Some of you may have seen a post or two on Erin Hills’ social media describing how I missed the U.S. Open because my WI Army National Guard Medevac unit was activated and deployed to Afghanistan for much of 2017. While I am very proud of the work we did over there, it was a tough place for a lover of the game of golf. Furthermore, as the Chair of the On-Course Operations Committee for the U.S. Open, I was sorry to miss playing more of an active role in Wisconsin’s first U.S. Open. Fortunately, as I had several top-notch committee chairs, my absence was barely noticed!
Being away from the comforts of modern golf in the U.S. made me appreciate even more the real appeal and essence of the game. In its stripped-down form with limited equipment and the most basic of courses (both from an architectural and agronomic perspective), the appeal and challenge of the game remain strong.
Golf is not big in Afghanistan. In fact, the only golf course in the country is a nine hole facility near Kabul. The greens are made of oiled sand and the fairways are littered with far more rocks than blades of grass. A sign outside the club reads “No Guns or Body Guards Allowed.” That likely limits the number of players willing to risk a round of golf, but they are trying!
So what does a golf nut do in Afghanistan? I was fortunate to have a head golf professional and some friends back home looking out for us. They sent over a couple dozen clubs, a large box of balls and a mat. I was even able to get a net shipped to Kandahar – it arrived in under two weeks. How did deployed soldiers manage without Amazon?!
There wasn’t a great deal of golf on TV, but Armed Forces Network (AFN) did pick up coverage of all four Majors and an occasional PGA/LPGA tournament. Even if it wasn’t on TV, staying up-to-date with tournament golf was easy as every golf organization has invested in highly sophisticated, engaging tournament websites. And of course, there were numerous digital golf publications to choose from.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin recently experienced some unusually late snow. That may delay my return to playing this year, but that’s ok. Spring will come and when it does, I’ll be able to hit golf balls again – without a net and on turf.