Libyan golf fighting for survival amid tough conditions

Lack of resources and support from the state hampering the growth of a once vibrant sport in Libya
People play golf in the afternoon before curfew in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on April 22, 2020. (Photo by Abdullah DOMA / AFP)

Despite the ongoing conflict in Libya, golf enthusiasts in the country have tried to revive the neglected sport. At the Juliana Golf Course of Benghazi, local tournaments are held on a wasteland, covered with wild grass and stagnant water ponds.

Despite its poor condition, this course is considered one of the oldest on the African continent. The nine-hole course, which was established by British individuals in the late 1940s, is one of only three golf courses in the country. But the field suffered negligence when dictator Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969 and stopped the support for golf, which had been a very popular sport at the time.

Despite those cutbacks, the love for golf still exists and some Libyans have returned to practice after a decade-long absence. Abdelhalim Al-Hwiti was a professional golfer before he became a coach and represented Libya at several world championships, from 1983 to 2015.

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He believes that the younger generation has good potential, but the lack of equipment and negligence for this sport makes it difficult for them to achieve their aspirations. Most golfers in Libya are mainly expatriates and many Libyans learned to play while caddying for the oil company executives who introduced golf to the country in the 60s.

In Tripoli, they play at the Tripoli Golf Club or the Tajura Golf Club, both 18 holes courses. There’s also a course in the eastern city of Benghazi and one in the oil refinery town of Brega. All the courses are all sand.

Libya is a land of incredibly rich history, with some of the best-preserved Greek and Roman ruins, as well as stunning Islamic architecture. The tourism industry in the country is essentially non-existent after decades of a repressive government and several years of civil war. And while much of the territory is occupied by the Sahara Desert, the strip of coastline on the Mediterranean has great potential as a resort destination.

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The head of the Libyan Golf Federation in the eastern region, Mabrouk Mohamed, said that among the biggest problems faced by the federation is the lack of resources and support from the state.

Mohamed revealed that, although the country is considered rich because of its oil production, the Libyan governments and the Ministry of Sports show no interest in golf. Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Libya, like many other countries has suspended sports activities such as golf to limit the spread of the outbreak.

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