Played by me...!

I have played golf on several courses in many countries and many continents. A golf course is not measured by how expensive it is; and automatically, this eliminates Pebble Beach (where they charge you just for driving around the course!); it is a combination of the views, the ambience, and the overall feeling of being as close to heaven as you can be when you are on it. Some golf course just have it and some don’t. Golf should be an experience which you can re-leave in your mind several times over after you have completed your round. A general rule of thumb is to try to go over the holes one by one in your mind after you have played a course only once. If you forget some holes just after you have completed your round, then the experience was less than satisfactory. There are some courses one has played often upon, and for these you can remember every hole; but; can you, just after your first round at a particular course? It happened to me once when I played at the Belfry (Sutton Coldfield, North Warwickshire) the very first time I did so; and I could go over each hole in my mind long afterwards after only one round. The fact that I had paid 90 pounds to play there was not a factor. I had a great time. I could go to other courses in the UK and talk at the 19th hole to other golf nuts who have played the Belfry and hold my own in relating the degree of difficulty of each hole. And when they held the Ryder Cup over there recently, I could sympathize with Tiger Woods and ‘em at Hole # 10 because I knew exactly what they were going through. The best golf courses by far are in Southern Africa, no doubt; and Zimbabwe has the best of the best: la crème de la crème indeed. The fact that I have played on a lot of courses in Zimbabwe has a lot to do with it, but one cannot play on all the courses in the world. You can only rank those you have played on.


Warren Hills Golf Course, Mabelreign, Harare (Zimbabwe)


From Downtown Harare, go up on Second Street towards the Northern Suburbs and take a left on Josiah Tongogara Avenue (at the corner with Royal Harare Golf Course). Follow Josiah Tongogara past the Central Hospitals, and past Prince Edward High School on your left. Keep going for at least 5 km until you can see the National Sports Stadium looming to your left. Start to slow down because the clubhouse comes up quite suddenly on you on the right. Park in the parking lot and the Pro shop is to your left as you enter the premises. Only the Caddie Master can allocate a caddie for you, and so you should avoid being hustled by caddies in the parking lot.


Quite long and difficult. Need a hefty breakfast before attempting this course (they save breakfast at the premises, fortunately). Water right on the first hole at the landing area to the left for long hitters. Water out of play for the short hitters. An easy par 5 for most people. The second hole is a tricky par 4 with a narrow landing area. Trees on left, and if you find yourself under that timber, pray and hope for a 5. A very imaginative par 4 hole number 4 with water guarding the approach and rough on the right and long if you decide to play it safe and run away from the water. Many people may enjoy the par 4 420-meter hole number 11 (stroke index 2). A slight dog-leg right; one may decide to go over the trees or follow the fairway for a very long iron 170-190 meter approach to a treacherous green that slopes away from you and to your left. Signature Hole: No doubt about it; it has to be the par 4 424-meter hole number 3 (stroke index 1). It is a severe dog-leg right which you cannot carry (not even Tiger Woods). A well-placed 2-iron from the tee can land you at the perfect position to the left of the fairway where the fairways takes a sharp right turn. Two discouraging things face you immediately as you look at the green: (a) you are still a good 210-215 meter (these are not YARDS!) from the green (driver? 3-wood?) and (b) there is a big old Musasa tree right in the middle of the fairway in your approach about 45 meters from the green. Figure that one out.

Club House:

Not the greatest. The bar area is passable, but nothing worth writing home about. The restaurant only has a view of the chipping green and maybe a glimpse of people struggling at number 18 green. The cooks are pretty good, and you can generally have a good meal here. However, it is not the place you can play golf in the morning at, finish your round at maybe 1 pm; have lunch, and stay on for drinks with friends and leave for home 5 pm. Most people spend 30 minutes or so in the bar after the round for the obligatory drinks and split. Most do not even shower there.


One of the best courses I have ever had the pleasure of playing on (and I have played on many courses all over the world!). A thinking man’s golf course, and about 7,000 meter off the back tees.


