Disc Golf in Africa
As an enthusiastic disc golf player you often find yourself observing your surroundings to be a possible disc golf course. You look at a beautiful hill and think about how perfect it would be to place a basket there. Or you walk in a forest and see nothing but throwing corridors.
There was no exception to how I observed the surroundings around Nairobi, Kenya when I moved there 18 months ago to work as a P.E. teacher at the Swedish School. Nairobi is the total opposite of the picture that many Westerners make of Africa. In Nairobi it is hilly, leafy and green all year round.
However, the objections against creating a disc golf course were obvious. Three million people live in Nairobi and at least half of them live in slums or with a similar standard – or lack of standard. How would it be possible to put up baskets in this city and not have them stolen the first night? A more important objection was: Don’t most people in Nairobi have far more important things on their mind than sports and recreation?
It all started with Ultimate Frisbee. I had of course brought some discs to Nairobi and I introduced Ultimate to my Swedish students. Ultimate is in many ways the “ultimate” sport: cheap equipment, simple play area and fair play as keystones of the game. These were excellent reasons for introducing the game to the Kenyan schools, orphanages and NGO:s that I now came in contact with. So I worked at the school in the daytime, played Ultimate with different organizations in the late afternoons and was still looking for the perfect park for some disc golf baskets.
The first basket was to be placed at the Swedish school in May 2010. After getting all the measurements I tried to find a good welder.
It was a challenge to make him understand what the basket was supposed to look like, but even more difficult to explain the use for it!
Most mechanic workshops in Africa have little in common with those in Europe or in the States. Here, the majority of the work is done in the streets.
During the spring I met the woman responsible for all the parks in Nairobi and the solution for the course was found just some hundred meters from the Swedish School. There we found the Kenya Science Campus with huge grass fields – and a forest of its own. So why hadn’t we thought about this place before? The answer is that we didn’t know it was there! Like most built up areas in Nairobi, this one is also behind walls with no insight or admittance.
The first disc golf course in Africa (outside South Africa) was opened November 20th 2010.
A week earlier, the baskets, sponsored by PDGA, were delivered.
This event took place during the first local Ultimate tournament in which 12 teams participated. Two of the teams were from the Swedish School, two from the University and the others from Kibera, Kawangware (two slums) and from one of the hundreds of orphanages you can find in Nairobi.
The teams were introduced to playing disc golf during the breaks between the Ultimate games.
At the beginning of the day, not everyone understood the purpose of the baskets…
Finally a few words regarding the course: It is situated along the historic single track railroad built around 1900 between Kenya and Uganda. There are still only a few trains running a day. The disc golf course also runs through fields, forest and beside a pond, where cows walk around and monkeys curiously watch all the disc golf players.
Flowering rosewood- and mango trees and a number of other exotic trees, which I haven’t learned the names of yet, remind us that we are now actually playing disc golf in Africa.
After a long day, we (Olle, Brendan and Sebastian, the organizers) were tired but very happy.
But why settle for less? When I was in contact with the woman responsible for the parks in Nairobi, she mentioned the possibility to create a course on Ngong Hills. The pictures tell more than a thousand words. Imagine a disc golf course here!
Many thanks to PDGA, Swedish Disc Golf Association and individuals for funding and discs. To support the work, please contact Brendan Thompson.