Time was when Entebbe, not Kampala, was the administrative capital of Uganda. In fact, that arrangement only changed in the 1960s. My trusty Bradt guide (thank you, Angela) quotes one Sir Frederick Treves, writing in 1913, as saying that Entebbe ‘is as unlike a capital as any place can well be, while as for administration it must be of the kind which is associated with a deck-chair, a shady veranda, the chink of ice on glass, and the curling smoke of a cigar’.
There certainly is a sleepy feel to the place, as if its 30-odd kilometres from Kampala were 100 colonial miles, and the hour it takes to drive there nearer 50 years. This may sound odd to most Britons, for whom the name Entebbe has a very distinct resonance, conjuring up as it does the shades of the film Raid on Entebbe, about the 1976 Palestinian hijack and Israeli rescue, and the towering mad presence of Idi Amin.
We found no hints of Entebbe’s sinister past when we arrived. We relaxed in the gentle warmth of the day, enjoying the occasional glimpses of Lake Victoria through the trees, and reminded ourselves that we were one mile south of the equator. As in most of Uganda, the few last remnants of imperial Britain are quietly crumbling into the red dust of Africa. That goes for the golf club itself. Internally it retains some handsome wooden floors and panelling and an impressive bar, but that is just about all. Externally it has the same rusty corrugated iron roof as many ‘modern’ buildings in the country.
But the course itself is pretty good.
Two of the waiting caddies ambushed us on arrival in the car park. As usual, the one who was first off the mark landed the prize. Mind you, ‘the management’ was stern in its instructions to golfers, listing among the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’: ‘Do not surrender your car keys to your Caddy’.
As Stuart teed off at the first, his arrival on the golf course was announced by various hoots, screeches and cat calls, not all in response to the quality of his performance. An unusual feature of the Entebbe course is that it is in the middle of a wildlife park. There are not many places where the caddy tells you to be careful when you drive down the third because rhinoceroses don’t take kindly to being thwacked on the head by golf balls.
Smaller wildlife showed a particular interest in our progress. Birds with wicked beaks heralded our arrival at each hole with raucous cawing.
Myriads of black dragonflies hovered around our every step.
It was reassuring to be informed that golfers could get a ‘free drop’ from an ant hill mound. There were no free drops from the bunkers, some of which reminded us of the potholes in Kampala.
Actually it was a damn good course – lengthier than Prestonfield – with five par 5s – including a 546 yard opening hole, a 577 yard 7th,and a closing hole of 559 yards. But never felt it was a long slog – it held my interest all the way. And the speed of the greens was much more like the thing (than Lugazi). So, I’ll be back…..as often as allowed!!
The course also offers various other enticements. For those who find that three and a half hours of golf just zip along too quickly, there is always the less frenetic option of a cricket match, the pitch conveniently located right in the middle of the golf course.
For those with other interests there are flowers to suit all tastes: showy and tropical, or modest and genteel, leftovers from a colonial past.
In fact, there is something almost Scottish about the course. The long fairways lined with firs produce the feeling of an African (ie warm!) Boat of Garten.
And just so we don’t forget our history, the tee markers remind us. Some are strange Victorian relics.
And finally we reached the end of our 6,600-odd yards, pretty exhausted but quite pleased with ourselves. It was time for a gin and tonic on the terrace, and some delicious Lake Victoria tilapia caught a few yards from the eponymous hotel.
A good day for both.
For Stuart, his shot down the throat of the flag at the second.
For Elisabeth, her shot down the throat on the terrace at the nineteenth.