Royal Chapman Golf Club; Eastlea, Harare (Zimbabwe).


Directions: From Downtown Harare, go into the main drag: Samora Machel Avenue; and head due East (To Mutare). Go past the Holiday Inn on your right, and past two major intersections (Seventh Street and Enterprise Road). After Enterprise Road intersection, proceed cautiously because you may miss your turn-off to your right. Go past the driving range on your right as well as a putt-putt golf course and Water World amusement park on your right. Ahead of you on your left is a garage called Haddons Motors. Do not go past this garage. Your landmark is the

St. Tropaz apartment complex on your right. Take the right turn just before these apartment buildings, and the entrance to Chapman Golf Club is recessed about 400 meters along this road. The gate is clearly labeled. Park in the parking lot and unload your golf clubs which you can carry to the Caddie Master’s cubicle (there are two caddie masters at Chapman!). You can leave your bags here because the dressing room is to your left and in the basement (while you will want to go to the right to Roger Bayliss’ Pro shop).


Pay at the Pro shop for your green fees (caddie fees are negotiated with the particular caddie). Rule of thumb is that you should ask the caddie master outside (where you left your bags) the going rate for caddie fees before tip. The Zimbabwean dollar fluctuates so much that one never knows what it will be if you have been away for say, 3 months. Green fees translate to about USD12 for unaffiliated players, $10 for affiliated, and around $5 for those affiliated with clubs Chapman has reciprocity. Caddie fees after tip should be about half the green fees (if you are happy with your caddie, you can pay him more!).


Quite a long course as well, but a joy to play upon. Kukuyu fairways, bent greens. Well kept and well manicured course. It is unfortunately flanked by two busy roads on either side: Samora Machel Avenue and Robert Mugabe Road. The opening hole is very easy, and most people leave that hole filling very good about themselves. The scrappy golfer can always get himself an easy bogey-5 on this hole. The second hole is a long par 5 hole that gives you no chance for error. The approach is very narrow. On the left are some pine trees that will mean a punch shot back to the fairway should you be caught under them. On the right is OB and some mean rough you would rather not be caught in. A safe 170 meter 4 or 5 iron drive here into the center of the fairway would be perfect, followed by a fairway wood and a long iron to get to the sunken green. Number 4 needs all your strength as it is a 400-meter par 4 hole going up. There is no way of playing this without brute strength. However, the meanest hole is the famous Stroke 1 hole number 6 420 meter par 4. It is so mean that it was even profiled by Sports Illustrated as having the worst water hazard in the world: crocodiles!!!! There is a 50-meter pond guarding the front of the green, and a mis-hit from the fairway on your approach normally ends up in the drink (no-one dares to retrieve any balls that fall into this pond!). Most people hit a driver off the tee and lay up with an 8-iron before taking a wedge and trying to hit it close for a par. You can never win on this hole, you only hope to survive. The back 9 is full of wonderful surprises too. It softens you with an easy 340-meter par 4 (uphill) before giving you a hole that seems to be a replica of Number 6 (without the crocodiles!). The long 402-meter par 4 number 11 hole has a green guarded in front by water, and on the sides by two treacherous bunkers. Many have plunked their approach shots into this water (the caddie can retrieve the ball for you on this hole!). The whole course is lined with beautiful pine trees. Most holes have very narrow approaches. All in all, one gets a very good round of refreshing golf along the way

Signature Hole:This has to be the long par 5 hole no. 14 (see photograph above). This hole is worth all the green fees you will have paid to play this course. It is a slight dog-leg left (which is difficult for most hackers who slice). The tee box is behind the Mukuvisi River (the source of the river is right at hole no. 14). One’s tee short has to clear the river and landing slightly to the right side of the fairway for a clear shot at the green on the second short for long hitters. The rough and troubles on the right are nothing compared to what one will face on the left: the river and big-time rough!). It is possible, but highly unlikely, even for long hitters, to make this green in two. The green is guarded by another crocodile-infested pond on the left (see photograph below) and so one does not want to end up in there.

