Feeling the atmosphere build up, observing workmen put final touches on the site and the smell of freshly-cut grass all add to the “big match” fever that give many a sports fanatics goose pimples.
It was with this anticipation that I took up an invitation from Royal Harare Golf Club last Friday to witness the refurbishment work taking place there ahead of the revived Zimbabwe Open, set to make a grand return on the local sporting calendar next month after a nine-year absence.
Chairman Ian Mathieson and board member Michael Hogg were at hand to unveil the facelift which is already in full swing. The two gentlemen were quick to stress that not any of the club members’ subscription funds were being used on the project. In fact, it was all donations from corporates and members.
“The board of management put it as a positioning strategy that we were going to revamp Royal to an international standard golf course, what I like to call a golfer’s golf course,” said the visibly excited Hogg as we set for lunch overlooking the first hole.
The championship course in the capital — located next to the presidential palace, the State House — is part of the Royal family of golf courses around the world, and hence it is supposed to maintain a certain level of standards to preserve the “Royal” status.
Owing to hard work, sacrifice and dedication by everyone at the club at the peak of this country’s worst economic woes, that status never really came under threat.
Fridays are corporate days at Royal and on this particular afternoon Matabeleland’s Falcon College students, masters and their guests were hosting a Golf Day as part of a fund-raising drive.
One of those swinging away was Paul Davies, the Peterhouse College rugby coach who perfected the rough edges of Springbok stars Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and Brian Mujati during their schooldays.
Photographer Aaron Ufumeli and I were then taken on a tour of the course, up to the 18th hole. The joy ride on the cart aside, the tour was an occasion to marvel at this magnificent and extensive land of green vegetation — a hallmark of tranquility on the doorstep of Harare’s northern suburbs.
The actual redecoration of the clubhouse is concentrated on the landing area, main lounge and cocktail bar to make them spacious, airy and comfortable for members, visitors and golfers alike.
On the course itself, the club is reseeding the greens, constructing workshops and erecting a 1,3 km pre-cast wall.
“It’s to secure assets, secure the wildlife and secure the persons playing golf,” explained Mathieson.
We left in total agreement that Royal and the adjacent Harare Sports Club cricket ground are two of the world-class sporting facilities we have in this country.