Founded in February 1908, Uganda Golf Club is one of the oldest courses in East Africa.
The club started off with a nine-hole course in the middle of what is now Kampala town.
In 1931, the government decided they wanted the land on which the old course was built and in exchange, allocated the club land at Kitante (pronounced Chitante) Valley where they embarked on building the current 18-hole course.
There are tales of troubles the two gentlemen, who planned and constructed the course, went through.
One day, while working on the 9th hole, H. Manson, who was the Barclays Bank Manager, and J. W. V. Hodson, were attacked by a hissing Black mamba and had to jump into the Kitante River to save themselves. The ninth hole was for many years known as ‘The Mamba Hole’.
Another problem Manson and Hodson faced was draining the valley enough to build the course.
They had to wade in knee-deep water in some areas just to get their bearing. They eventually constructed the course and in 1932, launched what was to be an enduring tournament, The Uganda Amateur Championship. The winner of the event in 1934, Kenya’s R. W. Hooper, had a nasty attack of jiggers, which saw him compete in the tournament in slippers.
Since the course was always wet, very little was left of the slippers at the end of the first day.
He somehow managed to beat fellow competitors despite his troubles.
The Uganda Amateur Championship has since grown to have three tournaments in one; The amateur ladies, amateur men and professional events.
This is the current Uganda Open that started last week with the ladies’ event and this week, amateur men and professionals will be in action.
The Uganda Open is now part of the Safari Tour, which has seen a large contingent of Ugandan, Kenyan, Zimbabwean and Zambian Safari Tour members, who are in the Kitante Valley looking for valuable Road to Magical Kenya Open 2021 points.
The prize money in the Uganda Open is $30,000 (Sh3.3 million). The winner will bag $4,500 (Sh499,000) and 75 points towards the Road to the Kenya Open 2021.
Last year’s winner, Madalitso Muthiya from Zambia is in Kitante trying to defend his title.
However, the six-time winner of the Uganda Open, Kenya’s Dismas Indiza is also in the hunt for his seventh title.
The strong field of 83 has players from South Africa, Nigeria, Botswana, Cameroon and a sprinkling of European players too.
Unlike Hooper in 1934, the winner may not play in slippers due to jigger infestation, they will, however, have the loud plantain-eater birds on every hole just as a distraction of some sorts. There are also the marauding marabou storks that occasionally take off with balls in their beaks.
They may not also be chased around by a black mamba like Manson and Hodson, but will have to play in wet patches just like the forebears of the Uganda Golf Club did.
May the best hunter in the Kitante Valley lift the trophy.
Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited