Par – 72
Rating – 75.5
Length – 6219m (club tees)
Best Time to Play – November to May
Ritson Golf Design was appointed in 2002 as golf course architect consultants to Glen Kemp, to design a new 18-hole championship golf course for Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort, in turn for the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. The course was opened in March 2007 by Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen and Nancy Lopez. Interestingly, the golf course is managed out of London by IMG, the world’s largest sports, leisure, entertainment, media and fashion company, which also represents some of the world’s top golfers. Since opening, both the eighth and ninth holes have undergone changes.
The course is cut out of the jungle, which obviously gives it a rather unique feel. “We call it ‘The Sea of Jungle’,” says general manager Sam Logan, which means you can’t stray too far off the short grass, or else you’ll find trouble. It’s not a flat course, with plenty of undulations. In fact, there’s a drop of over 270 metres from the top to the bottom of the course. In terms of design, all 18 holes are very different from each other, making it an interesting few hours on the course. “It can be difficult, if you don’t play the correct tees for your handicap,” says Logan. “With all of the ups and downs, the jungle and water, it can be very challenging.” Logan thinks the course has the potential to be ranked among the top 10 golf courses in Africa, “if the correct amount of financial aid was to be provided.” As far as Logan understands, Ibom is the only resort course in West Africa. He identifies the third, fourth, 13th and 16th as holes to look out for. The third is the signature hole, whilst the fourth is a par-5 of 486 metres, with two creeks to cross and a lake protecting one side of the green. This hole has a very narrow driving/landing area, with jungle on both sides of the fairway, and is ranked the toughest hole on the course. The 13th is a par-5 of 524 metres with a dogleg. You can try and cut the corner, which sets up a real birdie or even eagle chance, but there’s proper danger if you fail! The 16th is a par-3 of just 114 metres. It is set up with trees on either side of the hole and a creek protecting the front of the green. Even though it’s ranked as the easiest hole on the course, it can seem a small target.
The third hole is a par-3 of only 90 metres, but it’s not as easy as it looks. “It plays straight downhill all the way and looks much further away than it really is,” says Logan. “On top of that, there’s the ‘Sea of Jungle’ directly behind it, where I honestly believe no human being has ever been since the start of time!”
Visitor – $30
Hotel Guests – Free
Caddie – $10 plus tip
Cart Hire – Not currently
Club Hire – $25
Uyo or Akwa Ibom Airport is the closest airport and it’s a short flight from either Lagos or Abuja. Thereafter, it’s a drive of about half an hour on a fairly new road.