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Is it time to stop playing golf for us to be able to play in future?

GOLF By Vincent Wang'ombe | April 3rd 2020
Kenya's Professional Golfer Dismas Indiza from Mumias makes a swing in a past event [PHOTO: Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

After they had spent several days indoors, I decided to take my wife and children to the Nairobi National Park this past Sunday.

It was also probably out of some guilt on my part as I had played a round of golf the previous day and enjoyed it.

When playing golf, I had taken the necessary precautions to ensure that my exposure was very minimal.

I reckoned that a drive in the National Park would probably provide one of the safest ways to enjoy the outdoors without exposing my family to the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

When we arrived at the Nairobi National Park, it was clear right from the entry that the procedures of entering had been altered to ensure safety of the staff and visitors.

The handwashing and maintenance of space between visitors was observed without any fuss. The staff at the park were more helpful and courteous than ever before.

A drive through the national park for me is akin to a round of golf. The drive through the second gate is similar to the first tee shot; it marks the separation from the hustle of everyday life in Nairobi and the enjoyment of the great outdoors.

Whereas I may see a total of 10 different birds’ species during my round of golf, at the Nairobi National Park, I get to see even more by stopping for a few minutes by the dam, which is about one kilometre from the entrance.

The main difference between my Sunday drive through the park and previous times is that this time round, some roads were wet and damaged by the rains.

I was driving one of the four-wheel drive cars that are touted as being good on tarmac and off-road.

I was not too worried about the roads. After driving through a few puddles, I started becoming cocky and cavalier about them.

I was not prepared to turn back as I went from one puddle to the next. That was when I drove into one that was deep, with black-cotton soil and got stuck.

I tried reversing and only found that I was digging myself deeper and deeper into the mud.

I remembered the old adage: “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging”.

Everything, including my chatty six-year-old daughter went silent. There was no sound except the engine of my faux-four-wheel drive car.

I called the Kenya Wildlife Service office for help and was immediately put in touch with a ranger.

That is when I realised that as I was whizzing through the puddles, I had neglected to look at the numbers on the junctions or the names of the places that I was going to.

As keen as he was to help, I could not effectively direct the ranger to where we were.

At that time, it occurred to me that we, as golfers, could be dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic in the same casual way that I was approaching the puddles. As we continue playing our rounds of golf, are we putting our lives in danger?

Should we be playing at all in these uncertain times? Are we going to find ourselves stuck in situation that we can’t get ourselves out of?

The golf courses will still all be there after the COVID-19 pandemic gets under control but will we all be present to enjoy them?

We have all seen the number of people dying in other countries from the COVID-19; wouldn’t it be wiser to wait for now and avoid falling victim?

After waiting for what looked like an eternity, a gentleman driving a Range Rover appeared from the rear and then almost immediately, the warden I was talking to, appeared in front.

While wading through the muddy water that was above my knees to connect a tow-hook to the winch that the Range-Rover-man had given me, all the birds and my daughter came back to life.

The Range-Rover-man hauled me out the puddle as if it was the easiest and most natural thing to do.

As I drove from the place, it occurred to me that I did not find out what his or the ranger’s names were. I was only too glad to get out of the bind.

Just as the Range-Rover-man got me out the puddle, the world will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is not certain is if all of us will live to see that day. Abstaining from golf now may be the safest bet of being able to play the game that we love in future.

Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited


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