Armenia’s developing golf scene
Ashley Kalagian Blunt tours Armenia and takes a look at the Ararat Valley golf course
The Ararat Valley Golf Course is the first and so far only course in Armenia. According to the owner, Vahak Hovnanian, golfers have described this modest nine-hole course as one of the best to learn on, especially considering the low green fees. Nine holes cost 2,500 Armenian dram, a little less than £4.
The course, open from March through December, is located outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. It overlooks Soviet-era suburbs, with Mt. Ararat as a dramatic backdrop on clear days. It has a total yardage of 2,451, including two par fives, two par threes, and five par fours.
Hovnanian opened the course in 2005, but at that time, nobody in Armenia knew anything about golf. Hovnanian, who spent most of his life in America, is passionate about developing golf into a local sport and encouraging international golfers to experience Armenia. To promote the sport, Ararat Valley holds an annual tournament in October and offers a golf academy where private learners, and elementary and high school students take lessons from up-and-coming local pro Garin Hovanessian.
In summer 2012, the course was under remodelling for what Hovnanian hoped would be the last time. He feels that in two or three years, it will be able to compete on an international level.
Golf’s popularity in Armenia is starting to grow, according to Hovhannes Margaryan, director of the Armenian Tourism Bureau. ATB has previously organised a one-week golf tourism package for a group of professional golfers from two French clubs. The package included five days of golf and two days touring some of Armenia’s historical highlights, such as Tatev Monastery and Fortress, accessible by the world’s longest aerial tramway, which crosses the Vorotan Canyon. The golfers also experienced khoravats, traditional Armenian barbecue, as well as wine-tasting at Areni, close to the world’s oldest wine-making site.
ATB has plans for another golf package that will include competition with local players. As golf becomes popular, they hope to see more golf courses in the country. A small Christian nation, Armenia is still struggling to establish itself economically after becoming independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ashley Kalagian Blunt, a freelance writer who recently spent a couple months in Armenia, which included an extensive interview and tour of the Ararat Valley golf course, wrote the above article exclusively for Top 100 Golf Courses. Click the link to read Ashley’s article, “Travels in Armenian summer”.