Tee Time in Tehran

The only 13-hole golf course in the world? That would be the Engelhab Club, Iran’s sole golfing establishment

The patchy fairways at Engelhab Golf Club

The bumpy fairways and patchy putting surfaces - more burnt-out browns than grassy greens - are not much to look at. In Iran however, this is golf at its finest.

In the same way that the streets of Tehran got new names when the Islamic republic dramatically came into being in 1979, so did the Engelhab ("Revolution" in Farsi) Club.

Iran's only recognised golf course has had a fairly rough time since.

Somewhat starved of attention, and perhaps a greenkeeper, it lost five of its original 18 holes under an army land order - players now play five holes twice to make up the numbers.

But somehow, the course has kept going despite few regular players. Some grumble and others joke at its unorthodox, 13-hole layout.

"It's pretty terrible, but it's all we have," says Mehrdad, a 40-year-old businessman who splits his time between Iran, Canada and Germany.

He tries to play at least fortnightly with his friends, but other than on the Persian weekend (Thursday and Friday) the club is deserted, he says, remarking that few Iranians know what golf is.

Kaykavos Saeedi is a 53-year-old civil servant tasked with waking Iranians up to the game's potential.

"Golf can be for everyone but we are something of a poor relation," says Saeedi, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Golf Federation.


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