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Inside the Kenya’s ‘Home of Golf’

By Peter Muiruri | Mar 23rd 2017 | 3 min read
By Peter Muiruri | March 23rd 2017
Muthaiga Golf Clubhouse at dusk-courtesy

This morning, the high octane Barclays Kenya Open golf championship returns to Muthaiga Golf Club, aptly known as the “Home of Golf”.
Muthaiga Golf Club is a household name in Kenya. Yet, apart from the fame it carries as a premier golf course that attracts the elite, many Kenyans know little about the facility located on Kiambu Road.

Look closely at the club’s coat of arms and you will not fail to see a tree at the centre. While some may think that this is due to the club’s proximity to Karura Forest, the tree is actually the Kenya green-heart, locally known as muthiga.

It is said to cure a host of illnesses, including stomachache, epilepsy, erectile dysfunction and malaria.
The upmarket Nairobi suburb we know today as Muthaiga as well as the golf club derived their names from this tree that grows abundantly in the nearby forest.

The foundation stone for Muthaiga Golf Club was laid in 1912. A year later, the first nine holes were laid out by Peter Whitelaw and T J Anderson. Originally, the golf club was the personal property of J A Morrison and was part of the nearby Muthaiga Country Club.

The First World War disrupted life at the golf club when a number of influential members left to join the war, starving the club of crucial funding.

At some point during the war, both the clubhouse and the course were used as medical facilities for injured troops.

Muthaiga Golf Club is notable for the caliber of patrons it has attracted over the years. Apart from being the haunt of retired President Mwai Kibaki, Muthaiga had the honour of hosting the first and most influential settler, Hugh Cholmondeley, better known as Lord Delamere whose exploits at Muthaiga are legendary.

According to the book, Rhinos in the Rough: A Golfer’s Guide to Kenya, the third Baron Delamere was so awestruck by the beauty of the course that he just had to take up golf, though he had to drag a number of his domestic staff with him just to enjoy the game.

It states: “He was usually followed by an entourage: a boy to carry his box of cigars, one to carry his balls, one for his binoculars, caddies and fore-caddies.” Delamere would shoot balls to the roof of the country club and then climb up to retrieve them. Still, he had the honour of being Muthaiga’s captain in 1931.

Muthaiga has undergone a transformation of sorts. After years of renovation, both the course and clubhouse spot modern facilities that could be anywhere in a First World golf club.

An attractive water feature adorns the entrance to the clubhouse. Gone is the formerly bland members’ lounge that had all the colonial elements. The current look resembles any within a five-star establishment in the city. Last year, Muthaiga was declared Kenya’s best golf course during the World Golf Awards at Conrad Algarve, Portugal.

“We had to change things a bit in order to appeal to the modern user that includes the young and savvy member. We even have a bar on the side for those who desire a fuller entertainment regime,” says Alex Gitari, the captain.

The 50-year-old Kenya Open golf championship is on. Members and non-members have the opportunity to get inside one of the most premiere golf clubs on the continent. As you walk on the rough, next to the fairways, spare a moment and reminisce on the jagged journey of golf at Muthaiga.

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