It is said that true friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost.
I would not hesitate to add golf in that statement as I have realised that over the years, I have made some good friends on the golf course and a good round of golf is like therapy.
I have now not played for what feels like an eternity and even if I wanted to, the restrictions given by the government on movement out of Nairobi, put my home club, Limuru Country Club, out of bounds.
As I read about the golfers who are putting in a few self-caddied rounds in clubs that are still in play, I am reminded how I have often taken the opportunities to play golf for granted.
This past Sunday, at a time that I would most likely have been enjoying the Royal Nairobi Golf Club’s Chairman’s generosity of choice whiskies at the conclusion of the Tannahill Shield, I was standing patiently behind my daughter as she washed her hands in preparation for Easter Sunday’s lunch.
She was taking her time as she meticulously washed her hands while singing a birthday song quietly to herself: “Hiyo ni keki sio ugali…” (that is cake and not ugali)
That is when it occurred to me that when I taught her to wash her hands, I had told her that she should sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice as she washed; something I had heard online.
I did not specify which version of the birthday song she should sing. Then it dawned on me that had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, I probably would not have taught my children the correct way of washing hands.
That is when I started counting my blessings and looking at what good things have come out of this bad situation.
For starters, I am having more home-cooked meals with my family. I believe that many golfers are doing the same.
I also realised that the last few rounds of golf that I played, I did so without stopping for the customary half-way snack.
This was because the clubhouse was closed. This must invariably mean that golfers are getting around the golf course faster than they usually do.
This is proof that we tend to eat more than necessary and these halfway snacks are not as indispensable as we tend to think that they are.
The most remarkable thing that has come out of the closure of the golf courses is the love shown by many golfers to the caddies.
A number of golfers who tend to work with specific caddies have sent them some support during these times. The golf clubs have also started a fund where club members are sending their donations through the clubs and the money used to buy foodstuff for the caddies.
This is something that most clubs are currently doing. There have been other societies such as Visa Oshwal and the Senior Golfers Society who have also come together to try and help the caddies. These kind gestures are very welcome and will go a long way in helping our good caddies.
It is the actions of Nyali Golf and Country Club and Karen Country Club that I reckon are more beneficial to caddies and sustainable in the long run.
Speaking to a member of Nyali, I learnt that the club is charging the golfers who are still playing half the normal caddie fee.
The golfers are made to strictly follow the self-distancing rules by playing in either one-balls or two-balls.
The money raised each day is given to the caddies who are selected on rotational basis to fill in divots and repair pitch-marks on the golf course. This way, at Nyali, the caddies are able to get some cash as they help maintain the golf course.
At Karen Country Club, the management has setup an endowment fund that is currently being used to remunerate the caddies who are currently out of work.
All the caddies who are registered at the club are receiving a stipend to help alleviate the hardships being experienced.
As much as the caddies will appreciate the food being given, I believe that cash earned from an honest day’s work is more appreciated.
Golf clubs can borrow a leaf from Nyali or Karen and make sure our caddies don’t suffer more from the restrictions that are in place currently. To some like me, we may miss playing the game that we love but to the caddies, it is a case of survival.
Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited