A man tees off on the second hole at the Kabul Golf Club.
Photo Getty Images
There is nothing luxurious about a round of golf at
Afghanistan's lone course.
Kabul Golf Club's nine holes are a zigzag of rocky dirt
fairways, its greens a brownish mix of oil and sand.
But it is exclusive. More people can claim to have crested
Mount Everest than can say they've played golf in Kabul. Not
even Patrick Reed, the 23-year-old who won the Cadillac
Championship this month, has teed off there.
That kind of bragging right - and the security required to
hit the links in one of the world's most dangerous areas -
comes at a price. A new Miami company is offering
extreme-golf adventures to those willing to pay $40,000 to
$80,000 for a five-day excursion.
"Our clientele are people who have $10 million-plus in
assets, which is a growing number now, and who are looking
for the experience of a lifetime," Cavalry and Co. co-founder
Ross Thompson said. "We're talking about people 35 to 55 who
have made their money and still have some lead in their
pencils, so to speak."
The trips, scheduled to begin in May, include ritzy
accommodations at a Dubai resort where rooms start at $1,400
Cavalry clients will play rounds at coveted Dubai courses,
like the Greg Norman-designed championship Earth Course at
Jumeirah Golf Estates and Address Montgomerie, where the
par-three 13th hole boasts the world's largest putting
Beyond golf, Cavalry can arrange side excursions in the
United Arab Emirates, including skydiving, weapons shooting,
dune surfing, deep-sea fishing and shopping.
"These are not designed to be strictly guys' trips," Thompson
said. "It could be a couples' vacation where the women lay
out on the beach while the guys play golf, and everyone's
back together for a five-star dinner at night."
That sort of golf-and-glamour trip would be at the low end of
Cavalry's rate card. Add an adventure to Kabul or Beirut
("Tee Off in Hezbollah's Back Yard," the company's website
pitches), and the price can double.
Cavalry will fly clients from Dubai to Kabul or Beirut in a
private jet. From Kabul, a decommissioned Soviet Mi-8
military helicopter will whisk golfers to and from the Kabul
Golf Course, where armed guards will keep watch over their
"In Kabul, it's very dangerous to travel by road, which is
why the helicopter is necessary," said Cavalry co-founder
Horacio Ortiz, a veteran security consultant and
military-trained sniper. "The airport only operates during
the daytime, so we have to get in early and out before
Kabul Golf Club, located in Qargha, on the city's western
outskirts, is an unforgiving course maintained by director
and pro Mohammad Afzal Abdul. He reopened the club in 2004,
after a quarter-century of near-constant wars. Youthful
caddies lay down small patches of artificial turf so duffers
don't tee off on rocks. Remnants of Taliban violence remain
"You can see on the course where mortars have exploded,"
Ortiz said. "Sometimes you don't know whether to take out a
golf club or a shovel."
Thompson said he hopes Cavalry's business in Kabul will help
Abdul afford the irrigation system and landscaping his course
needs to go from lacking to lush.
Beirut's Golf Club of Lebanon offers a much more traditional
experience: neatly manicured fairways; a cool Mediterranean
Sea breeze; a fancy clubhouse restaurant. It just happens to
be in the home of one of the world's most violent militant
"We will have no problems in Beirut," Ortiz said. "We have
good, trustworthy contacts there. We can even spend the night
there if clients want."
Ortiz, 60, and Thompson, 28, met through their work in
private investigations and executive protection, which has
taken them from South Florida to Latin America, Europe,
Africa and the Middle East.
Ortiz will lead Cavalry's trips, ensuring clients' safety
along with others who have weapons and combat experience.
Thompson is handling business development, including scouting
potential destinations in the Congo and Bolivia.
The U.S. State Department has warnings for Americans
traveling to Afghanistan and Lebanon. "Kabul remains at high
risk for militant attacks, including vehicle-borne improvised
explosive devices, direct and indirect fire and suicide
bombings," the government notes. In Beirut, three suicide
bombings in December and January killed 17 people and injured
more than 150, the department reported.
"Look, these are risky places," Ortiz said. "I cannot say
nothing bad ever happens in Kabul or Beirut, but we will take
every precaution. We will make sure not to announce ourselves
to draw unwanted attention. Our job is to ensure safety and