Club House:

This is an excellent facility overlooking the No. 18 fairway. The balcony is extremely comfortable facing no. 9 green. It is situated on top of the men’s dressing room. Drinks and light meals are served at the turn (mandatory!!), and beers flow as it also serves as the 19th hole. The clubhouse bar itself is rather stuffy and quaint. You need proper and conservative dress to get into this bar (no jeans, no sneakers, no cut-offs), and it appears people often speak in whispers. Not a very comfortable environment for a rowdy rouble-rouser after skinning his friends on the course!


Elephant Hills Golf Course, Victoria Falls.


Best way is to fly there. There are daily direct flight from Harare and from Johannesburg to Vic Falls. From the airport, after you pick up your rental car; drive the 20 kms or so into town. As you get into town, pass the ZRP facility on your right and take the second left after that. This road takes you to Elephant Hills Hotel (5-star!) and Lokuthula Lodges). Go past the main gate into the hotel on your right and take the next right which should take you straight to the caddy master’s lodge for Elephant Hills Golf Course. Man, you are in for a treat!!!! This course is very pricey and be prepared to pay more than you would normally pay for a round of golf, but, what the heck, you will be playing golf with the arch-angels today!!!!


A very interesting course, designed by Gary Player in the mid-seventies. Not very long; only 6,200 meters off the back tees, but it is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) course. The first hole (see picture above) is long, downhill, but always into the teeth of the wind, and a driver and a three wood might be needed to get there in regulation. I have playd this course several times, and I have never gotten there in two from the back tees. Mr. Player took advantage of the local terrain to create a real masterpiece. Vegetation is mostly thorn bushes and a wayward shot into the rough is usually forgiven because you can punch out and walk off with a bogey. The second hole is a short 150 meter par 3 hole for which an eight-iron would look very inviting… don’t!!! Take your seven or 6 and hit it as hard as you can to clear the pond (Charlie’s pond) to land safely on a very large green which is very difficult to read because the sun and Charlie’s Pond influence the break in opposite directions (grass always grows towards the water and it also always grows towards the sunset.. tough to figure out this green). The third hole is very interesting. The landing area for a clear shot to the green is very small; and for hackers like us a driver will do. I pro might settle for a 4-iron for a well placed shot for a medium iron to the green. Fortunately, this green holds very well. The par 5 number 4 has very generous fairways, and it is almost difficult to hit it out of bounds even if you shank it. There is OB on your left with a large fence to keep elephants out, and mean rough on the right and a wasted shot just to get out. As you walk along this fairway, you an actually see elephants munching away just a few meters from you along the whole left hand side of the fairway. Do not bother going to retrieve an errant shot from there. A par is very easy to get here. The next long par 3 hole can be your worst nightmare. None of us have a good club in the bag for 185 meters. The green runs away from you everywhere, and a poor shot to the right of the green is severely punished and you will be happy to take off with a double bogey. Hackers: take your 5-wood. The biggest hazard on Number 6 are warthogs. If you ignore them, they will ignore you too. There are many impalas as well on this hole, especially in winter when the only green grass will be on the fairway. Just tee off, they will get out of your way as you approach. Not so for holes 7 and 8 where water buck will allow you to walk within a few meter of them and they will not get up!!! The locals say their meat tastes so bad that no-one wants to eat them, and they seem to know it too (see picture, below).

One time I teed off with the water buck right in front of the tee box and he refused to budge. However, hole Number 8 is easy, as long as you do not box yourself on the left. A three-wood and a wedge is all you need and you should walk off with an easy par.

Hole Number 9 is a long uphill par 5 with a receptive green on which even hackers like us can really ‘stick’ it. It is a two-tiered green, and the hole plays much easier if the pin is on the top tier. It is easy to get here in 3 (actually recommended for a more accurate approach shot and a better score. Many of my long approach shots from the fairway in an effort to make it in two end up in the hospitality booth to the left of the green where you will have to pitch back to the green with all the people in the bar watching you… it can be quite nerve-wrecking.