Catching On With the Swinging Upper Class

Moscow City Golf ClubGolf has taken off as a sport for children. The Moscow City Golf Club has its own Children's Golf Academy, where players of all levels can take courses.
When asked by Leonid Brezhnev how to attract investment into the Soviet Union, billionaire entrepreneur Armand Hammer told him to provide limousines and golf courses for U.S. businessmen. But the sport didn't come to Moscow until 1987, when a well-known Swedish hockey player, Sven Johansson, founded the first golf club in the Soviet Union.

At first, there were just a handful of foreigners interested in the game. Today, 9,600 people per month play at the Moscow City Golf Club during the high season, said Tatyana Chekulayeva, the club's spokeswoman.

"Ninety percent of players I deal with are local," said Neil Sweeney, golf director at the club. "The game is getting more and more popular here but only among the upper class."

Unlike in the West, where golf is accessible for the middle class, golf clubs in Moscow and the surrounding area are attended mostly by members of the political and business elite.

"If you pay $15 per hour to play in Britain, for instance, here in Moscow you will have to pay $120 if you a not a club member," Sweeney says.

Moscow City Golf Club has 250 members. To become a member you need a recommendation from at least one club member, and the club's board makes the final decision. The member's fee is kept confidential.

"It is not necessary to be a member to come and play," Chekulayeva said, adding that the main disadvantage is the short season, which lasts from the middle of May to the middle of October.

Those interested in learning to play golf can be introduced to the game at the Golf Academy. All the necessary equipment is provided, Chekulayeva said.

"You can book private one-on-one lessons or together as a group with your friends," she said.

The club also boasts a Children's Golf Academy. "Russian children are doing just fine. Many of them are gifted, hard working. One of my girls won Latvia Open Tournament this month," Sweeney said.

Playing at the Moscow City Golf Club costs 800 rubles per hour on the training course and 3,000 rubles for a round of nine holes. A coach costs 3,000 rubles per hour. The Children's Golf Academy costs 10,000 rubles per month for beginners (two classes per week) and 14,000 rubles per month for advanced players (three classes per week). The club is located at 1 Ulitsa Dovzhenko. Tel. 921-2855.

The Moscow Country Club offers the only 18-hole course in Moscow. It also hosts the international President of Russia Cup.