Monday, September 27, 2010

The Worst Golf Course in the World (Probably)

A typical fairway

If you google "The World's Worst Golf Course," you will find a few articles about the golf course in Francistown. Here is a BBC profile of it:

There is something about the ability to say that I have played the World's Worst Course that drew me to play. I talked to a few other volunteers and we agreed to have a golf weekend. I set out to find out about the course and to find a set of golf clubs (I failed to pack some. Who knew I would get to play golf while serving in the Peace Corps in Africa?).

I went to visit the club to check things out and was able to walk onto the course to see it. I really wanted to know if it would be as bad as I had imagined, and it was. It is still in the dry season here and there is precious little grass to be found. Consequently, the greens are called "browns" here. The browns are sand with oil poured in to make them somewhat firm. Yes, you read that correctly, oil.

Yes, that really is a dumpster.

After a bit of a search, we found clubs, balls, and tees to use. The guys came in on Friday and we went out to the course to look around and talk to the golf attendant (the golf "shop" is only open on the weekends, sometimes). We asked about playing the following day and the woman told us it would not be a problem. "But," she added, "I may not be here tomorrow. If I am not, you can just walk on." Normally a round for a non-member costs 50 Pula (about $7.75), but we got to play for free. Things were already looking up.

As we walked away, a man approached and asked if we would need a caddy for the next day. Since we had no clue about the course, we agreed and told him that we would be there at 7am to tee off.
Putting on the "brown"

We got up bright and early the next day to try to avoid the heat (It has been consistently in the upper 90's here). We got the first green and our caddy was there waiting for us. He told us his name was Rasta and he was fantastic. He told us where to tee off and even went into the bush after lost balls.

Ross reacts after missing a putt

As for the golf, it was certainly different. Local rules allow you to either use a tee or a small patch of carpet for every shot. This proved to be invaluable and allowed for me to use the driver for several second shots (refereed to by us as a driver-driver hole). Once you made it to the brown, things got interesting. There are no flags and so we just guessed most of the time. Once on the brown, you are allowed two "scrapes" once on the brown. One towards your ball and then one back towards the hole. The scrape involved a long rake-like tool that was used to smooth a path from your ball to the hole (See above picture). Rasta would scrape a path and then we putted. The browns played very slow, but I thought were actually more fun to play on. You could be very aggressive to the hole and have the ball stop after one bounce (it is sand after all).

Do you see a fairway or a brown?

We were the only ones on the course for the entire day and we had our share of funny moments. People regularly walked through the course, and there were well established waling paths throughout. Ross came within a foot of hitting a man with a shot when he suddenly appeared from behind a tree. Several other times, groups of people would walk right in front of us teeing off. Rasta would yell at them to get out of the way but they wouldn't. On one shot after doing this, he turned to me and said "Go ahead. They have been warned." I waited because I would feel awful if I hit someone (but seeing as how they were straight ahead of me, they were probably safe with the way I drove the ball).

The highlight of strangeness had to be on hole #3. It was a 200 yard par 3 and the green was right at the bottom of a small stone hill. Ross stepped up to the tee with a 3 iron and then proceeded to stick his shot within 6 feet of the hole. Once we got on the brown to putt, we heard a strange chanting. As it turns out, some religious group was having a service on the top of the hill while we played below. It made for some bizarre background noise while we were putting.

That is 520 Meters, which is 570 yards.

Overall, we had a great time, although we were flagging it a bit on the last few holes. It gets brutally hot here around 10am. I will definitely play again, but I will bring much more water. We all finished our round under 100. Joel shot a 92, Ross shot a 94 and I shot a 99. More amazingly, we only list 6 balls between the three of us.

Closing out the day on the 18th brown