It’s sadly ironic that Kabal Golf Course is rated more in terms of the security threats golfers have to face from the uncontrolled militants than the undulating fairways or the tough greens of the 18-hole course. Kabul Golf Course in Afghanistan and Kabal Golf Course in the scenic Swat valley of Pakistan not only share similar nomenclature, sadly they share the same catastrophic history for the last more than two decades.
This, however, is about to change as the club officials are bracing themselves for the first Open Tournament in last 21 staggering years, starting next month.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of Asia, Swat Valley is about five hours drive from Capital Islamabad and had remained a popular tourist destination until the beginning of the 90’s. The gradual increase of militancy in the valley, spearheaded by the sermon-loving Maulana Fazululah, swept the valley like wildfire, scaring away the tourists and the government officials. Slowly but surely, the valley turned into an uncharted territory before the Army finally stepped in to straighten things up.
Kabal Golf Course was built by former governor and son of Wali-i-Swat Mian Gul Aurangzeb in 1964 and was one of the popular golf destinations. Later the course became the battle ground of the Pakistan Army which dug out holes meant not for the golf balls rather to station their battery of six 130 mm guns which have the capability to fire rounds at a distance of 33 kms.
Eventually though Things have taken a turn for the good. The tournament will be attended by 200 golfers including 27 senior players and 54 professional players in all. Swat Deputy Commissioner Imtiaz Hussain while addressing a press conference along with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Golf Association secretary retired Col Shahadat reaffirmed the government’s commitment towards the peace and prosperity of the region.
“Due to militancy and other problems in the area during recent years, no tournament of national level has been held here for the last 21 years,” he said. “But now, the golf club and all of its holes have been restored with the help of army.”
He further added, “We want to give a message to the people that Swat is peaceful now and they can come here without any fear”.
Golf is known for its overwhelming attraction for the tourists all over the world and the local administration is hoping to utilize the sport as an effective tool to turn around the tourism statistics in the region.