For many decades, the golf leadership in Kenya has grappled with “demystifying” the game and there have been some efforts to make golf more accessible to all.
Unfortunately, the core ingredient in the game is a monster called a golf course, a thing that occupies acres of land, demands millions of gallons of water, fertiliser, agro-chemicals and expensive machinery to keep each blade of grass trim.
Golf clubs spend millions of shillings maintaining their pristine tees, greens and fairways; even the roughs require constant maintenance, and all these “green-keeping” activities demand the almighty dollar.
As a consequence, to play golf is inherently expensive, membership fees are high (for most), annual subscription fees are high, daily green fees are high and those “sticks” that golfers hit golf balls with are pricey. All these golf ingredients make the game inaccessible, tough to join, giving the game that air of exclusivity.
Organisations such as the Junior Golf Foundation (JGF) and the Golf Talent Foundation, both affiliated to the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) have made efforts to demystify the game, with some, not much, results to show, but the game remains fairly exclusive and inaccessible to all (sounding politically correct).
Recently, a group of golf free-thinkers (for lack of a better word), unencumbered by the boring old rituals and culture of golf and golf clubs, started an organisation called ‘Detour Golf’.
According to their website this organisation styles itself like a golf tour company, catering for the business golf traveller. However, on their Telegram Group, where I was recently invited, Detour Golf advertises for local golf tours, plan games in various golf clubs and assists golfers book tee times and games at various golf clubs in Kenya.
While the promotion of golf tourism is common, and there are a few other local golf tourism firms, Detour Golf promotes a unique product that caught my eye — mentorship.
One of the biggest hurdles to joining the game of golf, irrespective of social background, is finding people to play with. Golfers tend to be literally married to their usual 4-ball, some have played together for more than 10 to 20 years, scouting for new playing partners only when one of their own is no longer able to participate.
The mentorship programme, as promoted by Detour Golf, seeks to solve this ‘access’ problem. I have seen seasoned golfers offer to mentor at Thika Sports Club, Limuru and Sigona. And this programme, if it continues, and it must, will succeed where JGF and GTF have failed.
Detour Golf officials must introduce golf mentorship to all golf clubs, especially away from the cities. Fantastic golf courses such as Nakuru, Eldoret, Kitale, Nyeri and Machakos are largely idle, yet these towns are buzzing with potential. All these clubs should seriously consider introducing a ‘Detour-Golf-Mentor-Mentee-green fee’ of say Sh1,000. Aspiring golfers can put up their names and Detour Golf mentors can call them up and introduce them to the game. The Sh1,000 green-fee would go a long way in boosting the income of these host golf clubs I reckon.
Detour Golf organises golf lessons, makes golf clubs available, but probably and most important, they create an atmosphere to receive new golfers, which is key to the quest of demystifying the game.
How new golfers are received can make all the difference; the first impression truly matters and this group has the potential of ensuring that the first encounter with the game is welcoming and memorable, leading to recruitment.