North Korean Amateur Open will offer unique golf experience this week

Tuesday April 26th, 2011
The tournament's logo, from the official site.
northkoreanopen.com

Time for a golfing road trip with your buddies?

Yes, you say. But you've already been down the same old roads before.

Myrtle Beach? Been there. Pinehurst? Done that. Bandon Dunes? Already a cliché. The Homestead, Greenbrier, Kohler? Yup, yup, yup. So how about someplace more exotic? Like Korea?

Interesting.

Sorry, make that North Korea.

Seriously. This is for real. You'd have to act quickly, like immediately, but the North Korean Amateur Open golf tournament will be played this Friday, April 29. The tournament is open to all golfers with recognized handicaps. According to the event's website, there have been more than 16 entries worldwide.

It's a small amateur event, really more of an outing and a chance to see a country that few in the Western have seen firsthand.

First, the details: The entry fee is about $1,400. That includes four nights in a five-star hotel, a visa, the tournament entry, and return train travel from your jumping off point in China. Not included is your flight to China. It's a one-day tournament, and the rest of your trip will feature a three-day tour of North Korea. To enter, send an email to Lupine Travel at info@LupineTravel.co.uk. (If North Korea isn't exotic enough, Lupine Travel also offers Trans-Mongolian rail trips and tours of Chernobyl.)

The tournament, such as it is, will be played at the Pyongyang Golf complex, North Korea's finest course. It is also North Korea's only 18-hole championship track. According to the website, the course is seven kilometers long, covers 120 hectares and features 45 hectares of putting surfaces. Check your local metric conversion table for numbers you'll understand. (When the Pyongyang course opened in 1994, Kim Jong-Il reportedly played his first round of golf, shooting a 38-under 34 on 18 holes, with 11 holes-in-one and an eagle at the 370-yard, par-4 first. If some putts had dropped, it would have been really special.)

The course has a scenic location overlooking Taicheng Lake, which is used for boating and fishing. The golf resort also has shopping, restaurants, meeting rooms and a sauna, according to the official site.

A previous amateur golf tournament was held in North Korea in 2004 with eight players, three of them actually non-golfers, a British ambassador and a journalist from an American golf magazine. Never mind who won. Everyone made it home in one piece.

With a number of the early entrants for the 2011 North Korea Amateur Open carrying double-digit handicaps, it probably won't take anything as low as 38 under to win this special event, even if the Dear Leader is a late entry. (If he is and winds up in your group, gimmes are advisable.)

It'll be a buddy trip the likes of which you'll never forget. Playing in this unique event in North Korea might get you an interview on Golf Channel, it's so newsworthy. Especially if you successfully make it back home.

Or, you could go back to Myrtle Beach, which has Waffle Houses.

Your call.

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