Affiliate in Focus - Afghanistan
The Afghanistan Golf Federation overcame more adversity than perhaps any other organisation in the game before gaining affiliate status in June 2010.
As to be expected of a country that has been in a state of war for most of the past four decades, opportunities to play golf are few and far between with the nine-hole Kabul Golf Club the only course in Afghanistan.
Unrecognisable to golfers used to manicured, tree-lined fairways and raked bunkers, the course is laid out over desert sand with oil-impregnated greens. Its past history as a battlefield and mine clearing test site –sheep were used to clear the course of mines before the course’s latest reopening – are hinted at by the local rules. Inside the damaged clubhouse a notice explains that alongside the use of tees and artificial turf, a free drop is allowed if your ball comes to rest in a tank shell crater!
It is largely thanks to one man that the club exists at all. Kabul Golf Club Professional, Mohammad Afzal Abdul, has spent the past 30 years – despite arrest and imprisonment at the hands of both the Soviets and Taliban - leading the effort to keep golf going in the war-torn country and was behind the club’s recent incarnation.
Opened originally in 1967 during the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah, the club relocated to its present site in 1973. However, it was closed completely following a communist coup in 1978 before reopening in 1993. It was shut down again three years later when the Taliban regime banned all sport before finally reopening in 2004.
Dubbed by the media “the world’s most dangerous golf course” the club has proved popular with foreign diplomatic staff who negotiate a 10km journey from the centre of Kabul to enjoy the 2,761 yard par 36 course, albeit with bodyguards in tow. Since its reopening the club has grown steadily and now boasts around 120 members. It regularly hosts competitions and recently took delivery of a batch of the new Rules of Golf 2012.
Norwegian Kjell Bratli has enjoyed several rounds at the course over recent years and can testify to the unique delights of Kabul Golf Club.
The R&A member (pictured right with club professional Mohammad Afzal Abdul) said: “Their work indeed represents everything good about the fine spirit of the Royal and Ancient game of golf.
“As human beings we define and admire greatness not only by the magnitude of achievement but also for the degree of difficulty that person has to overcome.
“Knowing what Abdul and his caddies have overcome, knowing the spirit with what they work, they indeed set an example for us all.”