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No Green, All Rough!

  • Rahim Sarwan

Brown and full of weeds, Afghanistan's only golf course is a symbol of survival. Once an oasis, today it shows the scars from decades of war. Now, six years after the fall of the Taliban, the pockmarked course is welcoming players again. Rahim Gul Sarwan recently visited the course where challenges await players on every hole. VOA's Jim Bertel narrates.

The Kabul Golf Club is a work in progress. But amid the desert brush and weeds, golfers are able to imagine lush fairways of green that they hope will one-day crisscross Afghanistan's only golf course.

But you will not find any grass here today. Just sand -- lots of it. Still, that does not stop the fun.

Many diplomats and international aid workers make the drive to this park west of Kabul. With bags slung over their shoulders, golfers dodge weeds and rocks and play the game in the rough.

Dan Rath, an aid worker from Canada, is a regular visitor to Kabul's golf course. "Golf in Afghanistan is clearly in an early developmental phase. The course is in a little bit of rough shape, a bit dryer than I am accustomed to. The greens are hard, but they are also slow, so this takes a little bit of getting used to," Rath said.

The Kabul course welcomes beginners as well. The instructor, who is also the course manager, regularly holds classes.

Vanessa Valentino works at a research institute in Kabul. This is her first visit to the course. She says, "This is my first time golfing, so, it has been very fun to play here. They definitely need some more upkeep, but, besides that, I'm having a lot of fun."

Although most of the players are foreigners, the course has some local fans as well. Ali Ahmad says he learned the game by watching Tiger Woods and other pro golfers on TV. "I watch the game on television and I like it very much"

Mohammed Zahir Shah, the King of Afghanistan, established the original course. It was moved to its present site in the 1970s. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, it was turned into a military base. The course reopened to golfers in 2004.

Still, there is much work to be done. Mohammad Afzal Abdul, the course manager, says, "Our most urgent needs are water and greenery. We have personnel but without adequate salaries. If we have visitors like today, we will be able to fund our needs."

Abdul hopes golf pros like Tiger Woods or associations, like the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA), will provide some financial assistance to turn the browns into greens. Until then, he says golf will remain an extreme sport in Afghanistan.

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