NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – As I walk towards the gate, a structure resembling a watch tower and painted in green looms large. I’m approaching Thika Greens, a golf estate; one of close to a dozen to come up in Kenya in the last three years.
“A plot will cost you anything between Sh4.5 million and Sh18 million,” Peter Muriuki, surveyor at the project, tells me.
“The closer you are to the golf course,” Peter continues, his finger skimming over what looks like blue foil to point at a house no larger than the tip of his index, “the higher the price.”
King’ori, Simon, Njihia and I chat away easily in a dark green van as we head toward the actual site. I can’t really tell where what is without the advantage of an aerial view but it’s hard to miss the water features the blue foil represented.
“It’ll be done by the end of the year,” Mark Njihia who is overseeing the construction of the Thika Greens 18-hole golf course tells me as Simon brings the van to a halt in front of a club house still undergoing construction, “holes one to three will be done around the same time too.”
A Chinese gentleman in a hat with something resembling tin foil on it stands guard as cement pours out of a mixer. Catching me staring, Njihia explains, “We’ve contracted Rainbow Contractors from China.”
Across from the club house is the location of the putting green. We have to cross jutting rock and hold up a tarmac roller to get there, “construction of a golf course is a very capital intensive affair,” Njihia tells me, “but you cannot sell a plot without the added value.”
“Eighty percent of people buying the plots don’t play golf and say they wouldn’t make a purchase with the same amenities but without a golf course,” Lee Karuri tells me, in a brown jacket and sneakers as opposed to a suit and tie, “Although we are in a boardroom, the site is where the real work is.”
“Majority of young executives are earning good money and they would also like to live well. In the past, the game of golf was the reserve of the rich but now you find even in golf clubs we’ve got a lot of young executives.”
Karuri is the developer of Longonot Gate and chairman of Home Afrika, a real estate company that is the majority share holder of Migaa, another golf estate located in Kiambu, “The reason we’re having golf and not only in Longonot Gate but in most of the projects that are coming up in Kenya, is because of a change in lifestyle.”
“Kenyan lifestyles are changing,” Stephen Wamae Mureithi the Project Manager of Buffalo Hills Leisure and Golf Village in Thika agrees. “Majority of young executives are earning good money and they would also like to live well. In the past, the game of golf was the reserve of the rich but now you find even in golf clubs we’ve got a lot of young executives.”
“Those people who have actually bought from Buffalo Hills, their age ranges between 25 and 42. We still have people above 50 who have bought but that number is quite small.”