(DailyExpertNews) — The hole six feet in front of him, a golfer lines up his putt. Six feet behind him, a giraffe saunters past idly.
Vipingo Ridge, a sprawling 2,500-acre mixed-use development on the country’s coast, is home to Africa’s only PGA accredited golf course, as well as an array of wildlife. With many arriving as rescuers, a large number of the region’s wild species are free to roam the entire Baobab trail, which is dotted with native trees planted for its animal guests.
At Vipingo Ridge, in Kenya, golfers can play alongside all kinds of wildlife.
“It’s so much fun to be able to play golf and have wildlife around you,” Saleem Haji, golf director for Vipingo Ridge, told DailyExpertNews. “It’s not untrue, no zoo…that’s where they want to be.”
Vipingo Ridge is an example of how large tracts of privately owned land can be turned into animal sanctuaries or wildlife sanctuaries, Kenyan Minister of Nature and Tourism Najib Balala told DailyExpertNews
Vipingo Ridge from the air.
It is hoped that animals such as antelope and Grévy’s zebra, brought in from other African countries, can find safe haven among the greenery of the Baobab lane, Balala added.
For Vipingo Ridge chairman Alastair Cavenaugh, it’s critical to be proactive to protect nature. “Our intention is to eventually create a breeding program where we can breed stocks and improve gene pools and then – in collaboration with KWS (Kenyan Wildlife Service) – re-introduce them into the wild, in the parks or in other sanctuaries and protected areas such as ourselves,” Cavenaugh explains.
“With the way the population grows, conflicts between humans and nature are only going to go one way and get worse. So I think there are a lot of opportunities and possibilities for the government to work with developers and landowners who have land that they own. can deploy to sanctuaries and protected areas to create space for wildlife.”
Preserving and enhancing the future of Kenyan golf is also a priority at Vipingo Ridge, which serves as the foundation for training some of the best young female players in the country.
The track again played host to the Magical Kenya Ladies Open, an event on the Ladies European Tour, in February, after a two-year hiatus, with Germany’s Esther Henseleit successfully defending her crown.
Vipingo Ridge hopes future winners from the PGA Academy can come to the scene. Overseen by a PGA professional, the academy has a range of cutting-edge equipment and offers custom club customization and swing analysis for all players, courtesy of a high-tech launch monitor. Using four high-speed cameras to track the clubhead and ball, the monitor spits out data that can be used to adjust technique and equipment.
Sanna Nuutinin from Finland at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge in 2019.
Tristan Jones / Vipingo Ridge
“The technological surge of the past 15 years has been dramatic,” Haji said. “The influence of technology… (in) understanding how to generate the most speed, which means hitting the ball farther – in today’s game, that’s key.”
In addition to the academy, a club repair and assembly facility offers nearly 200 club shafts of various materials and weights, giving players nearly endless amounts of customization to fine-tune the contents of their golf bag.
A new day
Haji believes Vipingo Ridge’s efforts to give blood to the next generation of golfing talents reflect the increasing popularity of the sport in Kenya. “I think golf is growing in the country,” he said. “There is a general consensus that we need to involve a wider range of players, starting with children.
“This should no longer be the domain where rich children can play and poor children cannot, because Kenya has ambitions to produce champions.
“The more people you embrace to try it out, the more likely you are to find a champion, that’s for sure.”