Ralph Paffenbargert, a Harvard University physician, followed over 10,000 people for 20 years before concluding that playing tennis three hours a week at moderately vigorous intensity cuts the risk of death in half from any cause.

This is just one of the many physical and health benefits attributed to the game which originated in France as early as the 12th century. Louis X of France is believed to have constructed the first modern tennis courts.

In Uganda, it isn’t as easy to trace the history of the game as the first courts are believed to have been sequestered in foreign missionary residences. Joe Lutaaya, a tennis coach and professional tennis player who has often represented Uganda in East African games says the first public tennis court was at the Lugogo Tennis Club.

“This is considered the home of tennis. It had the first public court which was set up sometime in the 50s,” he says.

While not spoiled for choice as those considering a bar or restaurant in Kampala, tennis enthusiasts have since enjoyed their fair share of options from the existing courts around town. At Lugogo, for instance, a booking and 10,000 UGX gets you a game on any one of their seven courts. Members, however, pay half that price.

An alternative is Kabira Country Club in Bukoto where members can access any of the four courts for free while non-members are charged 20,000 UGX. The Sheraton Hotel is a bit cheaper charging only 15,000 UGX an hour non-members.

The Kampala Club, right downtown next door to the Sheraton, which celebrated 100 years in 2011 has five courts but these are only available to members. To get a membership requires a 60 day vetting process, an interview and, more often than not, is also conditional on one of the previous 500 members leaving the club.

The American Recreation Association, in Makindye is also exclusive, but has two clay tennis courts and is a bit more flexible. A daily membership goes for $5 USD while a temporary weekly membership is $20 USD for an individual and $30 USD for a family package.

Cheaper opportunities do exist and include the Shell Club, in Nakawa, Makerere University tennis court and Namobole Stadium, which is the only place in Kampala where you can play for free.

Tennis is globally referred to as ‘the game for a lifetime’ because anyone who can swing a racquet is able to play. In Uganda, lessons are as readily available as the courts. Lutaaya, who coaches at either Kabira Country Club or Lugogo Tennis Club, says he is also mobile and can go as far as Jinja or Fort Portal for private lessons.

“To sign up for a tennis game or lesson it is better to call or make an appointment at any of the clubs at least a week ahead of time,” Lutaaya advises. “Many clubs will give precedence to members so it is more convenient to call ahead and have a time set.”

Moses Otiti, who coaches at Lugogo for an hourly rate of 20,000 UGX says that the hours between 4.00pm and 7.00pm on weekdays and any time before midday during the weekend are the busiest on the courts.

Harry Mwanje, tennis regular agrees. “It is always easier to play during morning hours. Depending on the kind of job, I would recommend this time because then you do not have to wait in line if you find a court already occupied.”

One hindrance to playing tennis in Uganda is that, although Kampala is not short of sports shops, it is hard to find affordable, genuine, high-quality tennis equipment.

“There are different sports shops but they do not have first class equipment like tennis shoes, racquets, and tennis balls. All my equipment I have to get from abroad,” explains Lutaaya.

Mwanje agrees “I have had my equipment for years and I had to get it from abroad. Unless you know what you are looking for you are going to get duped in many of these sports shops”

This, and the fact that people still consider tennis an expensive sport, is the reason Lutaaya says most people still shy away from tennis.

“It may seem expensive but compared to Europe, Ugandan prices are the cheapest.” He says “I charge 15 dollars for a lesson while in some countries a lesson will go for as much as 50 dollars. You can also join almost any club for a reasonable price while membership into most tennis clubs in many countries will be restricted.”

Click on any of the names of locations below to get a map to their location. To contact Joe Lutaya by phone: 0752516419 or email him at: lutaayajoe247@yahoo.com.

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