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Kenya sets high standard for junior golf development

The R&A
25 Nov 22
3 mins

The Kenya Junior Golf Foundation has instigated a series of initiatives to encourage young people into golf, including the possibility of the sport becoming an option for PE in schools.

The Kenya Junior Golf Foundation (JGF), under the umbrella of the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) has made significant strides in recent years to make golf accessible to more young golfers across Kenya. A partnership with US Kids Golf, expanded access to competition and a move to put golf on school curriculums are initiatives aiming to grow Kenyan golf from the grassroots up. With the guidance of the JGF, the KGU has been working hard with the Ministry of Education to achieve the inclusion of golf as an option for PE on the Kenyan school curriculum. If successful, it would see the game of golf being made available to all children in Kenya. 

Golf in schools

Vincent Wangombe, Chief Executive of KGU, explains why this will be such an important step for Kenyan golf. “For a long time, golf was not viewed as a sport in Kenya,” he says. “Many people thought of it as a ‘rich man’s hobby’. When we started discussing the inclusion of golf as an option for PE with the Ministry of Education, we had to convince them golf is a sport that can be played by all. Golf as an option for PE in schools will democratise the game. When we have children from all backgrounds playing the game, then it shall be seen as a sport.” Over the last two years, the JGF has expanded focus. Not only does it run junior golf competitions, but it also runs junior clinics across Kenya. Last year the JGF partnered with respected junior foundation, US Kids Golf, to train 45 coaches on instructing children from the age of five upwards. The method involves getting children into golf from a young age by using fun teaching methods and the “Longleaf Tee System” which features eight teeing options, allowing children from the age of 5–18 to play from scaled tees.
The Kenya Junior Golf Foundation's membership is up 20% this year and the organisation hosted 15 tournaments around the country with over 1,200 participants. 

Grassroots growth

The JGF has worked hard to open golf up to all juniors across the regions of Kenya, giving young people access to equipment and courses, as JGF President Regina Gachora describes. “We are demystifying the view of golf as an elite sport, changing it to one of a sport that can be played by any child in the country,” she says. “With JGF membership, which is under $10 a year, juniors can play at any golf club for under $1. This makes it affordable for children from different walks of life to adopt the game of golf.” JGF membership is up 20% this year (from 1,700 to 2,100 members) and the organisation hosted 15 tournaments around the country with over 1,200 participants. More than 1,000 kids attended golf clinics. And young Kenyan players are already enjoying success in big events. At this year’s Magical Kenya Open on the DP World Tour, leading Kenyan junior golfer Njoroge Kibugu made the cut and went on to win the amateur silver salver. He’s now attending Indian Hills College in Iowa.

To elite level success

Moving forward, the JGF’s work will not only significantly assist the development of grassroots golf in Kenya, but it will also form the basis of an elite programme allowing more talented players to progress to colleges and the professional game. The ambition is to see Kenyan players compete at the highest level, amateur and professional, with one aim being to have players representing Kenya in the 2028 Olympics. “When The R&A heard of this vision, they embraced it and have helped us set in motion plans to reach the goal,” says Vincent Wangombe. “The R&A is a valuable partner in the achievement of the developmental goals of golf in Kenya.” Regina Gachora is also clear on the strength of the ongoing relationship. “It’s important as what the JGF is doing is a new frontier, growing golf not only in Kenya but also showing what could happen in East and Central Africa,” she says. “Through their golf development sponsorship, The R&A greatly helps our work. They also have introduced us to elite programmes in South Africa and the Faldo Series which gives junior golfers the chance to compete at a higher level.” With the efforts of JGF and the likelihood of golf being included on PE curriculums around the country, it’s a hugely exciting time for junior golf, and the future of golf in Kenya. With the sport opening up across the regions and across the social demographic, there’s a huge wealth of sporting talent for golf to tap into. The goal of Olympic participation in the near future is a realistic one.