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Red Dreams And Putting Greens: Cuba’s Golf Renaissance

Registration began this week for the popular new Montecristo Cup golf tournament. Pro-golfers from all over the world are expected to come. Just don’t expect to see Tiger Woods there. The Montecristo Cup takes place in Varadero, Cuba. Surprised? Don’t be. The Castros have built or refurbished over a hundred golf courses all over Cuba over the last few years. Seems like a weird thing for communists to do, eh?

You’d be right. Back in the good old days when Cuba was the awesome playground for gangsters and badassery, Cuba was known for its great golf courses. Unlike a lot of Caribbean islands, Cuba is relatively flat and is ideal for big courses. It was not uncommon to see Frank Sinatra taking a break from making out with Ava Gardner in the Hotel Nacional, to play 18 holes with Meyer Lansky. This author’s grandfather belonged to a country club in his central Cuban town. When the revolution came, along with the casinos and hotels, Fidel Castro closed all but two of the golf courses. My grandfather’s country club was turned into a Soviet run fish cannery. The Soviets saw golf as a bourgeois imperialist American game…which we can’t argue with. Still, while the U.S.S.R was around Cuba didn’t need the tourism revenue. When the Soviet Union came down, Cuba had to scramble to build up its tourist industry.

When I was growing up, the Castros were compared to Hitler a lot in my house. But I don’t think this is an accurate comparison. Besides the fact that Fidel has way better facial hair than Adolf, there is one major difference between the two of them: Fidel Castro isn’t crazy. Raul even less so. They realize that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in golf tourism. Rich white dudes will pay thousands of dollars a night to stay at a nice golf resort. So, while his late buddy Hugo was dismantling his courses in Venezuela, Fidel and Raul started opening new ones. When I was in Cuba two years ago, I saw my grandfather’s club being turned back into a golf course. Socialism is fine and dandy, but sometimes Karl Marx has to give way to Groucho Marx, who famously said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member. You have to wonder if president Donald Trump left the door open to opening hotels and golf courses in Cuba in his recent reversal of Obama’s Cuba policy so that he can add to the golf boom in Cuba. I wonder if we’ll see him teeing off with Raul any time soon?

Via CNN.

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