What’s it like to play golf in North Korea?
Last August I had a free day in Pyongyang. This is a pretty rare occurrence in the life of a North Korean tour leader, so I needed to do something memorable for myself.
I’ve seen and done nearly everything there is to see in Pyongyang city but one major thing had alluded me – the golf course. That’s right- the very course that General Kim Jong Il allegedly claimed to have scored 11 hole-in-ones. (Or at least so the story that pops up every year or so on the Daily Mail and other papers of great repute goes.)
The course itself is 27km south west of Pyongyang. A drive along the Youth Hero highway and a little off-roading lead you up to the imposing, oddly triangular shaped clubhouse.
No matter if you’re in a group of 20 or on your own, two Korean guides and a driver will accompany you everywhere you go. A trip to the golf course by myself was no different. I felt like Tiger Woods getting chauffeur-driven with my entourage to the first tee of a major championship, straight from my hotel.
It’s at this point where I was introduced to my female caddies for the day (yes, that’s plural). I should point out: one is actually a scorekeeper and the other one drags your bag along and marks your ball… all entirely unnecessary but an essential part of the experience.
The girls would cheer every time I hit a successful shot and be close to tears every time I fluffed my lines. It made me quite nervous as I’d imagine I was playing in front of huge galleries. I just wanted to make them happy! Not a word of English between them, but it didn’t matter, the body language flowed. I was the first foreigner they had caddied for.
If only there had been another golfer on the course I could have shared my joy with.
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