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Old fig tree, the lions and many designs at Karen Country Club

Last updated 1 year ago | By Vincent Wang'ombe

Kenyan Golfer Simon Ngige during Magical Kenya Open 2019 at Karen Country Club on Sunday, March 17, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The first official tee shot at the Karen Country Club’s golf course was taken on Saturday the 23rd of October, 1937 by captain A. K. Gibson. He was playing against F. S. Dunn in a match between the club and the Kenya Golfing Society.

Dunn had bought himself a new driver for the occasion and as he was addressing his ball for his tee shot, a cobra slithered between his feet to get a closer look. Unfortunately, the serpent got the short end of the stick (quite literally) and in the process, Dunn’s new driver also met its end.

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It was not uncommon to find animals on the golf course then. There is a picture of the clubhouse that was taken in the 1960s showing a warning “Beware of lions in the area of 15th, 16th and 17th holes.” Today lions will be returning to the Karen Country Club golf course but golfers who play at Karen from today until Sunday will not be in mortal danger as the lions will be the friendly green and blue ones from KCB Group, the title sponsors of the KCB Karen Masters.

The KCB Karen Masters was started in 2017 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Karen Country Club. The club that is named after the Baroness Karen von Blixen and even bears her family coat of arms in its emblem, owes its existence to a fine gentleman, Rémi Martin (not to be confused with Rémy Martin the fine cognac).

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In the early 1930s, Jean Rémi Martin started the process of acquiring the coffee farm from Baroness Karen von Blixen.

Martin was careful to maintain an old fig tree and situated the clubhouse near the tree. This old fig has survived many redesigns of the course including the latest one by David Jones who is responsible for the current greens and green-side bunkers.

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The old fig which stands between the clubs’ 12th and 18th greens (which will be played as 18th and 15th respectively during this year’s KCB Karen Masters) has been standing there from when the land had coffee bushes to now when we have the finest golf course in the country.

Despite the many changes that have happened on the golf course since the club was started, there is one attribute that has stood just like the fig tree; Karen Country Club is a family club. This is the reason that the KCB Karen Masters this year will host a clinic for the junior golfers.

This is in line with its goal of the tournament of not just showcasing great golf, but the development of the professional game as well. After the game of golf, those not averse to a good party will be well taken care of at the village. It will be all fun and games at the KCB Karen Masters. 

 Wang’ombe is a Kenya Golf Union Executive

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