McCarten on Golf in Afghanistan

Our equipment guru, James McCarten, is currently on assignment in Afghanistan with the Canadian Press. On the weekend he filed a very cool story about the rebound of golf on the country’s solitary course.

We’ve posted it in our equipment forum. You can find it here.

Here’s a taste:

KABUL _ The weedy desert fairways and oil-and-sand “browns” of Kabul Golf Club are a long way from the emerald hues of the Masters and Augusta National, but thanks in part to a Canadian benefactor, the game’s irrepressible spirit is very much alive in Afghanistan.

It resides in Muhammad Azfal Abdul, quite probably Afghanistan’s only golf professional _ a man whose unwavering tenacity, patience and passion for the game despite impossible odds mirrors the interminable struggles of his birthplace.

“Everyone knows my name as a player in Afghanistan,” Abdul, 46, says matter-of-factly, his pro shop a battle-scarred shack that has served as both a Soviet military outpost and a Taliban barracks.

“Most of the foreigners and local Afghans, they are just waiting for this ground to be cleaned and (completely) green, then they will definitely come. I am very hopeful for the future.”

Abdul was but a boy when Kabul Golf Club opened its doors in 1967, catering to moneyed western diplomats, ambassadors and scions of the country’s royal family.

Back then, there was grass on the fairways and greens and a fully furnished clubhouse. But Abdul, who took up the game at 10 and eventually became Kabul’s golf pro, was forced to shutter the course in 1978 on the eve of the Soviet invasion.

Decades of military and civil conflict, culminating in the fall of the Taliban in 2001, conspired against Abdul’s boyhood playground, which lay along a tactically vital route into Kabul.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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