Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and its shoreline extends to more than seven thousand kilometres. The southern half lies inside neighbouring Tanzania, with most of the northern shores occupying Ugandan territory, and it’s along this wonderful waterfront the fairways of the Lake Victoria Serena golf course are arranged.
It took more than a decade to build the 5-star hotel and associated villas, marina and golf complex. Work began on the project in 2008 but the global recession drastically slowed construction and the golf element opened initially with only nine holes. An additional nine was completed – holes 2 to 8, 12 and 13 – in 2018 to bring a full 18-hole layout into play.
The resort was something of a challenge to build as a large part of the site was covered in thick papyrus growing within a swamp. Architect Kevin Ramsey also incorporated a huge man-made lagoon into the design and this channel separates holes 1 and 9 from 17 and 18, allowing boats to access the integrated harbour and clubhouse from Lake Victoria.
Water hazards form a large part of the playing strategy, especially on the 549-metre 8th and 395-metre 18th holes, both of which feature spectacular island greens in the lake inlet that leads to the mooring in front of the clubhouse. On course playability is enhanced by using SeaSpray paspalum grass, except on the greens which are carpeted with a creeping bent.
I remember the first time I drove past the Serena golf course on Lake Victoria, seeing its 9 hole manicured fairways and thinking what a joy it would be to play. Fast-forward 12 months and with the additional 9 holes now open, I was certainly not disappointed. Water on all 18 holes, narrow fairways, tough protected greens, ball eating rough and a high elevation all combine to make this a memorable golfing experience. The first dog leg right holes provides the starting block for a very tough opening set of holes. Despite having an excellent caddy guiding me around, a slight draw or push could easily see your ball disappear completely into the rough or the water which appears to be lurking everywhere. For me it was the par 5, 8th hole where the course came into its real element. A slightly more generous fairway allows 3 good strategic shots to a small green. From here the course opens up and whilst the water appears everywhere the back 9, the run in from 14 are an absolute joy to play. This course will increase in stature over time as it beds down and I can’t wait to get back there to play again.