After enduring decades of neglect, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest and grandest golf courses Warren Hills is set to undergo a major transformation into one the biggest golf estates in the country, rivalling the picturesque Borrowdale Brooke Golf Estate.
Warren Hills Golf Club, situated in the western part of the capital, next to the National Sports Stadium, is renowned worldwide as the club where three-time major winner and Nick Price, a man who dominated the world’s golf rankings more than 30 years ago, honed his skills.
In addition to Price, the club which was established 70 years ago boasts of an illustrious list of former club professionals with golfing legends such as the late Simon Hobday, George Harvey, Denis Watson, Roger Baylis (now at Chapman) and world-renowned coach David Leadbetter having all occupied the small pro shop at the Harare club.
But because of the economic meltdown which ravaged the country since the turn of the millennium, the club was left desolate despite efforts by its members to keep it alive.
However, the club could soon reclaim its former glory following the partnership entered between the City of Harare and West Property, through its sister company Augur Investments.
West Properties chief executive officer, Kenneth Sharpe said his company and the City of Harare are currently working on development plans for the golf course which would lead to a major revamp of the facility, transforming it into a world-class golf estate.
He said around US$5 million will be used towards the rehabilitation of the golf course while in total around US$100 million will be used for the completion of the entire golf estate.
“Currently the golf course is rundown compared to what it was 20 years ago. So it needs significant attention,” he said during a press conference via video link from the US.
Sharpe, who recently received the Forbes Best of Africa Awards Innovative CEO of the Year Award dismissed speculation that the partnership with the City of Harare would result in the golf course into a residential area.
“It is not correct that we will be replacing the golf course because it is needed,” the property developer said.
“It is an outstanding golf course and there is no reason to get rid of it. Many golfers in Zimbabwe learned to play golf from that golf course,” he said.
“That is why we as private developers, believe we are the right people. We have the capacity to enhance what is already there and make it world-class.
“To this end, Augur Investments has already engaged a well-known regional golf designer who has made presentations.”
The Zimbabwean property mogul has already engaged the services of Zvishavane-born South Africa-based architect Peter Matkovich, who is widely regarded as Africa’s foremost golf course designer.
Since his first design in 1975, Matkovich has established himself as one of the world’s leading golf course designers with more than 30 new courses to his name in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mauritius, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Matkovich is also the man behind the exquisite Leopard Rock in the Eastern Highlands and Borrowdale Brooke Golf Estate in Zimbabwe.
Borrowdale Brooke Golf Estate, situated on the northeast fringe of Harare is currently the only golf club in Zimbabwe situated inside an upmarket housing estate and Warren Hills is set to follow a similar path.
“So far we have engaged Peter Matkovich, who is a top designer of golf courses in Africa and provided plans for the golf course. We are in the final stages of finalising a contract with him.”
Sharpe said servicing of the land will be done first like what they did with Pomona City, a secure gated community and estate comprising predominantly of residential stands with some facing onto the Wingate Park Golf Course.
“We will do the same development with the golf course and once this is complete we will then move on to the structural building,” he said.
Sharpe said there is a lot of work that needs to be done which will include the incorporation of picturesque water features on the parkland course which is considered the longest 18-hole Championship course in Zimbabwe.
“Water features are very important especially because of the environmental structure of the course. Golf courses look very beautiful with water features and Warren Hills Golf Course deserves the same.”
Sharpe, who focuses on real estate and property development in Zimbabwe and outside the country, expects the multi-million dollar project to begin before the end of the year.
“Time-lines would be between now and, the end of the year we will definitely get on the ground and start doing some work,” he said.
“Our goal is to make life better for everyone. We will not close it down completely. Certain sections of it will be used while it is being worked on.
“As the top developer in the country, we would want to create a place where people can work, play, and shop in the same area,” said Sharpe.
Harare City Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme, who attended the Press conference, confirmed the joint venture with West Properties.
He said they did not sell the land to West Properties but it was a joint venture targeting the rehabilitation of the golf course.
Affectionately known within the local golf community as the course of legends, Warren Hills was established in 1952 and was designed by Bob Grimsdell, a renowned local golf course architect who designed several other courses in the country.
At its prime, Warren Hills’ fairways and greens were generally reckoned to be the best in the country.
Around 1990, a leading South African hotel group made an application to the Harare City Council for a hotel and casino to be built alongside the 11th fairway at Warren Hills, which would have given extensive views over the city centre.
The deal however fell through, but the new venture between Harare Council and West Propertiy could lead to the revival of this once iconic golf course in Zimbabwe.