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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luxury Golfing Is A Chip Shot Away

Move over Porsches, health spas, and upscale restaurants. The ultimate symbol of suburban splendor, the luxury country club, is coming to town.

The Moscow Country Club, a 200-acre club, will open next year with an 18-hole championship golf course, 300 homes, a casino, a hotel, a full health club, tennis courts and a business center. The par 72 golf course is being designed by the world's premier golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The club is located about an hour's drive from the center of Moscow.

Membership, which will be restricted to 650 slots, will certainly be exclusive. Just consider the prices. A lifetime membership for one person costs $75, 000. The least expensive dacha, a 169-square-meter house, will rent for $84, 500 a year. A 50-year-lease costs $507, 000.

Potential members, who were wooed with champagne at the club's sneak preview last week, seemed a bit taken aback by the prices.

"It's a fantastic idea", said Michiya Aoyama, general manager in Moscow for C. Itoh & Co. Ltd. and a member of "Tumba Golf Club for the past three 5 years. "We want to play golf here, but it's a fantastic price".

"It's too much", said Yuji Kato, general manager in Moscow for All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd.

Club management, however, insists that the sky-high prices will not be a deterrent from attracting the right clientele.

"It's not expensive", said Simone Anderson, wife of the American partner, who greeted guests in her fur coat. "In our small town in Crest Valley, California, they charge $10, 000; , and the Japanese often charge $1 million for their memberships".

Luxury does not come cheap. The joint venture project has been financed by the Russian government and an American consortium of private investors led by Jim Anderson. Russia kicked in the land, valued at $40 million, while the American side put up $200 million in cash. ,

The club hopes to recoup some of the investment when it goes public and offers shares on the New York stock exchange this spring.

The original plan for a golf course was conceived in 1973 by Armand Hammer, who championed warmer business relations between the former cold-war adversaries. The chat about town was that the well-connected Hammer was asked by Leonid Brezhnev what foreign businessmen do in their spare time. The answer, of course, was play golf.

The Soviet government embraced Hammer's idea of a golf course and let

the international tycoon begin plotting. The plan got a further boost after the Western press splashed the story across the globe, as nothing like it had ever been conceived in the Soviet Union.

Fittingly, representing the Soviet side of the deal was UPDKh - the state organization that had a monopoly on services for Russia's foreign diplomatic community during the Soviet era.

Vladimir Kuznetzov, chief of the UPDKh from 1974 to 1980, lobbied hard for the idea. Kuznetzov, a former ambassador to Malaysia, learned to love golf when he was posted abroad in the 1960s.

"I wanted to help introduce golf as a game here", Kuznetzov said.

The project came to a grinding halt in the early 1980s, but when Bush and Gorbachev convened for their summit in 1988, one of the items on the agenda

was the Moscow Country Club. The idea was given the green light, once again. Leading the American side was Anderson, who had taken over after Hammer's death in 1990.

The Americans have high hopes of further cushioning the quality of life for Moscow's elite.

Said Jones, Jr. , the golf course designer, "I have no doubt that it will become a place where movers and shakers of Moscow can meet".