifying was taking place the same day. Needless to say, the course was in great shape. The club as we know it today was opened in 1927 and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2017, but the first holes on the site were a 9-hole course dating back to 1912. With some justification, the club calls itself “The Home of Golf” – in Kenya, at least!
Situated on the edge of the Karura forest, the abundant trees and shrubs make this a beautiful track as well as a challenging one. The greens, in particular, are renowned and didn’t disappoint. With several tricky doglegs and tough tee shots, a good caddie is essential. Ideally, try to get more than one round in, and leverage your hard-won experience of where to position yourself off the tee!
The clubhouse isn’t as charming as one might expect of such an old club, and the walk over a footbridge to the driving range and starters hut is a bit disorientating. However, once past all that, this is a super course, with plenty of wildlife around, including monkeys and even maribou storks lining the fairways. Standout holes include the 442yd sharp dogleg 1st to a plateau green with water a danger throughout; the daunting 2nd, an uphill 220yd beast to a tricky tiered green; the exhausting 616yd 7th and the signature 13th, a beauty of a par three over water with the clubhouse behind.
Overall, an excellent venue for the national championship and a true test for golfers of all standards. The terrace provides a great spot to watch plenty of action, from tee shots on the 10th to water shots on the 13th and daring approaches on the 18th. A delightful surprise, especially so close to the city centre.