Located within a dense woodland area just a short 30-minute drive from Minsk city centre, the course at Minsk Golf Club is a Paul Thomas design that first opened for play in 2013.
If this is Genesis for golf in Belarus then we should look forward to a bright future. But the reality of right now is that there are very few people who even know what golf is or what a set of clubs look like. Airline check-in staff, hotel staff and even passers-by in the street eyed my golf bag with a mix of intrigue and maybe concern. Taxi drivers had no idea what a Minsk GC was and even my Garmin GPS with its 40,000 plus courses loaded drew a blank. I was on holiday and playing golf so the weather forecast for afternoon storms was my only concern.
Golf Club Minsk is set about 25 minutes out of the centre of the city, past the rows of old Soviet apartment blocks and into a forest area where there is very little else except trees. There is some small development going on around near the course with some housing in various stages of construction, but it's only visible from two holes. The club itself has an 18-hole parkland course that has recently been refreshed and reopened after a short period where it was closed; a driving range; and what looked like a short or 'executive' course next to the driving range. The main 18 holes were all open and in good condition but it looked like some work or rectification was occuring on the short course. The facilities such as reception, locker room and bathrooms are temporary, but they're stylish, low-key and functional.
The course is a standard par 72 layout that is cut through the forest so most holes are isolated from one another. There are a few small changes in elevation that have been taken advantage of in the layout and water in play on only a few holes. Plenty of bunkers shape the design with only slight changes of direction on the fairways, although the rough is also used cleverly on some of the holes, with a mix of trees, shrubs and even some heather featured. The area of the course appears to have a sandy base which is fortunate for a golf course and provides decent turf conditions.
I really enjoyed the round; the staff were happy to have a visitor and even though I played on a Monday, by the afternoon there were a number of what I assume to be members cars in the carpark and a few people around, so clearly there are golfers in Minsk. I also really enjoyed wandering about the city, with it's mix of past symbols, memorials and museums, as well as clean and regular transport options for getting to the sites (just not out to the golf course). Belavia (the national airline) even carry golf clubs for free in addition to your suitcase, although the check-in staff may not know what they are...yet.
So, golf in Belarus: it has begun!