In 2010, I visited Lebanon, my ancestral homeland – where, shockingly, there’s a golf course! Who knew? I mean, Lebanon – it just doesn’t scream golf. It screams hummus and grape leaves, and maybe bombs, but golf?
But yes, indeed, in 1923 the Golf Club of Lebanon was opened right in the heart of Beirut, and I couldn’t resist playing it.
Just getting to the course was an adventure. The cab driver spoke very little English and while I know a lot of Arabic words, they’re almost all food and curses. But after a few animated swings and repeating the word “golf,” we made it to the course.
Was I expecting a beautiful masonry welcome gate here in Beirut? No. But I also wasn’t expecting the army check-point gate either… complete with a guard! The driver said something to the guard in Arabic (I’m guessing “nut job American woman wants to play golf”), and the gate went up.
I was greeted by a man who turned out to be my caddie and spoke perfect English. He led me to the Pro Shop, I paid my greens fees, bought a hat, and off we went.
This blog is supposed to be light and airy and hopefully funny, but on the first hole, the caddie told me that a few months earlier, a female golfer was raped on the 6th fairway.
WTF am I doing here?
Couple that with Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a militant Islamic organization which, in the absence of a strong Lebanese political system, has moved into Lebanon. It doesn’t control all of Lebanon, but it controls a lot of it, including the area where the golf course is.
I couldn’t keep thoughts of Hezbollah guerillas and rape out of my head. Line up a putt, Hezbollah guerillas. Hit a 9-iron, woman got raped. Take out my driver – Hezbollah guerillas. What a lovely day of golf this was going to be!
And actually, it was. My round was Hezbollah guerillas and rape free, and truth be told, it was really cool. For my entire childhood, I listened to my grandfather talk about how beautiful Lebanon and Beirut were and here I was playing the sport I love in my beautiful ancestral homeland. Snow-capped mountains in the distance, the Mediterranean glistening in the sun. And not only did the caddie read putts well, he taught me how to keep score in Arabic.
In fact, it was such a great day, I decided I’d play the course again – as soon as they move it out of Hezbollah territory!