Rwanda backs golf for growth
Rwanda, an East African republic with only 27 golf holes, has invested $16 million in projects designed to grow golf and attract international tourists and investment.
There are only two courses in Rwanda, a landlocked mountainous country with a population of 13.4 million, bordered by Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nine-hole Falcon Golf and Country Club is located on the shore of Lake Muhazi, in the Rwamagana District, around 40 miles from the capital Kigali.
It is there, in Rwanda’s largest city, that President Paul Kagame’s government has invested in Kigali Golf Resort and Villas (KGRV), a 300-acre golf, leisure and real estate development, which opened in 2021.
Gary Player Design was contracted to renovate the original nine-holes at Kigali Golf Club, Rwanda’s first course, and masterplan a new 18-hole championship course, driving range, pro shop and practice facilities, which are now open for play.
“The golf course is an opportunity to drive local development, both of a new sport in the country, but also for new opportunities that surround the course,” Josue Dushimimana, CEO of KGRV, told The New York Times.
The project is operated by Rwanda Ultimate Golf Course Ltd and publicly funded by the Rwanda Social Security Board.
Its second phase is expected to take 10 years and will see the construction of a clubhouse, five-star hotel, 150 luxury villas, swimming pool, champagne bar, fine-dining restaurant and cigar lounge.
“Before this golf club, there were no golfers in Rwanda,” said Jack Bryan, General Manager at KGRV.
Visit Rwanda, the body responsible for marketing the country to tourists describes golf as an ‘emerging sport’.
It openly acknowledges the government’s aim to harness golf’s appeal to international visitors and potential investors in Rwanda’s fast-growing business and technology sectors, as well as a desire to establish the sport’s popularity with citizens.
Jules Dusabe started work as a caddie at Kigali Golf Club in 1997 and is now a professional golf coach.
“Golf is changing in Rwanda, and many kids here are now starting to play, too,” Dusabe told The New York Times.
Membership at Kigali Golf Resorts and Villa has quadrupled since it reopened and now numbers around 400. In addition, the resort regularly gives children from schools, charities and community groups opportunities to experience golf.