Dom Joly: The guns have fallen silent on the golf course

Related Topics

To Beirut golf course (le "Royal Beirut" as it's known to locals wags) for a leisurely round. I haven't played here since I was about 12 years old. This is where I swung my very first golf club. There was an Egyptian pro who gave me lessons.

In those days, being left-handed was the equivalent of having "666" tattooed on your forehead. It meant that you were in league with "Chaitan" (Satan) and there were no left-handed clubs available. This is why I still play right-handed: it gives me a fabulous excuse for my awful game – "you should see me when I play left-handed".

We tee off at the first hole. It's difficult to concentrate as there are two muezzins competing with each other from neighbouring minarets. "Le Royal Beirut" is right on the edge of the Hezbollah-controlled southern Shia suburbs of Beirut, and their warrens of tight alleys, closely packed concrete homes and rickety balconies overlook the course. If this were in Caracas, Hugo Chavez would have confiscated the place ages ago.

I play a decent first hole but we are held up on the second as a gentleman decides to take a short cut across the course on a motorbike. He weaves his way unsteadily across the fairway laden down with bulbous bags of shopping. Once he disappears I manage to hit a pretty decent drive that takes me to the bottom of a hill. I cannot see the green but am advised to aim for the large Hezbollah hospital building that looms over the end of the hole – "for God's sake don't hit it though".

The third hole is pleasant enough although I hit an unexpectedly good shot and nearly knock a smart Lebanese golfer unconscious. In the old days this could have turned into something more serious but he is perfectly cordial and insists that we play through. The fourth hole has a viciously strong smell of sewage about it but we are unable to track down the source.

The fifth hole is the one I have been warned about. The last time my companion played here, a man emerged on to his balcony right above the green and started randomly firing a machine-gun. It doesn't help the nervous putter. Fortunately there is no sign of the gunman this time but we are noticeably quicker around the green.

The sixth hole is tricky, as you have to negotiate the tall metal landing beacons that used to guide planes into Beirut International Airport. Happily for us, the flight path has now changed so they no longer swoop over the course so low that you can touch them with a three-wood. I hit a good drive on the seventh that lands me near a newish-looking water hazard full of ducks. I wonder whether this is what the gunman was going for?

At the hole we are faced with a hazard that even Tiger Woods would find tricky – a live electricity cable is suspended over the edge of the green at head height. One brush with a wayward club and we are Lebanese toast.

On to the eighth, a short par three that has what appears to be either the world's largest bunker or a building site running along the entire left-hand side. The appearance of a loud digger during my swing solves the conundrum. It's now 35C in the shade and we are starting to struggle in the heat, never mind the local diversions. We wait for two more motorbikes to travel down the ninth before holing up and calling it a day.

We hit the clubhouse, deserted save for an Irish UN soldier deep in conversation with a shifty-looking US civilian. We order two ice-cold Almaza beers and set the world to rights over chicken schnitzels. I think it's time for a Beirut Open to be added to the PGA Tour.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk