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2019 was a year of firsts and 2020 will reflect on the basics

Last updated 9 months ago | By Vincent Wang'ombe


As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in this Christmas season and spend time with family and friends, many also use this time to reflect on the year that is ending and look at what is expected next year.

Golf in Kenya has experienced a few firsts that will shape the future of the game in the country. In the first quarter, we hosted the first ever European Tour event.

The Magical Kenya Open Presented by Absa that ran in March of this year was a huge success due to the partnership between the Karen Country Club, Government of Kenya, Barclays Bank, European Tour, KTN TV and all the other teams who worked tirelessly. There were many who spent sleepless nights to ensure that the tournament ran smoothly and was also televised live all over the world.

This was the first time that a golf event was televised live on Kenyan TV thanks to KTN News. Kenyans were able to follow what was happening at the Karen Country Club from the first tee shot to the final putt of the winner, Guido Migliozi.

Kenyans were not the only ones watching the tournament; in fact the Kenyan audience can be described as the tip of the iceberg. The Magical Kenya Open Presented by Absa was broadcast in 296 million households. The advertising value for the tournament from the live TV coverage in the world was $57.4 million.

That basically means that if we were to pay for advertisements for Kenya as a golfing destination and show the beauty and splendour of our national parks as well as the magnificent hotels such as Hemmingways where the top players stayed, we would have spent Sh 5.74 billion.

There were many other great events that took place in the year but the cherry on the cake was the Magical Ladies Kenya Open at Vipingo Ridge a few weeks ago. We could not ask for a more colourful event to close the year. 

The event was also televised live on KTN News for Kenyans to watch the tournament but again, there were more eyes in other parts of the world following what was happening on Kenyan soil. Alastair Cavenagh and his team at Vipingo Ridge did a great job to bring the first ever Ladies European Tour event to Kenya. What an event that was.

As we close the chapter on a wonderful 2019, we shall be opening the new year with all eyes on the birth of Kenya Golf Union’s new baby. Just like the seahorse, it is the men in the golfing fraternity who are gestating.

The World Handicap System, which is expected to start in Kenya in June 2020, has been in the pipeline for over 20 months now. There is a lot that has gone into the preparation; before we could even start considering the software to be used, there was the set of rules of handicapping that will be suitable to the golf played in Kenya. After attending a couple of seminars and many hours of poring over pages of drafts, we finally have a set of handicap rules for Kenya.

The next step will be rate all the golf courses in Kenya. The Kenya Golf Union will be working with volunteers to rate all golf courses in Kenya. This time, the course will be rated for both a scratch and bogey player to come up with a slope rating. Sounds like Greek huh?

Well for the current CONGU handicap system, the rating required was the Standard Scratch Score which is what a handicap zero (scratch player) would play the course.

The course was then said to have an SSS (Standard Scratch Score) of anything from 69 to 74. So a handicap zero male golfer is expected to play 72 strokes on the par 73 Kitale Golf Club course while he is expected to play 74 strokes on the par 71 Muthaiga Golf Club.

As if that is not complicated enough, with the World Handicap System we shall have a bogey rating over and above the scratch rating. This is the score the handicap 20.0 man or handicap 24.0 lady would play on the course.

The difference in how the scratch and bogey player performs is then worked into what is known as a slope rating for the course. This will represent the difficulty of the course. The higher the slope rating, the more difficult the course is.

This is however not the time to think about the scratch and bogey. This is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with family and friends. The time to birth the World Handicap System will come. Have a merry Christmas and and uncomplicated 2020.

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

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