Monday, 26 March 2012
13th hole at Muthaiga Golf Club (pic by Phil Inglis) ()
13th hole at Muthaiga Golf Club (pic by Phil Inglis) ()

The famed Muthaiga Golf Course has seen some of the world’s top players grace its fairways, with Seve Ballesteros, Trevor Immelman and Ian Woosnam all winning there. Before this week’s Barclays Kenya Open, defending champion Michiel Bothma takes you around the course…

Hole 1, par 4, 442 yards

“I normally hit a little rescue down off the tee and it slopes about ten yards downwards, so a rescue rolls almost to the end of the fairway. From there you’ve got an eight or nine iron with another ten yard downward elevation to the green. I wouldn’t say this is a big birdie-chance hole. To get away with a par is good here; just hit the middle of the green. It’s an unpredictable green so it’s not an easy putt to make.”

Hole 2, par 3, 228 yards

“This should be a six iron to the middle of the green, fairly straightforward. It’s a two tiered green and you don’t want to hit it long. If you can just leave it under the hole, you’ll always have a decent birdie putt. Three of the four days, the pin will be at the back tier, but not always. It’s quite a tricky chip back if you hit it long and it’s very fast down the hill and very slow up the hill, so you need to keep it just under the hole. It’s not always easy but if you can do that right, it’s a decent birdie chance.”

Hole 3, par 4, 337 yards

“If you make par on the first and second, you’ve got off to a good start, but I think the third and fourth are the birdie holes, and if you can birdie the two of them, you have the start you actually want. A lot of guys hit a three wood or rescue off the tee here but I always try and hit driver, then it’s normally a drive and a 100-yard second shot maximum. Your drive can almost reach the green depending on the firmness of the fairway. If you get the drive close here it’s just a lob wedge and you should get up and down 90 per cent of the time, there are no traps really. Just don’t hit it right from the tee or you’ll struggle in the trees. Just left of the fairway is good.”

Hole 4, par 5, 551 yards

“This is a very birdieable par five, but it’s all about the drive. It’s a sharp dog-leg to the right but you’ve got two bunkers - one straight down the fairway and the fairway ends there at about 300 yards. Because of altitude, we can all hit it 300 yards, but there’s a bunker at 280 yards on the left too. If you can just sneak it into the corner just short of the middle bunker you’ve got a four iron to a huge green, and if you hit it anywhere on the green in two, you’ll walk off with a birdie.”

Hole 5, par 3, 223 yards

“This is normally, depending on the wind, a five or six iron. It’s a biggish green but a tough one. It’s got two tiers even though they’re very slight and anywhere in the middle of the green there is good. It’s really hard to read the wind here; it’s amongst trees and you’re never sure from which way it’s coming so the middle of the green there is good.”

Hole 6, par 4, 507 yards

“I think this is one of the toughest holes on the course – I’m always happy to walk away with a par. It plays about a three wood-five iron into the hole. You can’t leave it right where there are big bushes and on the left there are two bunkers guarding the fairway. If you hit them then you’ll be lucky to havea shot to the green so it’s cardinal to hit the fairway there and the second shot is about 185 yards.”

Hole 7, par 5, 616 yards

“This is a very long par five and the youngsters, with a little bit of the wind, can make it in two shots, but older guys like me have to make it three shots. It’s a good driving hole - you need to shape it right to left to get on the fairway and you can lay up to about 90 to 100 yards short of a tricky green. The pin is normally tucked close to the water for one day and at least twice on the small back tier, so you need to be pinpoint with your third shot to have a chance of birdie.”

Hole 8, par 4, 498 yards

“This is another good driving hole, with trees on the right, so if you leak it right there’s no chance of getting to the green, even from the right edge of the fairway sometimes. You need to hit it middle to left of the fairway. There’s a tree guarding the left side of the fairway, so you need to sneak it into a little channel there. Once you’re on the fairway it’s straightforward; a wedge or nine iron to a flat green. If you’re hitting the fairway you’ll birdie it at least once or twice during the week.”

