Players loving Karen test

2/15/2013 8:23:00 AM
The view from the first tee at Karen Country Club  (EuropeanTour)
The view from the first tee at Karen Country Club (EuropeanTour)
The beautiful Karen Country Club is hosting the Barclays Kenya Open this week for the first time in five years and the players have been revelling in the course’s distinctly narrow and tricky lay-out.

The course is not unusually short at 6,969 yards but with the ball flying between ten to 15 per cent longer due to the high altitude, the players are finding there is a lot less premium on length in Nairobi this week.

Instead, it is a thinker’s course, where every shot must be plotted meticulously over the narrow fairways, sandwiched between strands of penalising rough, and to the small greens which demand pinpoint accuracy.

The players are loving the unique challenge the course provides, including American Daniel Im, a Challenge Tour graduate this year.

“It’s quite a different course this week,” said Im. “The greens are firm here but the fairways are pretty soft. I'm actually quite used to the kikuyu grass here because we have that back home in California.

“I wouldn’t say it feels like home but a just little bit. The rough is really long here so if you’re hitting off the fairway you’ll find it difficult to make the green.

“I think hole three, the long par four, is the toughest test. The drive is narrow and the rough is long there so if you miss the fairway it’ll be difficult to make birdie or even par.”

Andrea Pavan, who finished second in the 2011 Challenge Tour Rankings, is also relishing the challenge at Karen.

“It’s really nice here,” said the Italian. “It’s similar to Muthaiga, where I played two years ago. The greens are a bit firmer but there are some tricky holes and you have to hit it straight so it’s a good course.

“It reminds me of a few courses in Italy because it is tree-lined and the greens are quite small so it’s like an old-style course.”

Andrew McArthur, who finished runner-up at the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge two weeks ago, is intrigued by the testing nature of the lay-out.

“If you get ahead of yourself on this course it will catch you out,” he said. “The greens are tiny and the rough doesn’t look very penal but it is. It’s a very tight course too.

“You just need lots of irons off the tees to put it in position and attack it from there. Generally, the middle of the green is the right place because the greens are so small and you don’t need to do a lot to get close.”