The saying ‘‘gone golfing’’ brings thoughts of driving a few kilometres away from home and sometimes getting stuck in traffic jams. But soon, playing squash, golf and going to the spa will be a walk away or within your compound.
The arrival of exclusive sporting clubs in Kenya such as Wadi Degla from Egypt, which opens its first club in Runda next week, has stepped up competition for real estate developers and the old country private members’ clubs.
For Wadi Degla, it is about a new active-lifestyle living, relaxed rules for Kenyans seeking to enjoy exclusive leisure experience and a private members’ club for the whole family.
At Wadi Degla clubs to be set up in Karen, Migaa and Runda, it is a place you can head to the squash courts one day, a few kilometres from your house, then get together with your family for breakfast.
Joseph Reda, Wadi Degla Kenya country manager, said the club provides a one-stop shop for families looking to engage in different activities they excel in and within close proximity of each other.
“We are changing the private members’ club culture to become an actual credit to our lifestyle. It’s a place you can go in the morning before work for a workout, then have breakfast together as a family and come back for meetings with business executives as the children enjoy the after school sports programmes,” he said.
When entering the tarmacked junction that leads to the main entrance of Wadi Degla Runda, you are tempted to think how ordinary the members’ club is.
The club is located near Runda Paradise, Runda Palms Gardens, Kencom Sacco Homes and Hidden Creek; all upmarket gated-communities.
As you go through the main building which houses the administration block, club house and a business lounge, you begin to see exactly just what the Sh2 billion sports, leisure and social club that sits on a 10-acre piece of land along Kiambu Road has to offer.
A one of its kind in the region, Wadi Degla plans to open a sports club and a separate golf club at Migaa estate.
Over 5,000 Migaa residents will have access to all the Wadi Degla facilities to be constructed.
The company is in the process of acquiring land for the Karen club.
Joseph said when people move house or jobs they tend to have less time to be at the club, which may no longer be in their way, so having many outlets creates a convenience and enables members to try something different by accessing the other locations.
At its Runda club, the sporting ground makes up half of the property and it is carpeted with artificial grass. It has a football pitch that is surrounded by a running track and another track for those who love walking off the tarmac.
The artificial turf is also built into the four tennis courts and the multipurpose court where one can play basketball, handball or volleyball.
A special kind of ‘carpeted floor’ is also found on the children’s play area for safety while they are on the swings and slides.
The club has a fine dining restaurant, an additional casual restaurant, a rooftop sports cafe, a bar and several eateries.
“You really don’t have to sit and watch others play, you could walk into the indoor squash courts and have a go, hit the gym or enjoy a massage,” Joseph said.
The club also has spaces set aside for Zumba classes and Angsana Spa. Outside you can play tennis or squash or swim.
There is a training swimming pool for those looking to go professional, a children’s pool for those aged below 16 years and a family fun pool.
Those looking to have their children become professional swimmers can enrol them in the academy run by Swim America. There is also a tennis academy and a Darwish Squash Academy. The Karen, Runda and Migaa Sports Club will also have a lake and a lazy river that will allow members to gently ride along on rafts.
Most private clubs keep a tight lid on who they let through their doors. For a majority in Kenya that started during colonial times, the conditions have to be right before one qualifies for membership. Money, lineage, social networks are usually the tickets in. Some clubs only allow three guests, admit members on referrals, do not allow cash payments or use of laptops and mobile phones.
For the Wadi Degla, the rules are relaxed. What is required is for members to pay a one-off Sh950,000 registration fee. Once a member, an annual fee of Sh60,000 will be paid to continue enjoying the club’s services.
A family of four, for instance, with one principal member and three co-members, will pay about Sh1.2 million to register for membership. Thereafter, the principal member will pay Sh60,000 annual fee while the co-members will each pay Sh20,000 to access the facilities.
“After the subscription you only pay a small annual fee to help in maintenance of the club, which will allow you access to the sporting activities across all clubs including golf which will only be at Migaa,” Joseph said.
If a child is enrolled in any of the five sporting academies, which include Arsenal Soccer School, you will pay between Sh40,000 and Sh75,000 depending on the sport. Children below four years enjoy the sporting activities for free.
While the private members club has its roots in Egypt where Islam is the dominant religion, it practises no segregation for their members except “obviously in the washrooms and changing rooms,” Joseph said.
Wadi Degla’s opening comes just two years after the entry of Capital Club, a member of the Signature Clubs International, targeting businessmen and quick travellers, which pioneered the flexible in-house rules, for instance, use of mobile phones, laptops, cash payment and transferrable membership.
Much of the allure of these new private clubs is the exclusivity, fine whisky and cigar, themed dinners and posh decor.
Also, members of these new clubs can access over 200 reciprocal premium clubs located in Germany, Beijing, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, USA and UK. For the old country clubs, most of the reciprocal clubs are within East Africa.
For instance, Capital Club East Africa members can access the luxurious Le Yatch Club by the seaside in Beirut for free where they can smoke the finest Cuban cigar or sit by the terrace overlooking the marina as they read a book from the library. Members can also access the Capital Club in Dubai. For Wadi Degla Kenya members, they can access the Wadi Degla Egypt, the Karen, Runda, Migaa sports club and Migaa Golf Club.
Aside from that, Wadi Degla Kenya has partnerships with sports academies to help children develop their talents into professional careers.
Enrolling in the Arsenal Soccer School will enable your child train in a similar fashion with that of the European team.
They can also go for exchange programmes with other junior teams from academies across the globe.Athletic enthusiasts can train under the tutelage of former marathon champion Douglas Wakihuri.
The Wadi Degla Kenya country manager said that all the academies will run after school to keep the children busy and active during the holidays.