Afghanistan was introduced to the game of golf by the monarch Emir Hajibullah Khan in 1911, the same year the first American won the US Open. As was the case with many new golfers, the Emir spent so much time on the new links, his work life began to suffer. According to a report in the New York Times, his subjects "got into the habit of placing petitions into the holes at night in the hope they would reach the Amir when he was putting the next day." Golf was a personal passion for the Emir, so much so that after his assassination in 1919 he was buried on one of his courses in Jalalabad.
Though Hajibullah had insisted each member of his court take up the game, Afghans in the ruling class were not enamored with golf. The Emir's courses faded and crumbled like so many other foreign conventions which have tried to take root in Afghan soil throughout its history.
Golf returned to Afghanistan in the 1960's as a push was underway to make the country a tourist destination. The landlocked and alpine country became known, for a regrettably brief period, as "The Switzerland of Asia." And part of this effort was the construction of the Kabul Golf Club.
For a bit more than a decade, the Kabul Golf Club was a busy and dynamic community of foreigners and well-to-do Afghans who embraced the game of golf. There was a modest clubhouse with a bar and terrace overlooking the golf course. The irrigation system was powered by gravity, as water was pumped from Lake Qargha into a water tower located on a hill top high above the course. The greens-keeper and his crew worked seven days a week, keeping the course and grounds manicured and verdant.
And then, suddenly........
The Afghan Communists.....
The Kabul Golf Club, founded in 1967, survived them all, and has remained one of the world's most famous (and least - played) golf courses.
Photo by Julian Andrews
500 BC Kabul is established as a city
1457 – King James II bans golf in Scotland
1739 – Shipment of golf equipment arrives in Charleston, South Carolina
1829 – Royal Calcutta Golf Club established
1911 – Emir Hajibullah Khan introduces golf to Afghanistan
1919 - Hajibullah is assassinated, and buried at a golf course in Jalalbad
1967 – Kabul Golf Club is established
1977 - Mohammad Afzel "Abdul" becomes Manager and Head Golf Professional
1978 – Saur Revolution, President Assassinated, Kabul Golf Club Closed
1979 – Soviets invade Afghanistan
1993 – Kabul Golf Club Reopened
1996 – Kabul Golf Club Closed by the Taliban
2001 – Kabul falls to United States and its Allies, including the Northern Alliance
2004 – Kabul Golf Club Reopens
2005 - John McNeill works to restore KGC, donating clubs and getting hundreds of expats to play and support the golf course
2010 - RGB travels to Afghanistan to play golf and work with Abdul
Hashmatullah Sarwaree and Ali Ahmad Fazel compete in the Asian Games at Guangzhou, China. They play well!
2011 – RGB returns to Afghanistan to continue work on the project and play some more golf
2012 – Logo designed and trademarked, website developed
June Qargha attacked by Taliban - more than 20 people are killed
November Abdul’s brother Kahn executed by the Taliban
All promotional / PR work on the project stops
2014 - Bloomberg TV names Kabul Golf Club #1 most extreme golf course
Promotional work on the project resumes
2015 - The course is ready, the grass is green…
we are still waiting for the war to end!
Kabul Golf Club Timeline
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The adventure in Afghanistan isn't over... it's just beginning!