The R&A Affiliate in Focus: Armenia

Although the game of golf is still young in Armenia, the mountainous nation bordering Turkey and Iran has an enthusiastic group of golfers driving a campaign to increase participation across the country.

The National Golf Association of Armenia recently became the 151st affiliate of The R&A, and the newly-formed body is making steady progress to strengthen the foundations of the game and attract interest in the sport.

The development of golf in Armenia began in 2005 at Ararat Valley Country Club, the country’s only golf course and the first country club to be established in the entire Caucasus region.  Set in the shadow of Mt. Ararat, the nine-hole facility in the capital city of Yerevan counts 50 male, female and junior golfers as the core Armenian participants in golf.

Increased economic growth and stability in Armenia has bolstered new interest in the game, and in 2012 the Ararat Valley Golf Academy was established.  Although there are no certified teaching professionals in Armenia, experienced amateur golfers have stepped in to help introduce beginners to the sport.

A floodlit driving range, pro shop and rental equipment service complement the 3,243-yard golf course to make Ararat Valley the epicentre of golf in Armenia, with the hope that more facilities will be built in the future.

New competitive tournaments for both men and women have been established at the golf course to help players develop their game.  The annual Vahakni Open welcomes golfers from throughout Armenia and abroad and serves as a centrepiece in the Association’s efforts to generate excitement and support for golf.

Armenia has three million citizens within its borders, but there are an estimated eight million Armenians living outside the country in neighbouring Middle Eastern nations, Eastern Europe, the United States and many other Western countries.

Armenia values its strong ties to Armenian communities abroad, and the economy is heavily supported by investment from expatriates. It is hoped that Armenian golfers living outside the country will help encourage the development of golf infrastructure within Armenia moving forward.

The global Armenian community comes together to celebrate sport at the Pan-Armenian Games, held every four years in Yerevan. The event is open to all Armenians worldwide and includes sports such as football, basketball, swimming and athletics. The re-introduction of golf into the Olympics spurred the decision to have amateur golf included within the Games for the first time in 2015 and will no doubt raise the profile of the sport within the country.

In the run-up to the Games, golfers from Ararat have stepped onto the international competitive scene. The Armenian national team competed in The Balkan Challenge Trophy in Bulgaria in 2012 and Slovenia in 2013, an event supported by The R&A that features teams from 11 different countries in the region. The female national team also currently has one player and the Association will be actively seeking new competitive opportunities for its top golfers as the game continues to grow in Armenia.

For more information on golf in Armenia, contact Karen Hovhannisyan (Secretary) at golf_sporting@yahoo.com