• Following a raft of measures announced by the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) on April 8, clubs have not relented on the implementation of these rules. This is ostensibly to create a safer and conducive environment for those involved.
• The club management has since warned that any non-compliance by staff or any member would lead to a full shutdown of the club, including possible prosecution.
Unlike contact sports like rugby and football, which has suspended play locally due to the coronavirus pandemic, golfers can count themselves lucky that they can continue doing their thing in a non-competitive atmosphere.
This has been made possible under strict rules with no reciprocation permitted and courses only accessible to members.
Following a raft of measures announced by the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) on April 8, clubs have not relented on the implementation of these rules. This is ostensibly to create a safer and conducive environment for those involved.
At Vetlab Sports Club, the Board of Directors, in line with their mandate to protect members’ interest and well-being, announced on March 17 that the club had enhanced cleanliness and frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces that are frequently used. They also provided visibly-marked, wall-mounted hand sanitisers in the clubhouse and at all entries and exits.
Members are, in addition, being encouraged to avoid cash payments and instead use online payments like MPesa for all their transactions with the club.
Members are only allowed entry into the club upon producing membership cards at the gate. At Golf Park, sources reveal that the driving range is still open to the public while the course is accessible to members only.
One of the key changes golfers have had to contend with after Kenya confirmed it’s first case of the pandemic are social distancing and self-caddied play where golfers are required to carry their own golf bags around the course.
This means that all caddies have been rendered jobless. “Social distancing is the trend at the moment. There are no more four balls. We play in threes for social distancing purposes,” said Thika Greens Golf Resort captain Patrick Karanja, .
KGU in consultation with the Ministry of Health allowed golfers to continue playing as long as they do not use the services of caddies and strictly maintaining social-distancing. For this, golfers can either play alone, in twos or threes. The starting intervals are also restricted and must be at least ten minutes and golfers must not gather at the starters.
The KGU dos and don’ts indicate that congregation is now not allowed. Clubs must ensure that there is strictly no congregation on their premises which brought to an end the popular ‘19th hole’, the club’s bar and restaurant.
But with the easing of the rules by the Government of Kenya, Limuru Country Club announced recently that it had met all the Ministry of Health and the County Public Health requirements for partial reopening of the Clubhouse Restaurant.
Since Wednesday, May 13, the restaurant at Limuru opens between 7am and 4pm. During these times, the club management clarified that members will only be able to access the restaurant services at the veranda area.
A bulletin from Limuru management said the move is based on very strict adherence to hygiene and social-distancing rules. The facilities will therefore only accommodate a limited number of members at any one time on a first-come, first-serve basis. Both takeaway service and eat-in service at Limuru are available based on a limited menu due to the prevailing circumstances.
The club management has since warned that any non-compliance by staff or any member would lead to a full shutdown of the club, including possible prosecution.
Last month, KGU chairman Anthony Murage outlined the dos and don’ts to all clubs and copied the same to the health ministry.
He said that after the government directive which banned public gatherings, they had received a number of inquiries from golf clubs across the country seeking guidance on ways to operate during these difficult times.
“The union sought clarification from the Ministry of Health in this regard,” quipped Murage.
The reason for the been had been, said Murage, due to the non-compliance of many golfers who had continued to congregate within the club premises in direct contravention of the current directives given to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Murage added that for the same reason, the Ministry of Health made further directions. These included the closure of clubhouses.
Murage clarified that there will be no reciprocation which allows members from other clubs to play golf in clubs where they are not members.
“Clubs should only be open to their members and should not allow guests or reciprocation,” he added.
With caddies sidelined on the course, clubs have appealed for material support to help them survive in these difficult times.
Recently at Vet Lab Sports Club, politician Peter Kenneth made a considerably generous donation of foodstuffs to the caddies.
Due to the stoppage of use of caddies, the clubs were urged to set up a caddie welfare kitty in support of the caddies who have been affected by these directives.
Further to these directives, they took the unprecedented action of suspending all handicaps in the country with clubs not being allowed to hold any competitions that require golf handicaps. Clubs were also stopped from organising all formal competitions.