Gary Player Design has replaced the nine-hole course at Kigali Golf Club in Rwanda with a new 18.
New land was acquired to allow the design firm to extend and reroute the course – the only one in Rwanda’s capital. All of the original holes were replaced, and the driving range was also expanded. Some of the newly acquired land has been set aside for real estate, a hotel and conference facilities.
Phil Jacobs, senior designer at Gary Player Design, has been on site and responsible for the project.
“The new routing sees golf holes along three different axes: Western – holes one, two, three, ten, eleven and twelve; Northern – holes four to nine; Southern – holes thirteen to eighteen,” said Marc Player, CEO of Black Knight International. “One hole that stands out is the fourth, a slightly uphill par five, reachable in two shots by the long hitters. It features beautiful and mature trees along the right of the hole, with a lone mature tree coming into play 80 yards short of the green.
“Another hole that stand out is the par-four sixth that doglegs to the right and plays downhill by 60 feet with two lakes to the right of the fairway coming into play for a mishit tee shot. The eleventh is another, a par four playing as a sharp dogleg to the right, reachable in one by the long and accurate golfer. The dogleg is protected by a large lake to the right.
“One more is the sixteenth,” continued Player. “A medium length par three playing uphill with the green 24 feet above the back tee. Good club selection will be the main challenge on this hole.”
The course was routed to give players significant variety in terms of hole length, direction of play and elevation.
“The design strategy was to build a playable but challenging course – which can be set up for a tournament – and is simple to maintain,” said Player. “This means that the bunkers have sand faces to the top, keeping 100 per cent of surface water out of the bunkers. It also means that there is no hand labour mowing required around bunker edges. Fairway mowers will mow around all the fairway bunkers and the green surrounds mower will mow around all the greenside bunkers.
“The greens feature relatively soft contours but will be a good challenge when the green speed is fast. The greens are mainly of the push-up design style, resulting in short mowing areas around the greens, repelling poorly struck approach shots.”
Construction work was completed by French contractor Gregori International in November 2020 and involved extensive earthmoving on a site with over 100 feet of elevation change, from a base of 4,600 feet above sea level. The high altitude helps to keep the course’s climate pleasant, despite being located almost exactly on the equator. It also allows for bentgrass to be grown on greens.
Tees, fairways and rough feature Kikuyu grass, which is found in the highlands of Rwanda.
The project has also included the building of a new international-standard golf course maintenance facility, a new irrigation system, extensive above- and below-ground drainage systems, and greens built to USGA construction specifications.
The club hopes that the new course can not only attract tourists but also a place on the international tournament circuit.
The par 72 layout will open for play in April 2021.