Friday

Sensationalist Story Surrounds Beirut Golf Course

When I was in Beirut for two weeks in the summer of 2005,  I spent each day on the beaches, basking in the Mediterranean sun and swimming in a swirling sea so blue it melded with the azure sky. Our evenings were spent at outdoor eateries where, night after night, dozens of small dishes were delivered to our table, marking the start of another amazingly sumptuous feast.

I'd never played golf at that time, so had no reason to make my way to the Golf Club of Lebanon in the southern suburbs of the city.  Since I've become a golfer however,  I've often thought it would be awesome to go back to Beirut and play golf at the sun-drenched course adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.

The 15 year long Lebanese Civil War ended in the early nineties, and though there have been conflicts since then, the country and it's warm resilient people have rebuilt... quite fabulously.  Not long ago The New York Times actually named Beirut the number one place to visit in the world. and a few days ago Forbes magazine noted that the city was "increasingly hip".  Myriad other pieces on tourism in and around the Lebanese capitol have similar things to say.

So this morning I was surprised to see articles concerning The Golf Club of Lebanon ... and suggesting that it's harboring a dark secret.  ~ The stories stem from a piece in The Independent by Middle East correspondent and author Robert Fisk, claiming that as many as 1,000 Palestinian civilians may have been buried under the course.  In a subsequent CNN report James Montague traveled to Beirut and The Golf Club of Lebanon and heard varying opinions on the veracity of the story.

 I'm in no way disputing these facts nor am minimising the tragedy of the lives lost during the fifteen year Lebanese civil war however I was dismayed at the tone of the reporting, which to me emphasised the sensational, and painted a picture of the golf course as an elitist enclave with little regard for the loss of life that occurred in it's shadow.

Meanwhile tourism is a vital industry for Lebanon and the Lebanese people as they work to maintain peace in a n area that's seen more than its share of strife.  Golf could someday figure into the picture.

As the club's president,  Jihad Husseini explained golf is still a tiny sport in Lebanon but one that's growing, thanks to $40 green fees and free lessons.  "We are teaching children free of charge in some schools, free lessons in the summer. This year we have more than 95 young people playing. Golf is gaining popularity slowly but surely."