Irish golfer turns his skills to designing world-class courses
Posted Thursday, August 16 2012 at 19:12
- Jones came over in 2005 and suddenly a whole new career as a golf course designer opened up before him. Giving him another chance to travel to Kenya more often; working in a sport and country he loves while mingling with friends he made 25 years earlier.
- So far, he has worked on 15 projects. Vipingo Ridge, the project that opened up opportunities for him in East Africa, is the only one that is complete. It was completed in 2009 and has already played host to prominent golfing personalities.
- Jones is, however, a bit sceptical saying that only four to six of the projects will be successful given the fact that not everyone can afford such high-end residences.
- He grew up in Belfast, living off a small salary his father earned as a policeman. His first interaction with the sport was during school holidays when he made a trip to Scotland, the land of golfing. An old friend of his father gave him some old golfing clubs and invited him for a game.
- A year before he joined university to study architecture, Jones begged his parents to let him make a career out of the game. He embarked on competitive golfing in 1965. In 1967 Jones made it to the European Tour and began to play golf for a living.
- Jones has a word of advice for young Kenyans. If they show interest in the game, the country will have its own breed of golf course designers, he says.
Set on 2,500 acres, the Baobab Greens at Vipingo Ridge in Kilifi beckons golfers to try out an early tee. The inviting golf course that boasts of a meandering lake is the creation of David Jones, a professional-golfer-turned -designer.
Jones, an Irishman, has since been approached by other developers for similar projects. His work speaks a lot of the tall, slim, man who almost went unnoticed at the recent ground-breaking ceremony of Longonot Gate, a gated community estate in Naivasha; until he was called upon to give a speech.
Mr Jones first came to Kenya in 1970 as a professional golfer to take part in the Kenya Open and fell in love with the county.
He then travelled back to Kenya annually with his family for the same competition, and Safari. His quest for the Kenya Open trophy was finally fulfilled in 1989 when he won the title.
“It was a thrill for me. After trying for so many years I had finally got my hands on the Kenya Open trophy. I was presented the trophy by President Kibaki who was then then president of the Kenya Golf Union. And that is really the link that brought me back to Kenya in 2005 to design golf courses.”
He gladly recreates his experiences in the years gone-by as if it was just yesterday. An adventure on Mt Longonot one Christmas eve is one he shares happily with the crowd of land owners and potential buyers in Longonot and goes on to narrate it again when the Business Daily meets him in Nairobi for an interview.
The family’s car had broken down in Naivasha and because they could not get it fixed immediately they decided to stay for the weekend. It was then that his son Michael, who is now a professional golfer, requested that they bury a golf ball in Mt Longonot crater. So they walked up and he teed it off.
“He made a really nice shot,” says Jones. Today, Jones looks back at that moment and only hopes that his family (he lives in Ireland) will come back to Kenya one day. Jones plans to set them up on a piece of land he bought at Vipingo Ridge.
It might turn out to be a great family heritage for his children and grandchildren when they get to finally live and play on a course designed by their kin, he says.
But before then, Jones will continue making countless trips as he works on a number of projects he has secured.
So far, he has worked on 15 projects. Vipingo Ridge, the project that opened up opportunities for him in East Africa, is the only one that is complete. It was completed in 2009 and has already played host to prominent golfing personalities.
Jones’ friend and professional golfer Salim Hajji got him the Vipingo job.
“He had been asked to look at the possibility of a golf project at Vipingo Ridge and he said, ‘well what we need to do is to get David down here to see if we can do this.”
Jones came over in 2005 and suddenly a whole new career as a golf course designer opened up before him. Giving him another chance to travel to Kenya more often; working in a sport and country he loves while mingling with friends he made 25 years earlier.
Some of the projects on his plate include Longonot Gate, Migaa, Aberdares Hill, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.