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May 14 2004
Teeing off at Kabul Golf Course
via Syndey Morning Herald (Australia)
May 24, 2004 - 2:17PM
[Reuters] -- Perhaps one of the things you might least expect to find among
the rugged outskirts of Kabul would be a nine-hole golf course.
But a golf course there is, according to reports from Reuters, and the
evidence of this photograph (main picture). For a decade or so the nine-hole
course, set among rugged hills and mountains on the outskirts of Kabul, has been
abandoned and the grass has turned to desert and scrub.
Highlights of the course, after teeing off on the first hole, include a
bombed-out army barracks, the lack of any fairways, greens that are actually
black (made from a mixture of sand and oil) and a collapsing clubhouse with
Now two players, who have been part of the on-again off-again history of the
club that reflects Afghanistan's recent past, want to rebuild it.
"During the war against the Russians we were forced to close down,"
said Mohammad Afzal Abdul, the 46-year-old club
professional, who was a young boy when the course was built.
"When the mujahideen took over Kabul City, we
reopened. When the civil war began, we had to shut again."
Then the Taliban swept to power, and all hope of playing golf, which the hardline Islamic regime associated with wealthy Western
diplomats, was lost.
"I told the Taliban that I used to work with foreigners," Abdul
said. "I spent three months in a Kabul jail."
Things were not much easier under Soviet-backed leaders of the late 1970s and
"I was arrested by the Communists for links with foreign diplomats and
spent six months in prison," said Mohammad Bashir
Popal, who works with Abdul at the club and hails
from the southern city of Kandahar.
The original course was built by the Afghans during the reign of Mohammad
Zahir Shah, but moved to its present site after the king's cousin overthrew
him in 1973.
It may provide new challenges to any modern player, but it used to be a lot
worse. The entire area has had to be cleared of mines in recent months and
three Soviet tanks and a multiple rocket launcher have been removed.
Ten foreigners have come to play at the newly opened course, and Abdul hopes
many more from Kabul's burgeoning community of aid workers, diplomats and journalists
will join them.
The green fee for two rounds of the nine-hole course is 500 afghani, or $10.
A year's membership will cost $60 from 2005.