As told by Robert Young Pelton, founder of DPx Gear.
Long timers in Afghanistan will know that there actually is a Kabul Country Club. Technically it is called the Kabul Golf Club on Qargha Road. The nine hole course was opened in 1967, the heyday of Kabul, and its role as an international destination.
Kabul was pitched to tourists as the "Switzerland of Asia", where travelers could arrive via the Pan Am-operated Ariana Airlines and stay at the newly built Kabul Intercontinental Hotel.
Hippies used to drive from Europe through Iran to visit Kabul, some of them bought hash and were busted on their way back through Iran.
I am not a golfer but I felt compelled to rent some clubs and bash away at the tired balls on the burnt grass and think about Kabul before the wars destroyed it.
When the war hit in 1978, the golf course closed and didn’t reopen until 1993 when - as expected - the Taliban who occupied Kabul in 1996, promptly shut it down.
When I was staying within the ridiculously 60’s ambience of the Kabul Intercontinental under the Taliban regime, the hotel staff would check in about once an hour to see if I needed anything. The taxi driver in the lobby downstairs offered trips to the front lines and there were still Russian airline posters in dusty glass poster frames.
The Kabul Golf Club re-opened again in 2004 and ten years later Bloomberg TV labeled it the “world’s most extreme golf course”, with bunkers, traps and hazards taking on a new meaning.
If you are in Kabul drop in and say "Hi" to the manager and club pro Mohammad Afzel "Abdul", who has been arrested twice for the crime of golf. Kabul still has remnants of the grand old days and I created a logo to honor and remember those tough-as-nails Afghans.
On my last trip to Kabul, I was stopped by one of the staff at the Intercontinental who asked me if I recognized him without the beard. He remembered me and my bizarre trip to meet the Taliban in 1996 over twenty years later.
In 2018 the Talibs blew up my favorite room on the third floor. The terrorists had to be killed by my friends at Crisis Response Unit 222; Afghanistan’s elite anti-terrorist squad. You can read more about them here.
My Kabul Country Club line is an homage to the people of Afghanistan, the Americans who fought and worked there and the bond that is built by those who venture there to Afghanistan, over and over again. Cheers.
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