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Playing golf in Namibia - the African experience

Avatar of inke inke - 18. avril 2019 - Sport, Tourism

The golf course of the Windhoek Golf & Country Club from the air. Photo by: Hanspeter Baumeler

Brigitte Weidlich

Activity tourism is the current buzzword and what could be nicer than combining a photo safari through Namibia with playing golf under the African skies at the various golf courses all over the country? After a relaxing stay at a tourism lodge near Namibia’s famous Etosha National Park, golf courses are not far away at Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb or Grootfontein. 

Apart from Windhoek and Omeya (30km south of the capital) golfers can also enjoy golf at the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Henties Bay, Walvis Bay and Oranjemund. Golf and wildlife enjoy a peaceful co-existence at Swakopmund where a "resident" herd of springbok antelopes often grazes on the green lawn. At Oranjemund the occasional Oryx may pass by to watch the goings-on. 

The golf course outside Oranjemund lies in the former diamond area and Oryx antelopes occasionally drop by to watch the game. Photo by: Tracks4Africa

Golf in Namibia started a century ago

If anybody might think that golf is a relatively new sport in Namibia that is not the case. The first golf club in the country was founded way back over a century ago in 1916 during the First World War, reveals Steve Basson. He runs the Windhoek Golf & Country Club as manager. Since 1916, golf has evolved over the last 103 years with 12 golf courses countrywide and 1,500 golfers as members of the 12 various clubs. 

“All these clubs are under their own management but are affiliated to the Namibian Golf Federation (NGF)”, says Basson, who was one of the few Namibian professional golf players. Basson made it to the international list of the top hundred golf players and is one of only two professional green keepers in Namibia. Green keepers see to it that the lawns of golf courses are kept in perfect condition. In Namibia, golf courses – and other sports fields - are watered with semi-purified recycled water. 

Affiliated to the NGF are the Namibia Golf Union (NGU), the Namibia Ladies Golf Union (NLGU), the Namibia Junior Golf Federation (NJGF) and - last but not least - the Namibia Professional Golfers Association (NPGA). 

Now, the professionals are playing either in the CPD or the TPD division. Sounds complicated? Not so, says Basson. “The players in the Club Professionals Division (CPD) have studied golf for three years, with the main focus on management of golf clubs, how to organise competitions, maintenance of golf courses and much more,” Basson explains. “The Tournament Players Division (TPD) is the category where you see all those famous players on television”. 

At Henties Bay the golf course looks quite different to those in central Namibia. Photo by: Robert Raderschatt

Youth development is important

Seven Namibians are currently playing in the TPD division, among them Trevor Dodds and Joe Nawanga. "There could be more and that is why youth development has become a big emphasis," says Basson. The WCC has recently established what is called a "Mashie" golf course on its 59-hectare premises, the first one in Namibia. Golfers can play 9 holes in 45 minutes on 2 hectares, which is ideal for practice and training. "It is also cheaper to book the Mashie course, so the youngsters have better access to training," says Basson. 

As is international practice, players from other clubs can use all 12 golf courses in Namibia at affiliate rates and non-members can book sessions for non-affiliated fees. Golf players from other countries can rent all the equipment, including caddies and golf carts. "Players can be fully kitted", says Basson.

Some courses have special features

Like anywhere else in the world golf courses in Namibia also have club houses where players can relax, enjoy meals and drinks. In Windhoek, the golf course is part of a hotel. With regard to Swakopmund, the course is 10km outside in the Namib Desert. The Rössmund golf course is quite unique and a little oasis in the desert. It is one of only 5 full green fairway desert courses on the planet! On most golf courses, sand traps are dispersed throughout grass fairways. But in Namibia, grass fairways are dispersed throughout the sand. Golfers can overnight at the lodge adjacent to the golf course and enjoy amazing views of the Swakop River and the desert. 

The “resident” herd of Springbok shares the golf course outside Swakopmund in harmony with golfers. Photo by: Rössmund Golf Club

And for another game of golf the next course is just 30km away in Walvis Bay, a bit sandy but with lawn patches at the important spots. At Gobabis in the east of Namibia players might miss the green lawns but the course has 18 holes. At Oranjemund, which is now open to all visitors, the golf course is outside of the town in the Namib Desert in the former Sperrgebiet (prohibited Diamond Area). Until recently golfers had to get special permission to drive there to play golf. Now that Oranjemund is not a mining town anymore but open to all, golf players need no special permission anymore. Another interesting feature is that the desert golf course near Oranjemund features green lawns and tall trees, which were planted several decades ago as wind breakers. “Players experience some strong winds, but that makes golfing so interesting,” an amateur golfer remembers his recent visit there.

Just 30km’s outside Windhoek you will find the pristine Omeya Golf and Residential Estate. Mountains surround the course and every hole offers spectacular views of the African landscapes. Camel-thorn trees add to the bush feeling. It is also not uncommon to encounter wildlife on the fairways with antelope and warthogs often found foraging in the rough and near the fences. The course has wide fairways.

The camel thorn trees add to the peaceful scenery in and around the Omeya golf course. Photo by Omeya Golf & Residential Oasis

Soon there will be a golf course in Oshakati in north-central Namibia.

Golfing holidays – a niche market

Interestingly packaged tours for tourists who would also enjoy playing golf while visiting Namibia have remained a small niche market so far. Occasional enquiries from local and international travel agents are accommodated by the various golf clubs in the country. "When we receive requests from travel agents and tour operators to advise how best to include golfing during tourists' stay in Namibia we phone other clubs for arrangements," explains Basson.

"There is a lot of potential for specific package tours for tourists who would also like to play golf while visiting Namibia," one local tour operator noted. "This would make Namibia even more attractive in the higher tourism segment." 

So, if you want to visit Namibia but don’t want to miss swinging golf clubs, you can tee off at 12 different courses in various parts of the country.

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