Egypt claims to be one of the oldest golfing lands in the world. Perhaps the oldest of all
I was concentrating hard as I lined up my putt to take my shot. There was nothing particularly interesting or unusual about the course itself. Rather what got my attention was the looming figure a few hundred yards behind it: the Pyramids. Though I am not a regular golfer, I have golfed on some of the most unique of places in the world, like Kabul and North Korea. But nothing could prepare me for the awe-inspiring sight of a 40-storey pyramid rising up behind a flag flapping on the green. The Pharoahs may have invented the game. Wooden golf-like sticks and balls made from straw and clay have been found in the pyramids and archaeologists excavating another ancient site, the tomb of Kheti unearthed wall paintings depicting figures apparently in the process of teeing off. Ancient hieroglyphics tell us that one of the Pharaohs, King Tuthmosis 111 (1490-1436BC), was fond of playing a game similar to golf. One recorded activity is of him using the desert as his own private driving range.
Founded in 1886, “Gezirah Sporting Club” in Cairo is Egypt’s oldest golf club. “Alexandria Golf Club” was also built by British soldiers in 1899. There are 13 courses in Egypt. Other clubs in Cairo include “Katameya Heights and Dunes”. “Dreamland” (1992), “Mirage City” (2010), “Golf City” (2002), “Marassi” (2016) and “Palm Hills” (2014). A new Robert Trent Jones Jnr course at Giza is planned. The Mena House Hotel used to host the “Pyramids Open”. The Great Pyramid of Cheops overlooks the course.
Down the Nile the ancient city of Thebes offers the “Royal Valley Golf Club”. At Luxor’s only golf club you play from three tees – “King Tut”, “Rameses 111” and “Sphinx”. The ladies play off the “Nerfertity” tees.
“Jolie Ville” is the course at Sharm-el-Sheikh. “El Gouna“ is another popular course. The 6864 yard “Cascades at Soma Bay” which adjoins the lavish Karnak temple-style “Sheraton Soma Bay Hotel” and “Westin Resort”, 40 kms south of the provincial centre of Hurghada, is perhaps the most spectacular.
Skirting the Red Sea, “The Cascades”, is the only links course in Egypt and was described by its designer, Gary Player, as “the next Pebble Beach”. Player won the Egyptian Matchplay crown in 1955. It was his first victory outside his native South Africa. The course is a former military airfield. Holes have names like “Bunker Alley”, “Panorama Bay”, and the spectacular fifth, “The Pebbles of Soma”, a long par three with the sea down the right and the desert down the left! The Greg Norman designed “Allegria” (Italian for cheerfulness) on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road hosted last year’s Egyptian Amateur Open and is the venue for the annual Ramadhan Cup (June 10). Green fees are $50.
Words: Aftab H. Kola