Photo by Clay Gilliland
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Last month, Jordan Speith, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and the other 148 of the world’s top golfers began the Open Championship. The Open is one of the most prestigious events in the world, and is played on one of the oldest and most historic courses, The Old Course at St. Andrews. The broadcast was watched by millions worldwide and the winner, Jason Day, is considered among the greatest of the greats.
But on the other side of the world, there exists another Open Championship. Cameras wont broadcast it, and you’ve never heard of any of the golfers in this tournament. It’s called The DPRK Amateur Golf Open, and it’s North Korea’s only yearly golf competition.
Photo by Uri Tours
The nation’s prestigious golf event takes place next week, at the North’s only 18 hole course (the only other golf course in the country is only nine holes). The Pyongyang Golf Complex, a par 72 course located roughly 50 miles from the capital city, is the same course North Korean Officials claim leader Kim Jon Un shot a 33 on during his very first golf outing in 1992. His bodyguards claimed they witnessed 11 hole-in-ones that day, an incredible feat considering the odds of making just two hole-in-ones in a single round are 1 in 67,000,000! North Korea is much more well known for its hyperbole than its tourist destinations, which is why the government started the annual Golf Tournament in 2011. The economically depressed nation has partnered with a UK travel agency to offer travel packages for anyone who wants to participate in the two day golf tournament. And I mean anyone; if you’re interested, packages start at $1159. Fifteen golfers from around the world signed up for the 2012 tournament, so the competition isn’t fierce. The lowest score ever shot in the DPRK Open is 81, so if you can manage lower than that, you could become the greatest golfer North Korea has ever seen (unofficially, of course, thanks to Kim Jon Un)!
The picture above is a satellite image of the Pyongyang Golf complex, taken from Google Maps. Besides the couple dozen foreigners who make the trip there every year, the course is mainly used by diplomatic staff. It’s possible the course looks dead because the North is upgrading it’s prized club, but it’s safe to assume the course is just one of the nation’s many “illusions” and is only maintained when it has to be to impress the outside world. Either way, the course isn’t rated by any official golf association, which means there’s no slope rating and is one of the very few courses in the world you can’t compete on with WorldwideVirtualGolf.com.
Photo by Vladimir Lysenko (I.)
It’s no secret that North Korea is ruled by a military dictatorship with absolute power over every single person within its borders. Golf is low on the average North Koreans’ list of priorities, probably far below simply eating enough. Unlike it’s neighbor to the South, which features 15 players on the PGA Tour, it’s unlikely that the average North Korean even knows what golf is. The small nation’s internet isn’t even connected to the rest of the world, so don’t expect players from the North to start popping up in Worldwide Virtual Golf’s Tournaments anytime soon. But once the barriers between North Korea and the rest of the golf loving world eventually fall, it’s a safe bet that their repressed people will be able to pick up the clubs and fall in love with the game that connects us all. Until then, The DPRK Amateur Open will likely remain the only golf event in the North, and the Pyongyang Golf complex will continue to be nothing more than one of the many facades controlled by a ruthless dictator.
This blog has a ton of amazing pictures from the DPRK Open, as well as pictures from the rest of North Korea. It’s definitely worth checking out. If you want to compete against golfers from around the world in real tournaments, without leaving your city, sign up for Worldwide Virtual Golf, it’s free! Find out more at www.WorldwideVirtualGolf.com.