Golf In The

Afghan Kingdom

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 Communists

 The Afghan Communists.....

 The Soviets.....

 The Taliban...

 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

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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

                                               on earth

                                     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

Army Helicopters are Scary!

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