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11 May, 2012 15:12

Moscow’s oldest golf club to promote sport’s popularity

The golfer’s sport isn’t as widespread in Russia as in other parts of the world, but there's a dedicated bunch of enthusiasts at courses such as the Moscow City Club aiming to change all that.

The club located a short ride from the Kremlin and Red Square, launched Russia’s first attempt to find a place on the international golf map 25 years ago.

Back then, only a chosen few could appreciate this game, which was recently welcomed to the Olympic family.“The history of golf in Russia began as in any other country,” Viktor Mochalov, secretary general of the Russian Golf Association, told RT. “It was private, very expensive clubs for the wealthy people. But now we are in the moment when – I expect – the number of golfers will grow dramatically in the near future.”

A quarter of a century on, and golf largely remains beyond reach for everyday amateurs here in Moscow, let alone Russia.

The weather is one obvious but surmountable obstacle, while the lack of necessary infrastructure which would make golf available to the masses is hampering the sport’s ambitions to stake a claim to the market of the biggest country on earth.  

“Sometimes people say: ‘OK, the climate in Russia is too cold to build a golf course,” Svetlana Zhurova, Olympic champion and senator, stressed. “But you see, there’s Finland, where they play winter golf. We have to change the people’s attitude. Golf has to be a sport for people. And it’s very healthy, from what I see.”

The capital’s inner city golf course pioneered the sport for Muscovites. It’s a private club but opens its doors to the public and the media once a year to stage the opening tournament that will set the pace for the remainder of the short Russian season.  “Unfortunately, we have just a five-month season in Moscow, which is probably the shortest season in the world,” Aleksandr Lintsov, golf enthusiast, said. “But you see the weather is nice. The course is in perfect condition. The greens are fine. The grass is finely cut. So we are happy.”

Professional Russian golfers would surprise contestants on any of the globe’s significant tours, for now that is.

However, the country is making small steps towards wider acceptance into the golfing arena, and the Russian Open which will be held in June is a small testament to that.