Volume 73, Number 7 | June 16 - 22, 2004


Tee time in Kabul: The golf option

By Andrei Codrescu

I’ve been contemplating taking up golf, but I’m not sure where to begin. It’s important to choose your first course well. Afghanistan is one possibility. The Kabul Golf Club is going to reopen formally next year; it’s been cleared of landmines, but there is still some work to do to repair damage by the Taliban; the water trap has dried out and the fairways have turned to scrub.

There is also the tempting prospect of playing at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, one of the toughest prisons in the U.S. The Prison View Golf Course is a nine-hole layout with 18 teeboxes set on 80 acres in a former bull pasture next to Camp J, the disciplinary facility for hard cases. The golf course was designed by the prison dentist and the tee-markers are giant handcuffs. And it’s cheap: a round with a golf cart is $20, walking is only $10.

Of course, I could play in my neighborhood at the city park golf course, but what’s the thrill in that besides beaning a walker or two or knocking somebody off their bike? Real men need context. It’s important to stand by golf in Kabul because the sport is civilizing. Certainly compared to men on horseback vying for a goat’s head. And in Angola inmates can work in landscaping and caddying, which beats cutting sugar cane in chain gangs.

I used to be philosophically opposed to golf and said mean things about it. I said that the homeless of the world could be housed on America’s golf courses. I proposed moving Calcutta to Palm Springs. That was wrong. Even then I’d had only good experiences on golf courses, memorable love experiences, one of which involved being caught by the police in a sand trap. The police were understanding: they saw even then, by moonlight, the future golfer in me. It’s just that at the time, in the ’90s of the last century, I didn’t understand the game: it’s played in the daytime with your pals, not at night with loose women.

Plus now, you don’t have to lose your balls. A company called Radar Golf plants a radio receiver in each ball that sends a signal to a hand-held device. Slouching toward senility is a lot more fun than it used to be.


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