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Royal changes at Royal Harare Golf Club

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

ROYAL Harare Golf Club is set to add a new six hole par-3 links course to its existing world class Championship 18-hole golf course, in a move which has generated a lot of excitement in the Zimbabwe golf fraternity.

The 121-year-old prestigious parkland course at Royal Harare Golf Club — is already widely regarded as the top course in the country and regularly places amongst the finest when Africa’s best are ranked.

While it may be difficult to bring about many improvements to this already magnificent golf course, the club is working on ancillary features, including a links par-3 course, which will be officially opened in April, next year to provide its members and golf enthusiasts a shorter playing option.

Situated at the short driving range area located to the left of Royal Harare’s first tee box, the par-3 links course, which is already under construction, will be complimented by its own clubhouse.

The recent developments at Royal Harare are the brainchild of seasoned local professional golfer Ryan Cairns, who has teamed up with Zvishavane-born Peter Matkovich, who is widely regarded as Africa’s foremost golf course designer.

Since his first design in 1975, Matkovich has established himself as one of the world’s leading golf course designers with more than 30 new courses to his name in South Africa, Mauritius, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Matkovich is also the man behind the exquisite Leopard Rock in the Eastern Highlands and The Brooke Golf and Country Club (formerly Borrowdale Brooke) in Zimbabwe.

Cairns said he shared the idea of the par-3 links course with Matkovich when the pair started working together on some projects in the country last year and the latter immediately warmed up to the idea.

“I started working for Peter Matkovich last year in June, we’ve got a couple of potential projects here in Zimbabwe and we were in-between meetings here at Royal Harare when this idea started. I shared the idea with him and he immediately loved it, he did the routing one morning and surprised me by coming up with the design,” Cairns, who is also director of golf at Royal Harare told The Sport Hub in an exclusive interview last week.

“It will be built up like a links course, Peter actually sent his head shaper, the guy who’s done Pinnacle Point Estate (Recently nominated as South Africa’s Best Golf Course by the World Golf Awards) and all his other courses. The course will have double greens and it’s going to be built to USGA specifications so it will have bent grass greens, one sand bunkers, and rolling hills. It’s going to be done to put the Peter Matkovich name to it,” he said.

Cairns, who, has been a member at Royal Harare since the age of 12 said he was grateful for the support the project has received from the management and members of Royal Harare.

“Everybody is very excited, people jumped on board very quickly, one of the first people I brought down here (the site) was Ian Mathieson (Royal Harare Golf Club general manager) and course manager Fibion Chikwaya, who has just returned from a training excursion in Scotland organised by Ian. He spent most of his time on links courses and has added huge value to the project, on top of his already outstanding work on the championship course at Royal itself,” he said.

One of the major highlights will be a par-3 tournament, which will be played along the same lines as the Masters Par 3 Contest, an annual competition played on the Augusta National Par-3 Course, which is the most famous par-3 course in golf.

“Because we are opening in April during the Masters month, one of our launch events is going to be The Masters Par 3 tournament where the winner will win a green jacket. We hope it will become an annual event, where we will have a blowup cinema screen, where we will be broadcasting line PGA Tour events from here under the stars. The whole golf course is going to be floodlit,” Cairns said.

He added: “The big part of what we are doing is to encourage more people to take up the game from a young age and this is going to open a free open and friendly environment for them to start playing.”

The construction of the par-3 links course is the second big project Cairns has spearheaded at Royal Harare.

Last year Cairns together with friends, who include former Zimbabwe international Stuart Carlisle and his dad Alistair along with his own dad Terry brought South Africa’s largest golf equipment superstore, The Pro Shop franchise, to Zimbabwe after signing a 10-year lease at the club.

Perhaps the most significant event, which will coincide with the launch of the par-3 links course will be the official opening of the Leadbetter Golf Academy at Royal Harare Golf Club, another project that Cairns will oversee as academy and marketing director.

The academy will be named after renowned instructor Leadbetter, a former Chapman junior and apprentice professional at Royal Harare — now the most famous golf coach in the world, having coached major winners Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and several of others of the world’s best players.

The 67-year-old former winner of the PGA of America’s Teacher of the Year award runs an international chain of golf academies headquartered at the ChampionsGate Golf Club in Davenport, Florida in the US.

Cairns reached out to Leadbetter with the idea of adding Zimbabwe to his long list of 39 affiliated academies around the world and was delighted with the positive reaction he received.

The official announcement of the launch of the Zimbabwe-based Leadbetter Golf Academy will be made by the legendary Leadbetter himself on Monday on the new website www.leadbetterzimbabwe.com.

Cairns hopes the academy, which will be equipped with the latest technology in golf instruction will go a long way in improving the player base in the country from the juniors to elite amateurs, who can later develop into professional golfers.

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