At Vipingo Ridge, Kenya, animals roam the greens alongside golfers

(CNN) – At the hole six feet in front of him, a golfer lines up his putt. Six feet behind him, a giraffe paces lazily.

From birds and eagles to guest appearances deer and alligators, golf has long enjoyed a link with the animal kingdom. Seldom has that pairing been more harmonious than at Vipingo Ridge, Kenya.

A vast 2,500-acre mixed-use development on the coast of the country, Vipingo Ridge is home to Africa’s only PGA-accredited course, as well as a diverse range of wildlife. With many coming to the rescue, a myriad of wildlife from the region are free to roam the entire course of the Baobab, which is dotted with native trees planted for its animal hosts.

At Vipingo Ridge, Kenya, golfers can play alongside all kinds of wildlife.

“It’s such a great thing to be able to go golfing and you have wildlife right around you,” Vipingo Ridge director of golf Saleem Haji told CNN. “It’s not fake, it’s not a zoo … that’s where they want to be.”

Conservation of the project

Vipingo Ridge is an example of how vast areas of privately owned land can be converted into sanctuaries or animal reserves, Kenya’s Wildlife and Tourism Minister Najib Balala told CNN.

Vipingo crest from the sky.

Vipingo crest

It is hoped that animals like Grévy’s antelope and zebra, brought from other African countries, can find a safe haven among the greens of Baobabs, Balala added.

For Alastair Cavenaugh, president of Vipingo Ridge, it is vital to be proactive to protect wildlife. “Our intention is to create a breeding program where we can raise stocks and improve gene pools in order to then, together with the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) – reintroduce them into the wild, in parks or for other sanctuaries and protected areas such as us, ”Cavenaugh explained.

“With the way the population is expanding, the human-wildlife conflict will only go one way and get worse. So I think there are many opportunities and possibilities for the government to partner with developers and landowners who have land that they can. commit to sanctuaries and conservation areas to create space for wildlife. “

swing technology

Preserving and improving the future of Kenyan golf is also a priority at Vipingo Ridge, which serves as a base for coaching some of the best young players in the country.

The camp once again hosted the Magical Kenya Ladies Open, an event of 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 will emerge from its on-site PGA Academy. Supervised by a PGA professional, the academy has a range of state-of-the-art equipment and offers custom club adaptation and swing analysis for all players, courtesy of a high-tech launch monitor. Using four high-speed cameras to track clubhead and ball, the monitor spits out data that can be used to change technique and equipment.

Sanna Nuutinin of Finland during the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge in 2019.

Sanna Nuutinin of Finland during the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge in 2019.

Tristan Jones / Vipingo Ridge

“The technology that golf has had over the past 15 years has been dramatic,” said Haji. “The influence of technology … (in) understanding how to generate maximum speed, which means you can hit the ball further – in today’s game that’s key.”

Next to the academy, a club repair and assembly facility offers nearly 200 club shafts of various materials and weights, providing nearly infinite amounts of customization for players to fine-tune the contents of their golf bag.

A new dawn

Haji believes that Vipingo Ridge’s efforts to bloodied the next generation of golfing talent reflect the sport’s growing popularity 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 has to go far from being the domain in which rich children can play and poor children not, because Kenya has the ambition to produce champions.

“The more people you hug to come and try, the more chance you have of finding a champion, that’s for sure.”