Hole 9, par 4, 414 yards

“Just make sure not to hit it right from the tee here. The rough is normally very thick and if you manage to hit the fairway, you’ve got nothing more than 100 yards left, so it’s a little sand wedge or gap wedge into a tight green which stops pretty quickly. It slopes towards you and the grain is also into you so anything at the flag or just past will end up stone dead.”

Hole 10, par 5, 539 yards

“You need to cut a little bit of a corner off the tee. It’s a dog-leg to the right and if you get a decent drive you’ve got nothing more than a six iron to a green that’s guarded by water on the left-hand side, but it’s a big enough green and quite flat so you’d expect a lot of birdies here.”

Hole 11, par 3, 217 yards

“It’s a six iron every day here. The tee doesn’t change much and it’s a little bit up the hill and it isn’t a huge green so anywhere in the middle of the green leaves you with a decent putt. There’s a little bit of a tier at the back and preferably, if the pin’s at the back, you want to hit it there but it’s not easy. You might not make the birdie from the bottom, but you won’t make bogey either so best to be safe really.”

Hole 12, par 4, 459 yards

“This is a good par four, a short enough one. Long hitters can hit it over the dog-leg left, where there are bunkers and a medium-sized tree guarding the left edge of the fairway, which leaves them around 80 yards to the green, but the more cautious guy will hit it to the corner for a nine iron or wedge, so I think there are normally a lot of birdies apart from when the flag is to the back left. That’s because there’s a bunker on the left and it’s hard to get it close to the back left. Normally I’d just hit it to the middle and try and make a good putt.”

Hole 13, par 3, 191 yards

“This is a very good par three. The prevailing wind is normally into your face and the green is guarded by water short. From the tee it seems like an easy hole but there are so many trees around the tee box that you don’t always feel the wind and I’ve come up short into the water so many times that I always play at least a half a club more than I think now.”

Hole 14, par 4, 474 yards

“This is a very hard driving hole. It’s a little three wood or maybe a good rescue. You need to hit a little cut to hold the fairway and it leaves you with about a seven and a six iron to a smallish green. The green is very flat one so the most important thing is to hit the fairway because it slopes a little from right to left and it’s firm. You can get into the trees on the left that block up the green so then it becomes very hard to reach. Once you’re on the green, you’ll have a good birdie chance.”

Hole 15, par 4, 396 yards

“Most guys hit a three iron or rescue off the tee and that leaves them with 100 yards to the green, so everybody expects to make birdie here. There’s water front right but it’s not really a problem. The green slopes towards you so you can attack that hole and you would expect to walk away with a birdie.”

Hole 16, par 3, 224 yards

“This is one of the hardest par threes on the course. It normally plays around 200-215 yards and the green is a bit elevated so you need to pitch it on the green to hold it there. Coming in with a three iron or four iron is not easy to get it on. If you miss it, unless you miss short right, it’s really tough to get up-and-down. It slopes towards you so anything long and left is basically a bogey.”

Hole 17, par 4, 346 yards

“It’s a four or five iron off the tee and that will leave you 100 yards again. The green is guarded by water left. A lot of pros try and hit it on the green, especially if the wind is helping a little bit, but I've seen more doubles here with drivers off the tee than anywhere else on the course. If you hit the water off the tee you’ve only got a 30 yard drop-shot, but it’s from the rough so the guys struggle.”

Hole 18, par 5, 534 yards

“There are very mixed feelings from most of the guys on how to approach this short par five. I’ve seen a lot of the pros play rescue-rescue. I like hitting driver for at least the first two or three days and that only leaves you with a seven or six iron, maximum. It’s a hole you always want to birdie because it’s not too long and it has a huge green - not too deep but very wide - so you expect to hit it every time and two-putt for birdie. The green is a little slopey back to front so anything short of the hole you can give it a good run for eagle. There’s a little bit of a raised bunker which slopes down towards the hole so it’s a tough up and down. It’s a good finishing hole, a very tight driving hole but it produces a lot of eagles. Once you beat the fairway, eagle is definitely on the cards but if you pull your drive it’s got six written all over it so a lot depends on the tee shot there.”

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