Golf is an amazing game that captivates a player from the very first steps he makes on the green grass on the course. What is so special about golf that makes millions of people around the globe become its fans. First of all the game does not require a partner. One can play golf by himself. It is more interesting to play with at least one partner though, yet he can be a different golf skill level. Golf is not an injury free and non-exhausting sport, it is also a very sociable activity and entertainment. What kind of golfing nation are Russians?
The tradition of golf in this vast country is only 16 years old. Golf was not part of the Olympic Games program during the Soviet time and did not get a development then because of its aristocratic overtones. It was not until 1987-88, when Moscow City Golf Club was designed by a famous Swedish ice hockey player Sven "Tumba" Johansson . And after two years of construction, the first 9-hole golf course was opened and ready for play. In 1992, based from the MCGC, the Russian Golf Association was created. It is now recognized by the Russian Olympic Committee, the European Golf Association, and the supreme authority of golf – the Golf Club of St Andrews. In 1994, the second golf course in Russia was built − the Moscow Country Club in Nakhabino. It was the only 18-hole championship course in Russia for more than a decade. The development of golf stalled during the perestroyka years. The situations started stabilizing closer to 2000, golf clubs slowly started appearing around the country's big cities. Today there are 8 exciting golf clubs, 12 more are under constructions and up about 3,000 registered players. In addition there are training facilities and smaller clubs as well as mini golf courses. The experts predict the number of golf clubs will grow rapidly, as Golf is set to become an official event at the 2016 Olympics. Russian Golf Association wants to boost the number of golf enthusiasts to 100,000 players by 2014, to increase the number of golf courses to 100, that Russians to start winning both professional and amateur tournaments.
The existing clubs are: Moscow Country Club (Nakhabino, near Moscow) - 18 holes; Moscow City Golf Club (Moscow) - 9 holes; Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club (Moscow) - 18 holes; Golf Club of Dune "(St. Petersburg) - 6 holes; Golf Club Tolyati (Togliatti) - 18 holes; Tseleevo Golf Club (Dmitrov) - 18 holes; Agalarov Golf and Country Club.
Apart from the limited choice of golf clubs, the game has certain exclusiveness in Russia. It is a lot limited a hobby for wealthy people, and there is still a long way to go before being accepted as a mainstream sport in Russia. The cost is the main reason. Club membership costs more than in other European countries. Most of them are private, elite places, designed by the world's leading golf course architects. To become a member of these clubs, one typically has to pay from $25,000 to $200,000, plus annual fees. Moscow City Golf Club charges 4,000 rubles ($130) for a visit, and an hour long lesson with an instructor costs 3,000 rubles ($97) plus 1,000 rubles ($32) for using the course. Annual membership in the club starts at 300,000 rubles ($9.680), while life membership will set you back 75,000 euros – on top of which life members still have to pay 200,000 rubles ($6.450) for a yearly ticket. A complete set of golfing clothes is about $ 1,000 with a new set of golf clubs costing about $5,000. In Sweden, by comparison, it is possible to find clubs where membership fees are much lower, starting from $3,000. It is explained by the extreme cost involved in building golf courses in Russia (high prices of land).
Another feature of major golf club is face control. On cannot often get inside the club unless he knows a member.
Starting a golf club involves renting a piece of land no less than 10 hectares, obtain a license, get associated with Russian golf federation. The federation monitors if all the requirements are observed during the construction of the club. The club has to have house facilities, restaurant, golf equipment rental, training facilities. Green grass is a must during all the year round. Most of the equipment is imported, as there are no native manufactures in Russia at the moment.
Mini golf is more popular with the masses and more affordable than the traditional game. Mini golf facilities are available in Pokrovskoye-Glebovo or in Kurkino (Moscow area) plus a number of indoor and outdoor mini golf facilities are associated with sports club, fitness sand shopping centers. An hour playing on the mini golf course Silver Garden in Mega Belaya Dacha starts from 250 to 300 rubles ($8-9.5), with higher prices on weekends. Retail Park on Varshavskoye Shosse has a mini golf club called Miniros, with prices for a game starting from 120 rubles ($3.8) on average.
Russia's short golf season and limited choice in golf clubs boosted golf tourism. Scotland is golf tourists’ stronghold. Gleneagles estate is the most famous of Scotland golf sites. A better climate conditions are in China - Mission Hills is the World's No.1 golf club. Besides, Bali, Spain, Cyprus, the USA offer excellent opportunities for a golf tourist.
Due to the status of the game and its exclusives golf is mainly a male sport and activity in Russia. Among women, the pioneer of golf was Svetlana Gounkina She is a multiple Russian National Champion. Anastasia and Maria Kostina are ex champion amateurs and are now professional golfers. The eldest Maria Kostina became first Russian golfer to participate in a qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open. Uliana Rotmistrova was the first Russian golfer who changed her amateur status to professional. She qualified for the women's EuroTour. Russia's top female golfer, Maria Verchenova, remains the first, and only, Russian playing full-time on the Ladies’ European Tour.
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