August 01, 1999

Tee Time for Russia

Grand Prince Konstantin would be jealous. He loved golf, but could not play it at home in Russia, only when he went abroad to France. But today, just 11 years after the sport was introduced to Russia, the country has two world-class golf courses, eight professional players, a golf Academy training, 60+ up and coming junior players and the Russian Open tournament, sanctioned by the European Professional Golf Association.

True, foreigners did create a small golf course in Vyborg in the early part of the century. But after the Bolshevik revolution, needless to say, the petit-bourgeois sport was expunged from the approved list of sports. The first man who dared promote the idea of golf in Soviet Russia was Armand Hammer. In the 1970s, he raised the issue with then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who apparently gave his okay to the idea.

But experts at the Russian version of Golf Digest consider September 1988 the true date for golf’s return to Russia. In that month the first driving range--on Moscow’s Dovzhenko street—was opened. In fact, things were set in motion one year earlier, when former Swedish hockey player Swen Juhansson--known to millions of Soviet hockey as "Tumba"--came to Russia with the idea of building a Golf Club. By 1990, Tumba had opened a 9 hole course near the Dovzhenko driving range. Soon thereafter, a National Association of Golf was established in Russia, joining the European Golf Association in 1992.

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