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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Pins Hopes on 10 Golf Courses

MTA view of the golf course at the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, the only Russian course on the PGA circuit.
In an effort to adopt more of the trappings of an international city, Moscow intends to build 10 golf courses over the next five years, including a 100-hectare course near the Moscow River in the city center.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced plans for the 10 golf courses last week but offered few details.

"We are ready to allocate 100 hectares to creating a modern golf course here, on a bend of the Moscow River," Luzhkov said at an Oct. 30 conference titled "New Horizons of Russian Golf," Itar-Tass reported.

Luzhkov said contracts to build the golf courses would be auctioned off to developers. "The competition for the best design will be open, so we welcome our foreign partners to participate," Luzhkov said.

Luzhkov did not elaborate about the location, but Andrei Zakharov, vice president of the Moscow Federation for the Development of Golf, said it was probably part of a planned golf complex at Mnevniki, a northwestern Moscow district. The complex is to include a field and several covered facilities.

Moscow's interest in promoting golf, which many Russians still consider an odd pastime for the new bourgeois, is outlined in a city ordinance approved on Sept. 13. Under the ordinance, 30 golf facilities will be developed from 2007 to 2012.

The undertaking is likely to cost a small fortune. The cost of a modest nine-hole course starts at $3 million, said Yulia Yefremova, marketing director of GreenAqua, a company that specializes in developing golf facilities.

Golf's image as a prestigious sport is one of the reasons why the city is willing to make the investment. "Moscow is getting to the point where it needs elements of a world-class city, and golf is something that has global popularity. I think the mayor realizes that," Zakharov said.

"In fact, the mayor plays fairly well himself," he said. "Maybe he took a swing during a trip abroad and that sparked his interest. It's nice to see support from him, of course."

His enthusiasm was echoed by Konstantin Gribkov, head golf instructor of Le Meridien Moscow Country Club in Nakhabino, the only Russian course on the Professional Golf Association circuit. "Until now, Moscow's golf only saw support from private enthusiasts. I am very happy that the city is interested in the sport," he said.

A Moscow resident practicing golf at the next-best place: an indoor club.
Right now there are few places where golfers can play a full game: a nine-hole course at the Moscow Golf Club on Mosfilmovskaya Ulitsa, in the southwest of the city; a course in the Krylatskoye district in western Moscow; and the course at Nakhabino. A 27-hole course with a golf academy is nearing completion near Sheremetyevo Airport, and construction of a nine-hole course began in September in Kurkino in northwestern Moscow. "In fact, when Mayor Luzhkov saw the Kurkino location, he loved it so much that he offered to make it an 18-holer," Zakharov said. "To tell you the truth, the site is a tad small for that, but they are looking over the project to see if a revision is possible."

With the backing of Moscow authorities, the chances that golf will become a new popular sport appear to be limited only by the weather: The new courses will be covered by snow for about six months out of the year.

That does not faze Zakharov. "Of course, we have some climate restrictions -- it's not Florida here," he said. "But the sport is popular in Finland too. Why not in Russia?"

Apparently, winter even offers some benefits. "There was a winter golf championship at the Moscow Golf Club a few years ago," said Yefremova of GreenAqua. "They handed out valenki [gray felt boots] to the participants and the golf balls were pink."