5 Killer Golf Courses
By Jessica Sanchez
> The average golfer will tell you that, despite how it’s portrayed on television, golfing is fun. Some of my girlfriends have even convinced themselves that they took up the game because it’s an exciting way to challenge their physical and mental prowess and not because they want to meet men (because everyone knows men find a group of giggling women casually drinking beer and taking their sweet gossipy time on the green not at all annoying).
But whether you consider golf an actual sport or merely a recreational hobby there’s no denying that there is still such a thing as “extreme golfing” and the following courses prove it. Golfers who take to these greens are of the mindset that they will finish their game even if it kills them! Which isn’t all that unlikely.
Kabul Golf Club - This Afghanistan golf course doesn’t fit some of the stereotypes you probably of have of a course located in a war-torn city at the forefront of the fight against terrorism; it fits ALL of them. Instead of pristine greens lined with lush trees the nine-hole course is an arid wasteland of desert sand and waste oil, pockmarked with craters made from mine explosions and rocket launches. Located just 30 minutes from Kabul’s city center, the clubhouse is a dilapidated building that has held up remarkably well despite being in the cross fire of nightly gun battles for many years. The course was closed in 1996 after the Taliban banned the playing of any form of sport (so I guess there are SOME people who consider golf a sport), then re-opened in 2004 after the U.S. military “de-mined” it. To be on the safe side, the manager also let several thousand sheep roam the course for nearly a week to set off any stray mines. So let that be the least of your worries; concentrate instead on not getting your ball stuck in a sand trap and, oh yeah, not getting kidnapped. Apparently the area where you cross the road to the fifth and sixth holes is prone to kidnappings, which explains why the club’s 120 members or so, mostly foreign diplomats, take along a bodyguard or two. Ironically, no guns are allowed on the premises.
Mount Merapi Golf Course - This Indonesian golf course is said to be a scenic haven for golf lovers and sightseers. Its breath-taking panoramic view makes it a course “worth trying to play on,” according to some websites. And they’re not talking about trying to play on it just because of its degree of difficulty. It’s located on the slope of the most active volcano in the country. So go ahead, TRY to play on it, but be prepared to run for your life at a moment’s notice. You’ll hear the horn from the emergency warning system first. The last major eruption was in 2010 when, after a series of small belches, the volcano spewed a fiery torrent of ash and lava that flowed like a river down the mountain side killing more than 350 people and covering the so-called scenic haven under a somber layer of gray ash and broken dreams. The town and its tourist-drawing golf course have been somewhat restored since then and tourism agencies have managed to turn lava into molten lava cake by using the destruction as a selling point. You can buy a “volcano tour package” with a round of golf and visit the most devastated areas. I wonder if aliens are out there in the universe watching this the way we watch lemmings fall off a cliff, thinking to themselves, “Now why in the hell are they still doing that???”
Camp Bonifas –This rustic golf course sits on a quiet, but tense parcel of land like a doleful child in the middle of a bitter divorce proceeding. It is located in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea who, as you may recall, get along slightly less than Republicans and Democrats. Its beauty lies not in its terrain but in its lack thereof; the course is a mere 192 yard par three consisting of only one hole. If your ball goes out of bounds then that’s it, game over. Literally a sign warns players, “Danger. Do not retrieve balls from the rough. Live mine fields.” The Camp Bonifas course is flanked by military-style bunkers that are separated by an 18-foot high razor-sharp security fence. An errant golf ball has been known to trigger a fiery explosion from one of the numerous mines buried beneath the surrounding grounds. So if your golf swing takes a bad hook it’s not just your face that turns red, the whole damn border lights up! The course was built in 1972 for the 50 or so American soldiers in desperate need of entertainment. The outpost is so desolate and lonely even Starbucks won’t open a shop there so they had no choice but to convert it into a golf course.
Bogota Country Club - The crisp climate of Columbia’s epicenter is said to make the golfing experience at Bogota’s most exclusive course feel like you’re “always playing with the air conditioning on.” Or perhaps that breeze you feel is from a bullet that just whizzed by your head. Try not to let it distract you. Even though it kicked off the PGA Nationwide tour this year, the scenic sanctuary of the Bogota Country Club cannot mask the seedy underside of the country’s fragile political situation. Numerous armed guards patrol the green to keep an eye out for drug smugglers and kidnappers. According to an article in The Daily Beast, no one is allowed to even tour the place without written consent from the manager. The paper said it is rumored that even the Japanese ambassador couldn’t gain membership because he didn’t have the requisite three references from existing members.
Skukuza Golf Course – This is probably the only golf course where you yearn to see more trees. That’s because you’ll need something to scramble up into if an angry hippo, hungry lion or bored elephant decides they don’t care much for your silly golf pants. Finding the nearest tree is just one of the rules on this South African golf course along with, “Don’t run away! If you run, the animal will believe that it has gained the advantage and it will be more likely to give chase.” And, “Stay out of the water! Do NOT try to retrieve your ball. There are crocodiles.” For the record, the water is a lake named – un-hilariously – Lake Panic. It’s almost as if the degree of difficulty is measured by how much butt-puckering terror you can maintain while swinging a club. According to reviews, the golf course itself isn’t all that great, it sounds like the biggest draw for golfers with suicidal tendencies is that it allows them to enjoy the kind of scenic safari usually only observed from a moving Jeep. The ninth, and final hole requires you to hit over a family of hippos. In case you didn’t know, hippos are like the Ted Nugents of the animal kingdom: cantankerous and unpredictable. Once they decide to attack there’s almost zero chance of you surviving. However, the managers promise that no golfers have ever been killed; they’re a bit more evasive when you ask how many staff members have been killed. <