Wellness & Fitness

Joel Chacha's best-laid plan for golfing in retirement

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Portland Communication Director Joel Chacha tees off at Windsor Golf Club on February 8, 2024. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

After thinning yet another ball, sending it into the surrounding bushes at the Windsor Golf course, Joel Chacha lets out a belly laugh. The kind that gets everyone around concerned.

This has been the case since Joel’s first trip to the course in 2016.

“You can see why my friends nicknamed me ‘branch manager’. My swing is almost perfect, but I need to put more effort into my aim because, more often than not, I keep sending golf balls into nearby branches,” exclaims the 36-year-old.

If his goal was to be a pro golfer, his progress would be worrisome. Joel, however, has a bigger goal in mind. Playing golf is how he plans to keep himself occupied and his mind sharp when he retires.

He took an interest in the sport when he purchased a piece of land at Migaa Golf estate in Kiambu County. Even so, it took a tragic event in his family to take golfing seriously.

“When my father, a former Permanent Secretary, retired from civil service and relocated to the village in Isibania, it was difficult for him to adapt to that life.

He opted to run for a parliamentary seat. The plan was to clinch the seat and move back to Nairobi,” says the Africa head at Portland Communications, a consultancy and public relations agency in the United Kingdom.

When his dad lost the election, he fell into depression.

“After years in the city, he wasn’t cut for the village life. Here was a man who was accustomed to city life and the fine things it offered; his taste in fine whiskeys was impeccable, and he had a predilection for the Martell VSOP cognac. But in the village, his friends would invite him to indulge in kumi kumi (chang’aa). He would confide in me how he was struggling to fit in,” he says.

Turning point

With the depression, Parkinson’s disease [a degenerative ailment that affects the nervous system] followed, and he later succumbed to it in 2018.

“Since my father’s ordeal, I have been pondering my retirement when that time comes, and my mind is made up. Like my dad, I want to remain in the city. With the Migaa investment, I plan to build a home where I will watch my boys grow into men as I play lots of golf,” says the eighth-born in a family of 10 children.

Read: Golf family: Bond that transcends the fairway

Since the beginning of the year, Joel has been hitting the golf course at least three times a week to build momentum for his retirement life. The health and fitness benefits he derives from the tens of kilometres he covers on the golf course are a bonus.

“That’s another reason why I am back to the course. I just quit alcohol; it’s been four months now since I last had a pint of my favourite drink,” Joel proudly says.

Joel views golf as a way of life where many situations come into play, and people talk about everything. But it’s far from the easy life most people perceive it to be. “I am talking about waking up as early as 6:30 am to tee off, maintaining your clubs, spending hours at the driving range, and covering kilometres around the fairways. Golf requires a certain level of persistence. Any self-proclaimed scratch golfer knows this too well. No matter what you decide to pencil on the scorecard, the green would tell a different story,” he says.

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Portland Communication Director Joel Chacha poses at Windsor Golf Club on February 8, 2024. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

He continues, “Mulligans will occur; you will be frustrated when you send the balls into the thicket or scalp the ball on a hole with par potential. But with time, practice makes perfect, connecting you with the people you will keep bumping into at the course. With time, you get hooked. I think I am starting to get hooked.”

Striking business deals

Over the years, he has landed new business through such connections on the golf course. “One of my roles as GM and Chief Strategist at my previous employment was to bring in new business. Being on the course made it easy for me to meet several CEOs and pitch on a round of golf,” he says.

Joel had to be seconded by two existing members to join Windsor Golf Club. He was then interviewed and, once accepted, paid about Sh1.5 million in membership fees. He has been updating his yearly subscriptions of Sh185,000. His TaylorMade club kits cost Sh300,000.

“This is a noble investment. I have tried to push my boys into it because I honestly don’t think I can play as a pro, but they can. It would be nice to see them accomplish what I won’t,” he muses.

Joel’s handicap currently stands at 24.

“I have to stop hitting shank shots and bring down the handicap, considering I have been playing the game for the last seven years. I aim to play it to a single digit,” he says.

Challenges

One of the challenges Joel has faced is getting people he can walk the golfing journey with. When he took up the sport, he was oozing with enthusiasm. He invested in the correct kits and paid the requisite fees.

But the pros he thought he’d learn from would run rings around him because he wasn’t as good as them. He was demoralised.

Read: A chat with the oldest golfer

Work is also another challenge.

“I don’t think golf is a game of someone who works 9-5; sometimes you get busy when work takes precedence. I would love to play every day and build that consistency, but I guess I will have to retire first,” he states.

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