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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Russian Golf Week
Irina Sheludkova

Blossoming almond trees, blue skies, mountain slopes and sea horizons became a pleasant backdrop for the Russian Golf Week organized by the Russian Golf Association on the Island of Mallorca (Spain) from February 5-12. The Week featured 2 major events: firstly, The Third Russian Winter Golf Cup, and the Pro-Am Tournament.  Secondly, the 1st International Golf Conference ‘Golf Development in Russia’. The Cup and Pro-Am tournaments were organized on the grounds of the Santa Ponsa I and II golf resort. 104 players were registered (78 men and 26 women), among them 35 Russians.

50 years ago there was no tourism infrastructure on Mallorca. Now the island has become one of the favorite golf destinations for Europeans. The possibility for this kind of revolution in Russia and what are the key factors that could bring this about, were the main issues discussed at the Conference. A lot of interesting facts were shared about the development of the world golf industry and its prospects for Russia in particular.

Ben Martin from Economic Research Associates (UK) gave an interesting overview of global trends in golf tourism. Eastern European countries, the Emirates, Morocco, Chile and Australia are now beginning to emerge as popular golf destinations. Russia along with China may come next. According to him, opportunities for golf development are now expanding like never before.  “People stay healthier for longer and life expectancy is increasing”, he said.  He also noted that the mass of the upper class has increased, thus providing a growing market for high end products. He supported his opinion with statistics from the Worldwatch Institute: “More than 25% of the world now enjoy a lifestyle which used to belong only to the rich”.

Ovidio Zapico, a timeshare industry expert, spoke about golf tourism as an important segment in tourist business development worldwide. He said that 65% of European golfers are interested in golf tourism. 70% of these are adventurers looking for new destinations. In holiday ownership/timeshare resorts, golf resorts take up to 19 %, after beach resorts which take up 35% of the market.

Howard Swan, Golf Course Architect from Swan Design, has been designing golf courses worldwide for 35 years already. In Russia he is responsible for projects in Sorochany near Dmitrov (Moscow region) and in Gelendzhik near the Black Sea, South of Russia. “Favor the brave, and give alternative routes” is his main principle in designing a golf course. The environmental impact, safety on a golf course and the fitting of a golf course into existing land are very important factors for any golf project. He said that a golf course requires 2,000-3,000 liters of water daily. It takes 12-18 months for the establishment of the project. In Russia the time period extends up to 24 months because of the climate.  “We had to stop construction in Sorochany in December because of the weather, and we will try to finish by November 2006, before the weather closes it again”, he noted.

Speakers from the Russian Golf Association said 15 regional governors and their 1st deputies are now personally involved in golf development projects. The association now receives 2-3 letters a week from Russia’s regions asking to help in issues of golf development, while just 3 years ago there was no reaction at all for proposals from the Association. But legislation issues are still prominent, especially those concerning land, because golf is not only a sport, but a business.  This combination is something new for Russia. Nevertheless, some 49 projects of various levels are in development now across Russia.  Sport is growing rapidly.

Winners of the III Russian Winter Golf Cup

Vladimir Usachev, 1st deputy governor of Rostovskaya oblast, spoke about an 18-hole golf course and leisure complex 30 km away from Rostov in Rostovskaya oblast. “This is a joint project with Germany. 4m Euro has already been invested. Together with a hotel and all of its infrastructure and facilities the project will cost 12m Euro”, he said. They plan to build an equestrian club, yacht-club, tennis courts, to hold archery competitions and, of course, professional golf tournaments. There are plans to support youth golf, as well as to build training facilities in Rostov. “But the main problem is the lack of professional golf trainers”, he noted.

Galina Morozova of Moscow’s Genplan turned everybody’s attention to environmental issues. She confessed that a golf course on Ul. Dovzhenko, on the banks of Setun River is “now a practically dead area where animals and plants don’t live anymore”. But the situation has changed now and all golf course projects must go through the state ecological expertise.  At the moment, an 18-hole course at Molzhaninovo area, a 9-hole course in Troparyovo-Nikulino and a 9-hole course near Shodnya River in Kurkino village are under construction. Locations at Znamenki-Sadki (Butovo), Stroginskaya poima, Tsaristino and Mnevniki are now being checked out by environmental experts.

Dmitry Butyrin from ‘Golf Development’ presented his company’s plans to expand in Russia. At the moment the company is involved in 9 projects in various regions of Russia. A 38 hectare all-season project in Troparyovo-Nikulino near Moscow is now under construction.  A golf course is to be integrated with commercial real estate. There will be a 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, gym, office space, open-air sport grounds and 20 cottages for visitors. The project is being built in a natural area which has passed the necessary state ecological expertise.

Howard Swan,Golf Course Architect and Managing Director of Swan Golf Design

But that was not the only sensation from Dmitry Butyrin. He introduced an intelligent golf ball, by World Golf Systems.  This is a golf installed with a micro-chip. The ball is programmed for a certain player and information about how far the ball went and where it hit is shown on a display near player. The Troparyovo-Nikulino complex will include 44 hi-tech golf stations for 5 people each, where visitors can take an advantage of such modern technologies.

The Pro-Am Tournament and The Cup were held after the conference has ended. There was a tangible competitive feeling around during the days. Later, in the evenings, when drinking local sherry, players confessed their triumphs and failures, as well as likes and dislikes of the Cup’s organization as a whole.

On the day of the Pro-Am tournament I had a chance to go through most of the holes with one of the teams. I finally understood that the game of golf is not as easy as it may seem. It requires technique, certain concentration and a will to win. I appreciated its elegant rules, ethics and code of behavior.

Upcoming Tournaments Include

The Spring Cup which will be held in Cyprus, April 2-9.
The Autumn Cup is to take place in South Korea, in Chungmun resort on Sieju Island, November 5-12.

Men in Absolute Category: Peter Ledwidge; Rafael Blanes Andersson; Mikhail Morozov;
Handicap Category up to 14.5: Peter Ledwidge; Rafael Blanes Andersson ; Francisc Martinez Caravaca;
Handicap category from 14.5 to 24.4: Mikhael Andersson; John Pearce ; Sergey Petrov;
Handicap category from 24.5 to 36.4: Sergey Fedorov ; Igor Tatarinov; Igor Ishkov.
Women in Absolute Category: Margarete Mathis; Anika Munch; Ana Teresa Sorensen Alber;
Handicap category up to 24,5: Anika Munch; Ana Teresa Sorensen Alber; Mimo Garcia de la Mata de Rodes;
Handicap category from  24.5 to 36.4: Maria Louisa Alvarez; Lala Masters; Svetlana Andryukina.

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