Kazakhstan is experiencing something of a golf boom in the new millennium, with courses opening in the last few years in Astana, Atyrau, Aktau, Kustanay and Saryagash – and another one to watch is the new Arnold Palmer-designed championship course at Zhailjau Country Club.
Golf first made an appearance in this vast country in 1996 when a 9-hole course opened at the Alatau Health Resort complex near Almaty. President Nursultan Nazarbayev fully backed the move (having been introduced to the game two years previously in America) and seven years later, he and Colin Montgomerie were on hand to mark the expansion of the course into an 18-hole championship layout at the renamed Nurtau Golf Club.
The European Challenge Tour has rolled into town every year since 2005 for the Kazakhstan Open, which is the only event at that level in Eurasia, now that the Russian Open has been promoted to the main European Tour. Professionals seem to like the variety of the layout at this rolling parkland course, with an open front nine and wooded back nine – scoring well can be a real challenge, though, as no fewer than eleven of the thirteen par 4 and 5 holes are doglegged!