Zim golf courses deteriorate . . . Courses being converted to farms, beer halls and event venues

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Chipo Sabeta
A number of golf courses and facilities in the country are now in an appalling condition due to negligence and poor maintenance by responsible authorities.

Some golf courses are no longer usable, with some popular golf courses in major cities and towns having returned to the “brown earth” from which they originally sprang.

They are no longer in operation.

Whilst, Zimbabwe used to be known around the world for its magnificent golf courses within the Southern African region, the majority have been run down, turned to beer halls, farmland or even football pitches for local communities.

Some golf courses are used to host weddings, church gatherings, and musical shows.

A few golf facilities have prospered in post independent Zimbabwe but far more have struggled, some closing their doors while numerous others changed hands or significantly altered their business models.

It is for that reason that Zimbabwe has been missing out on hosting tournaments, high profile international sports tournament with the 1995 All-Africa Games remaining the highlight of the sport.

According to Zimbabwe Golf Association (ZGA) development officer Boniface Chigorimbo, Zimbabwe has over 60 golf courses, but only about half of them are fully utilised and functional.

The Zimbabwe Golf Association (ZGA) admitted and bemoaned the rate at which golf facilities and infrastructure around the country are deteriorating countrywide.

Clubs like Royal Harare, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Borrowdale Brooke — all in Harare, Chapman in Bulawayo, Leopard Rock in Vumba, Triangle, and Hwange Golf Clubs have maintained very high standards, according to the ZGA, but other golf courses quickly deteriorated for the past two decades.

Some defunct golf courses include Enterprise, Harare South, Bronzebury, Rusape, Middle Sabi, Chipinge, Tengwe, Nyazura, Mhangura, Mkoba, Glen Eagles, Mvurwi, Trelawney and Karoi among others.

“It is a sad situation and the association is looking into the matter. Some have been lying idle for decades, whilst others are misused. I understand that some have been turned into football fields. There is one called Trillon near Banket that was neglected and locals are now using it as a beer halls.

“Golf clubs should be treated with great respect. If they are not looked after they will deteriorate faster than they should leading to poor performances on the greens and that summarises our situation in Zimbabwe. In other regions, the green grass has died out, weeds are growing everywhere and needless to say.’’

Chigorimbo added: “Basically, we have more than 60 golf courses in Zimbabwe, but more than 20 are not fully functional. Over 10 are now defunct. While some are still functioning, they require major attention. There is room for improvement for those that are not fully functioning.

“Many courses have been left to deteriorate with very little maintenance because membership have dropped whilst support from locals and corporate is another factor. The movement during the land reform programme had an impact on golf courses because some of the farmers who used to maintain or own the courses left the country.

“Some of the clubs that require attention such as Kwekwe Golf Club, Masvingo Golf Club, Roland Park Golf Club and Gweru Golf Club.”

Chigorimbo said it is part of their 2018 goal as ZGA to revamp golf courses countrywide.

He added that sports facilities are critical in developing athletes into world – class performers.

“As a nation with huge aspirations, maintenance and full utilisation of sports facilities is crucial for sports development, developing our golf courses is critical in developing athletes into world-class performers,” he said.

“That’s why ZGA’s other priority is to demystify the myths around golf and involve every class to play the sport.”

“A huge number of them were built during a boom in the industry in the 80s and 90 but there is need for consistence in maintenance. As an association, we are looking forward to grow the sports through academies and engaging tertiary school. This can be achievable with proper golf courses,’’ Chigorimbo explained.

While climatic conditions have attributed to the deterioration of the facilities as the country experienced high temperatures and less rains, golf courses decay has been largely attributed to poor maintenance.

Chapman Golf Club general manager Stewart Uta, said natural wearing will occur with all golf equipment over time, but there are ways to make sure golf courses and facilities are maintained for as long as possible.

The Eastlea-located course has a beautiful scenery throughout its 18-hole course, a course is abundant in water features, lots of scenic ponds, a small river and huge full grown willow trees line the course creating a nice view and some shade from the sun if needed.

“We always continue to restore this course to its former levels. It’s a good track.

“That’s the reason why we have always remained on top of the game because we maintain this place.

“It doesn’t matter how well maintained a golf club is if it has been in use for a long time natural ageing will begin setting in.

Uta, who has been in the golf industry for over 25 years further emphasised on golf courses maintenance.

“At Chapman this golf course is on natural terrain. It’s not man made. That’s why we have maintained our membership because golfers like the challenge in such terrains. A good mix of short holes and longer ones. It’s an overall approach that require club member to play a part and take care of the courses as well as the facilities. For us we always make sure that our gardeners are working.

He added: “Besides the facilities, we have a pro-shop and the guys are incredibly helpful with anything one needs. Our restaurant has a great selection of drinks and a menu with sandwiches, soups, burgers, salads and basic stuff like that.”

Sports analysts say sport facilities in general require major refurbishments.

Magamba Hockey Stadium and Stodart Netball Complex in Harare, the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex and several country clubs countrywide are no longer in good shape.

Some soccer fields, hockey pitches, netball courts and other multi-purpose facilities are now dilapidated.

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