Playing golf in Russia sounds exotic but it's more accessible than you would imagine thanks to a website which offers the opportunity for tourist golfers to enjoy great golf, a taste of Russian culture and an exciting nightlife.
GoGolfRussia reveals some of Eastern Europe's hidden gems including four exclusive private members courses near Moscow which are maintained to the highest standards and created by some of the world's best course designers.
The first golf course in Russia was built in 1989 near the Mosfilm film studios, an area of the city where many foreign Embassies are situated and where visiting film celebrities could relax in familiar surroundings. The nine-hole (par 33) course was inspired by a Swedish ice hockey legend Tumba Johansson and now carries the name of Moscow City Golf Club.
In 1994, Robert Trent Jones (Jr) was invited to create the first 18-hole championship course at Moscow Country Club which has since hosted several European Tour events The course is surrounded by birch and pine forests and many holes feature both natural and man-made water hazards. To further challenge some of the world's top golfers, it has been lengthened since 2003 and now provides a tough test for all abilities.
Signature hole is the fifth a 525-metre par-5 featuring a tight landing area flanked by a creek and a deep forest. Final approach is over water to a relatively small green surrounded by forest on three sides.
For almost a decade Le Meridien at Moscow Country Club remained the only 18-hole course in Russia but in 2005 Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club opened up near the famous Pestovskoye reservoir with a unique links flavor.
Welshman David Thomas, twice a runner-up in The Open Championship, put his distinctive stamp on it, using mounding, bunkering and the wind off the reservoir to achieve a tough examination for visitors and members.
"We have tried to create a challenging course for championship players," he said at the time. "I believe we have introduced a balance that will encourage and satisfy golfers of all levels, abilities and skills."
The course features wide, long fairways surrounded by deep and rich hay-type rough, and the greens are well protected by strategically placed sand and water hazards.
Signature hole is the par-5 third - a dogleg left designed as a three-shotter. Trouble emerges from a pulled tee shot into the bunkers, which only big hitters can carry. The second shot demands an aggressive strike over more bunkers to open the green up for an attacking approach.
Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club is probably Russia's most exclusive course. Created by Jack Nicklaus's design company, it opened in 2008 and is described by the 18-time major winner as 'one of top 10 courses I have built so far.'
This parkland course demands strong driving and precision iron play. Signature hole is the par-4 7th a blind drive to a downhill fairway turning right to left. The green is protected by water hazard in front and two sand traps either side.
Completing the line-up is Agalarov Golf Country Club which expects to be extended from nine to 18 holes by September providing a parkland course designed by Cal Olsen.
Russian professional golfers are already making an impact on the European Ladies Tour, among them Vera Shimanskaya, the former Olympic gymnastics golf medallist, although its Maria Verchenova, who has impressed most with a 12th place finish in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
But as www.GoGolfRussia.com suggests, there's far more to the country than golf and it offers its clients the chance to experience one of the world’s richest cultures as part of any package. Some of the world's finest museums and galleries should not be missed together with fine dining and a 24-hour nightlife including jazz and karaoke.
FOOTNOTE: To travel within Russia, visitors must apply for a visa. However this potentially frustrating procedure will be comfortably handled by GoGolfRussia and its UK-based visa support agent CTMS.
There's far more to the country than golf and it offers its clients the chance to experience one of the world’s richest cultures as part of any package.