The Golf Digest magazine, the most respected golf publication in the world, has listed the Muthaiga Golf Club as the best golf course in Kenya. At the beginning of this year, Golf Digest (www.golfdigest.com) published a list of the Best Golf Courses in 206 countries and indicated which golf course was considered the best in each of those nations.
The list shows Kenya as having 40 golf courses with Muthaiga as the top ranked club. Rankings are controversial at best and many may argue that several other courses in Kenya deserve the number one rank — from the Baobab Course at Vipingo, to the Nyali Golf and Country Club and the Karen Country Club. However, Muthaiga is perhaps a first among equals.
In 2002, Muthaiga started a massive project to re-design the golf course.
To oversee the project, Muthaiga enlisted the services of accomplished South African golf course designer, Peter Matkovich.
The major changes to the golf course were to include the addition of several water features, introduction of bent-grass greens, a first for Kenya, and the positioning of all greens and tees within the boundaries of the golf course and away from the road reserve off Kiambu Road.
The project was finally completed in 2004 and the Kenyan golfing fraternity was introduced to a new, flashy, modern and international standard golf course, the first of its kind in Kenya.
Several other courses in the country have followed the example set by Muthaiga, and many of the top courses now boast of bent-grass greens.
Muthaiga is also the de facto home of the Kenya Open Golf Championship. Since 1967, only two courses, Muthaiga and Karen, have played host to this championship. And in those 50 years, Muthaiga has been host a record 40 times. Karen hosted the Kenya Open in 1968, 2004 to 2008 and 2013 to 2016.
Muthaiga will host the 50th anniversary Barclays Kenya Open from March 22-25. The 500,000 euros (Sh63.6 million) prize kitty has put this championship on top of the European Challenge Tour world.
The Golf Digest 2018 list indicates that 16 countries in Africa have more than 10 golf courses each. They include South Africa with a staggering 450 courses, Nigeria with 50, Kenya with 40, Zimbabwe with 30, Egypt with 18 and Tunisia with 16.
The Fancourt Links in George is ranked as the best course in South Africa ahead of the Leopard Creek Country Club, The Gary Player Country Club, Glendower, Durban Country Club and Country Club Johannesburg. Surprisingly, the course at Serengeti Estates in South Africa doesn’t feature in the top 20.
Across in Nigeria, the IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja is ranked top. The Mirage City Golf Club in Cairo is top ranked in Egypt and El Kantaoui at Port El Kantaoui led in Tunisia.
The Leopard Rock Golf Resort in Mutare is the top ranked golf course in Zimbabwe whilst the Uganda Golf Club, popularly referred to as “Kitante” is ranked top in Uganda. The newly built Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate in Arusha is listed as the top ranked golf course in Tanzania, ahead of the Dar-es-Salaam Gymkhana Golf Club in Dar and the Arusha Gymkhana Golf Club.
Mauritius has 13 courses listed with the Heritage Golf Club in Bel Ombre as the top ranked course. Anahita Resort is a close second and the two courses at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Legend and Links, are third and fourth respectively.
At the 2018 Barclays Kenya Open, the Muthaiga course will once more test the visiting European Challenge Tour players, many will be found wanting.