Golf can be found in many different locales, and one that is drawing attention has recently opened in Uganda. The Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa is ideally located on the northwest area of Lake Victoria - Africa’s largest freshwater body.
The facility provides all the creature comforts with golf certainly high on the agenda. The 1st hole in golf occupies a unique placement. It is the location where all play commences. The philosophy of how such a hole should be designed is a vexing issue. Some architects favour a rigorous start, others a more benign approach. The 1st at Lake Victoria straddles that line in fine fashion. “As a starting hole, we want to allow golfers to get off to a good start, but we don’t want to neuter the hole so it has no memorability or strategy,” said architect Kevin Ramsey.
Factoring in which the general audience is that will play the course is a central objective. In this case, Lake Victoria is a resort course, so the design must have sufficient elasticity for the wide array of players. Ramsey understood that and the 1st does so in grand fashion. When you step on the tee you do not see the namesake of the course. The hole does turn in the drive zone from left-to-right, and at the corner is a menacing bunker that demands respect. From the back teeing area the carry over the bunker is 275 yards. Keep in mind the prevailing wind - usually 80-90% of the time - is in one’s face from the Lake. Ramsey provided a sufficient “bail out” area to the left, but those opting in that direction will need to hit more club to reach the green. There is also another bunker on the left side -approximately 300 yards from the back tee - which narrows the available landing area for those launching a tee shot that far. Those able to carry the right bunker will receive a bit of extra distance as the fairway is graded that way. The elasticity allows varying handicap levels to decide which strategy works best for them.
The approach is protected by a bunker on the right side: much of the right half is protected by its presence and Ramsey designed mounding at the back of the left side to allow golfers to run shots up the left and use the mounding to feed onto the green. Better golfers can hit their approach a bit longer and use the slope to pull it back for a front pin and thereby take the bunker out of play.
“The back pin is more about letting it release to the pin as this is more of a plateau with no support to hold the shot,” said Ramsey. “This golf course is all about pin locations. Where do you want to approach from dictates where you need to position your drive. This is no grip and rip it layout – it is a cerebral course where you need to plot your way around.”
The putting surface is roughly 7,000 square feet, and like all the other greens at Lake Victoria, is bent grass - unheard of in this area until now. Ramsey added enough size to allow for some strategic movement with varying contours provided.
Getting the right balance for an opening hole is both art and science working hand-in-hand. As one walks onto the green you see the magnificence of Lake Victoria in the nearby background. As Ramsey points out - “Now you have arrived.”
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