Firstly, a brief attempt to explain the allure of the game. Anyone who has played knows that it only takes one good solid (and accidental in all likelihood) contact with the ball in your first golfing experience to make you say to yourself, “Ooohhhh, I like that!”, after which you will spend many, many frustrated hours seeking a repeat of the experience.
When you do manage another clean and sweet strike, and the ball flies long and straight, you will instantly forget all of the frustration you have endured, nothing else matters but that wonderful strike. As you practice more and more, having invested money in lessons and equipment, you may be able to hit the ball well more often than not. At that point, there is no way back – you are addicted. And it’s not like smoking; there really is no good reason to quit. It’s a great sport that gets you active and outdoors. In short, golf’s good for you.
The Origins Of Golf
The first recorded reference that can be found about the game is not entirely positive. In 1452, King James II of Scotland banned the game, as it was, in his words, “An unwelcome distraction to learning archery”. When the ban was overturned is not clear, but today the game serves as a most welcome distraction for many people. It’s actually the “distraction” that is one of the great appeals of golf: when one begins playing, the mind becomes absolutely clear of all other matters, business and stress fade into insignificance as the only focus is how to get the little white ball into the little hole somewhere between 1 centimetre (some people are too mean for even that to be a “gimme”) and 550 metres away. Nothing else matters.
The Front And Back
Where in Ukraine can a golfer, or wanna-be golfer, go to experience this beautiful blend of ecstasy and horror? In Kyiv, golfing options start at the Kyiv Golf Centre in Obolon, a driving range where there are clubs for hire and instructors to guide first-timers and experienced golfers alike in the art of the perfect swing. Hitting a bucket of balls is good practice and good fun, but the real game of golf is not played from an astroturf mat, it is played on grass.
One has to go further out of Kyiv to find land plots of sufficient size needed to construct a golf course. In recent years, on the Zhytomyr Highway, two such plots have been purchased, landscaped, grassed and further developed, and there are now real golf options available.
Past the city’s Ring Road, and some 15 kilometres off the highway, GolfStream awaits. The first nine holes are quite short, at 1,710 metres in total. The back nine are much longer at 3,143 metres. It is a beautiful place (as almost all golf courses are in fact), although it’s not technically very difficult golf. For some, that is a good thing. Here also there is reported to be a second course of 18 holes, which was opened last year. We haven’t played those yet, however it’s claimed to be a top quality challenging golf course and we have no reason to doubt it.
Don’t Be A Duffer
One problem with golf at this stage of its infancy in Ukraine is that the investment required to build a course has to be recouped from a much smaller number of players, and so the green fees and annual membership prices are shocking compared to almost anywhere else in the world. This is being addressed by the changing management at the Royal Kyiv Golf Club, which can be found just a little further along and then just off the Zhytomyr Highway.
This is a beautifully landscaped course. It provides great challenges of gaping chasms between tee and green in places, there are water features both along the right of a long par 5 and then also between tee and green on a lovely par 3. I have been on this course and witnessed 4 balls being lost by one golfer on the long Par 5 water hole. But as I set the course record for the most lost balls in a round that day, I was unable to muster even the slightest sarcasm at my fellow golfer for his contribution to the greenkeepers’ sideline earner.
No Turn To Make
If there is a problem with this course, it is that although designed and laid out as an 18-hole, there are to date still only 9 full holes open. There is a small 6-hole academy (learners) course next to the huge driving range and a fully operational Club House. But for the big grownup golf where the golfer is looking for a challenge of successive Par 3, 4 or 5 holes, there are but 9 of found here.
As one golfer said to me many years ago, the game is always challenging because it is never the same, you will never play two identical rounds of golf even if you played the same course your whole life because you’ll always put your ball in a different place from the last round. That’s true, but the scenery will get repetitive. Royal (as she is known amongst the local golfing fraternity) does have the benefit of being very moderately priced for a quality challenging course; especially when golf days are organised by the British Business Club in Ukraine, where 9 hole tournaments are 200 –300 hryvnias per player and 18 holes can be played for 500 hryvnias. That’s good value.
More Than A Bit Rough
Additional golf can be found at the Kozyn Golf Course in the Koncha Zaspa area of Kyiv. These 18 holes deserve an honourable mention here because of the desire and tenacity of the founders to open some kind of golfing opportunity in Ukraine back in 2006. A round can be played relatively cheaply here also, but the most challenging thing about Kozyn is the poor course condition.
When I played it, there was not a fairway to be found and on one of the greens (no, I’m not joking) there stood a fairly mature tree, which has been there for several years clearly, and maybe even pre-dates the green that it stands on. (Note on terminology, while pretty much most of a golf course is “green” in colour, the bit referred to in the game as “green” is where the flag stands and the hole is. The part you, hopefully, play through to reach the green is called the fairway.)
Aiming For An Albatross?
Rumour has it that there are three more courses planned in or around Kyiv. But for now at least, that’s your lot, so if you would like to take up this noble game, these are your options. One final note, I use the word “noble”, as that is what golf is supposed to be – cheating in any way, shape or form is highly frowned upon. However, it is an aspect of the game here that some people do, sadly, enter competitions with handicaps they have no right to be playing off, or there are those who will give a ball a nudge out of an unpleasant lie with their toe, and so on.
Never mind that, golf is a game you play by yourself and for yourself first and foremost. Be honest to yourself and your round, how you did, what you need to do better. There’s no point in sitting at the 19th hole (note on terminology: the bar) talking about a hard fought par when really it was a bogie and you should have been disqualified for moving the ball – you’re kidding no one but yourself. Now go – golf – enjoy!
Kyiv Golf Centre (Heroiv Stalinhrada 10d)
Driving Range fees: first basket of 50 balls – 100hrv, thereafter – 50hrv
Kyiv Golfstream (Gavronschyna village)
Green fees: 9 holes – 660hrv, 18 holes – 1,870hrv
Royal Kyiv Golf Club (Motyzhyn village)
Green fees: 9 holes – 300hrv weekdays, 500hrv weekends, 18 holes – 500hrv weekdays, 750hrv weekends
Kozyn Golf Club (Kozyn village)
Green fees: 9 holes – 250hrv, 18 holes – 500hrv
by Paul Niland