The Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa will break new ground this year as the African country holds a European Tour event for the first time. Ahead of Karen Country Club hosting the European Tour’s players for the first time, we bring you a hole-by-hole guide of the Nairobi venue.
Hole 1: Par four - 456 yards
The opening hole at the Magical Kenya Open will be tough! It’s a long par four at 456 yards from the back tees, and it often plays against the wind. The green presents an undulating surface and it is protected to the right and left by deep bunkers. A fairway bunker on the right, about 40 yards shy of the green, will not be in play for the longer hitters.
Hole 2: Par three - 137 yards
The second hole is a relatively short par three at 137 yards and it is perhaps Karen’s most photographed hole. Water to the left and front and the Apotheca tree short and left of the green call for caution. The green was recently renovated and the putting surface is now on top tiers – plenty of chances for birdie guaranteed.
Hole 3: Par four - 553 yards
Members of the host venue play the third as an easy par five, but for the Kenya Open, this hole will be played as a long par four marking the beginning of a series of three tough holes! Depending on where the tees are placed, the players will need to hit either three wood or five wood into the dogleg, or drivers into the same spot. From there, a mid-iron will get them home onto a large green that presents three different tiers. There is a large water reservoir to the left of the fairway, but it is hardly in play for the pros.
Hole 4: Par three - 195 yards
This par three is probably the toughest short hole at Karen. The tee shot has to navigate a strong crosswind and avoid trees and bunkers on either side of the green and once there, golfers will be met by an undulating green that is tough to read. This is one of the toughest holes on the course and par is a great score here.
Hole 5: Par four - 455 yards
The fifth hole is a long par four with trouble on both sides of the fairway. The tee shot must be long and straight to guarantee a mid to short iron shot into a green that slopes violently from the back to the front. Avoid the cluster of trees to the right, about 60 yards shy of the green, those will cost you a shot. All shots going over the green will find thick Kikuyu grass rough and a knee-knocker of a downhill chip shot!
Hole 6: Par five - 553 yards
The sixth hole at Karen is a risk and reward par five. Long hitters may opt to cut the corner at the dogleg, leaving about 200 yards to the newly built green complex. Players laying up at the dogleg will be faced with a tough decision – to try and carry the water hazard or lay-up short of the same? The putting surface is blind from the fairway and sticking the ball close will require a close study of the yardage book. Par should be easy here.
Hole 7: Par four - 343 yards
The seventh hole is a reachable par four, but danger lurks to the right – a water hazard, and to the left – out of bounds. Drives leaking to the right rough will present a tough chip shot to a two-tier green. The better players will require a long iron, followed by a short iron, to make birdie here.
Hole 8: Par four - 396 yards
The eighth is an uphill dogleg right hole that demands an accurate tee shot. You can go out of bounds to the right, and there is thick forest to the left. Long tee shots through the dogleg will be lost in the trees beyond. Long hitters may attempt to take on the green, but it is hardly worth the risk. This hole will serve birdies and bogeys in equal measure.
Hole 9: Par four - 306 yards
The ninth hole at Karen is a popular par four. Easily reachable for long hitters this is a cast iron birdie hole. The water to the left of the fairway is not in play for the Pros, however out of bounds to the right is in play for any drives sliced. The green is deep and it presents three different tiers, making long putts challenging. This is the traditional play-off hole of the Kenya Open.
Hole 10: Par four - 350 yards
The opening hole of the back nine is a reachable par four, but the sensible play is to lay up about 50 yards off the green and make an easy birdie. Drives lost left or right will lead to a bogey or worse. The fence protecting the 11th hole is an integral part of the course, and no relief will be offered to players ending up there.
Hole 11: Par five - 566 yards
The par five 11th is a relatively easy hole; good players will drive across the dogleg, leaving a mid-iron in and the average drive will require a five wood or three wood into a large green. The front of the green does not allow the golf ball to release onto the green. This hole will give up eagles and birdies in equal measure.
Hole 12: Par five - 524 yards
The 12th hole is a dogleg left par five. The long hitters in the field may take on the dogleg, however the landing area is tight. A three wood into the corner is the more sensible play. The 12th green is one of the most challenging at Karen and the position of the first putt, relative to the hole will be key to scoring here.
Hole 13: Par five - 430 yards
The 13th is a tough-as-nails par four! Long at 430 yards, the fairway is narrow, water to the right, bush to the left and a landing area on the fairway that feeds all drives into a bunker. The putting surface is not visible from 100 yards, making the approach shot difficult to judge. Par is a good score here.
Hole 14: Par three - 213 yards
The par three 14th hole is the traditional hole-in-one location. The tee shot is through a tunnel of tree branches to an elevated green that is guarded by bunkers left, and two acacia trees right. The green slopes to the front and downhill putts here simply don’t stop rolling! Par is a great score here, but so is the hole-in-one for a brand new SUV.
Hole 15: Par four - 472 yards
The 15th is a long par four that often plays against the wind. It is probably the most challenging hole at Karen Country Club. The green was recently re-built and it now sits at an awkward angle to the fairway, offering a long and narrow putting surface. Pin positions to the extreme left will be difficult to get to.
Hole 16: Par three - 180 yards
This should be a routine short hole, however the wind patterns around the green are unpredictable and the multiple-tier green has wild breaks and varying putting speeds. Don’t miss this green left.
Hole 17: Par four - 377 yards
The 17th is a short par four, probably reachable for some of the big boys. A three wood into a generous landing area followed by a wedge should do the trick here for an easy birdie.
Hole 18: Par four - 445 yards
The finishing hole is a long and narrow par four with a green that sits across the fairway offering a difficult target to hit from distance. Drives here should favour the left-hand side of the fairway and approach shots should avoid the rough short, left, right and beyond the green. Play for the bunkers if you must, but avoid the short rough! The green slopes to the front for most of the part, but a tiny portion at the top end of the green slopes away into the rough. This will be a tough finishing hole.