Last week the 2022 Ladies European Tour (LET) season kicked off with the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge in Kilifi County.
It was an event which first appeared on the calendar in 2019 and returned after an absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But what makes Kenya such a magical destination to play golf?
History of golf
Kenya’s first golf course opened in 1906, just seven years after the East African Railway arrived, in what is now Upper Hill. It was The Nairobi Golf Club which opened the floodgates for an intrepid band of golf course architects who went on to build dozens of courses from the lush central highlands to the panoramic slopes of the Great Rift Valley and onto the Indian Ocean coast.
There are 41 golf courses spread across Kenya and the country has at least seven championship golf courses including the Baobab Course at Vipingo Ridge.
In 2020, Kenya was named Africa’s best golfing destination at the annual World Golf Awards. Most golf courses are located within easy reach of major tourist attractions and the courses are backed by excellent hotels and lodges with superb cuisine and service.
Golf and climate
Most golf courses in Kenya are at an elevation of more than 1,500 meters which provides golfers with an extra 10% of yardage per stroke.
The weather in the country is ideal for golf all year around with the main tourist season being from mid-December to early February. Though it can be quite hot and dry, the heat means animals congregate at watering holes and are therefore easier to see.
Kenya has two rainy seasons with the short rains in November and a longer wet season from the end of March to early May. During these periods, there are fewer tourists on the courses which means it is one of the best times to visit Kenya. The majority of the rain falls at night and as such it leads to lush fairways and greens that hold.
Wildlife at Vipingo
In 2020, Vipingo Ridge became a wildlife sanctuary offering refuge to animals that were facing challenges due to drought or human / animal conflict.
The protected estate, which is 2500 acres, became the new home to water buck, zebra, impala, eland, Grant’s Gazelle, oryx and a baby bushbuck. This was part of a ‘space for wildlife’ conservation project under the auspices of the Kenyan Wildlife Service.
Two baby orphaned giraffes from Samburu in northern Kenya, where there is a terrible drought, came to Vipingo in November 2021. Valentine is a 1-year-old male giraffe who was rescued on Valentine’s Day last year.
Naikorori is the smaller giraffe, and she is only nine months old, she was named after the village in the area where she was rescued. The duo were first homed at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, a community owned and run sanctuary, and then translocated south to Vipingo Ridge.
A team of 12 rangers work closely with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and they are headed up by chief ranger Kuso. They stay with the animals and protect them against harm while they are on the Ridge.
The wildlife has elevated the golfer’s experience with animals wandering the fairways making it a truly unique experience. While there is also Vipingo Ridge’s Beach Club and Kuruwitu’s marine protected area with coral gardens and spectacular snorkelling only 5km away.
Kenya has a vast array of magical experiences for visitors to enjoy including safari, the beach, adventure, culture and heritage, dining, entertainment, shopping, sports, plus events and festivals.
With good weather throughout the year, safari is an ideal activity to do in Kenya with 22 National Parks, 28 National Reserves, five National Sanctuaries and 5 Marine Parks. Kenya also hosts 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Lamu Old Town, Fort Jesus, Mount Kenya National Park, and the Lake system within the Great Rift Valley.
The Magical Kenya Signature Experience (MKSE) program is an initiative that aims to promote a collection of authentic and exceptional Kenyan travel experiences that are best aligned to Magical Kenya’s brand promise.
It is open to tourism businesses based in Kenya offering exceptional (Authentic and Memorable) experiences to domestic and global travelers. Kenya now boasts of 44 MKSE products found across the destination.