‘Spiritual’ Komagum bringing exponential value to woodball

Emmanuel Komagum (C) receives a merit award during the Coral Coatings Uganda Open at Gulu University last year. Komagum has created innovations to woodball sport through writing instruction books. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

Gamechanger. Despite being an average player, Emmanuel Komagum feels so deeply about woodball. Komagum, a health worker in Gulu has used his passion for woodball to assume a divine assignment of making woodball accessible to people with different abilities.

“You can clap again for Mr Komagum”, purred the Uganda Woodball Federation (UWbF) president Paul Mark Kayongo to attendants of the woodball awards gala in 2019.

Approving whoops resound throughout the hall. On the sidelines, Kayongo was unhappy with the speed of execution.

Kayongo had in 2019 met with young publisher Emmanuel Komagum, the first physical meeting between the two, although Kayongo had introduced woodball in Uganda many years earlier and Komagum had great adoration for the man since he first learned of it in 2014.

Kayongo became convinced of Komagum’s messianic claim of being a direct conduit of God, hand-picked to spread the gospel of woodball.

Kayongo, the iconic father of woodball, had commissioned a committee to review the work submitted by Komagum for approval yet it was taking longer than he had anticipated.

Komagum who?

Komagum, who holds a Diploma in Clinical Medicine from Gulu College of Health Sciences is so passionate about woodball and has written woodball instruction materials and innovative packages for inclusive groups such as the blind, deaf-blind and the deaf.

Woodball was just a sport of wooden mallets and wooden balls when Komagum first saw the game in 2014 as Gerald Kavuma was introducing it to students of Kyambogo College.

“I didn’t take much interest at the time. It looked ordinary. Then in 2017, when the National Health Institutions Games and Sports were about to start in Gulu, woodball was one of the new sports on the calendar. This was the time I decided to take woodball further,” Komagum recalls.

That year, he was elected the captain of Gulu College of Health Sciences who would go on to win the gold medal. In 2018, when the games were held in Masaka, he was still part of the team also going to Soroti until he graduated in 2020. But his love for the game had grown spontaneously.

From that time onwards, he was taken on as the coach of Gulu College of Health Sciences before being appointed the head coach of Gulu University in 2023.

Currently, three institutions play woodball in Gulu; St Mary’s School of Nursing Lacor, Gulu College of Health Sciences and Gulu University.

Today, he proudly says, most of the woodball players in northern Uganda have gone through his hands.


Last year during the Coral Coatings Uganda Open in Gulu, he was the recipient of the Presidential Award, an exceptional recognition by the Uganda Woodball Federation president Kayongo for his extraordinary work towards innovation in woodball.

“The award was important not only to me but also to the future innovators. I believe it shall continue to be an inspiration to other innovators and also to the players because it shows that hard work with focus pays,” he said.

Komagum, who missed the opportunity to take up the sport three years earlier, recalls that in 2017 when Kavuma was introducing woodball, a ‘flash of genius’ struck him, almost like Biblical Saul changing his outlook for the game forever.

“He [Kavuma] told us about the need to train woodball in Uganda and the neighbouring countries. As he was speaking, a flash of thought came to me that I could write woodball material to contribute towards the development of the sport. I didn’t take it seriously at that time because I had never written any book. I was also a young player who knew so little about the sport,” he said.

During that time, Komagum and his team started collecting information from fellow players on their thoughts on the sport of woodball and what could be improved and scoring any media publications related to woodball.

“Our initial steps looked at what could be done to improve woodball to make it easier for us as players and have more victories as an institution,” he said.

Little did he know that it would translate into a big project! Komagum, the team leader, works with two former classmates (Norbert Osire and Paul Musenero) from Gulu School of Health Sciences, who were also keen in woodball.

Writing under the banner “Woodball for Christ Jesus”, Komagum, a Pentecostal Christian, insists this is a divine assignment.

“This is not something we worked hard for, it was by the Grace of God that we received it,” he said.

Komagum has lost count of the woodball material he has published. But the first material entitled “Woodball My Game”, a 130-page book, comprises aspects of innovation and creativity. The next publication, a pocket-sized book looks at professionalizing woodball by emphasising continuous player performance assessment.

The following publications which were mainly published in 2021 document woodball for children, woodball for kindergarten and woodball for beginners which can instruct how to play a game in one minute. These were followed by innovative products such as ‘Super woodball’, a form of mini woodball directed towards making the game more convenient for elderly people and children as well as people with less time to spend in the field and with less energy to spend on all fairways. 

Another package “Woodball for fun” is meant for fewer players, especially couples who would love to spend their time uniquely. They have also produced videos about woodball for the blind (See and Play), deaf-blind and the deaf.

All these materials are with a verification committee at the Uganda Woodball Federation before they can be used as instruction materials for the public.

The UWBF assigned the team an assessment committee headed by excom member Grace Orone, in which the team regularly meets the innovators.

“Mr Kayongo saw our work at a deeper level than me when I first met him in 2019 physically. He loved the idea and has taught me other concepts which are a basis for more innovations. We pray that the process is faster such that people can access this information and have it as soon as possible,” he said.

Man on a mission

Woodball is now Komagum’s life. But what does he see that most of us don’t?

He said: “To me, woodball isn’t something ordinary, woodball is divine. Woodball is God’s idea. The way I received this assignment to start writing about woodball in 2017 was strange. In 2019 while sleeping, I had a vision and I was officially given an assignment to innovate. It took a longer period of preparation but when I look back I see God’s hand in what I do,” he said.

Woodball was invented by Weng Hui Meng in Chinese Taipei, as a poor man’s version of golf for his ailing father in 1990. Weng died in 2021.

Komagum has gone a step further to formalise the Gulu Woodball Association as one of the members of the Woodball Federation. No doubt it’s a spark set to ignite more woodball passion in Gulu.

He says that the association makes it easier to use the delegated authority to develop the sport in the area.

“One of the prospects is that we shall be able to bring as many schools as possible on board. We’re looking at kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and also Sacred Heart University. On top of that, we expect that out of the people that will learn woodball in Gulu, we’ll task them to take the sport in their home districts,” he said.