I hoped Igor was right, but I wasn't sure. The history of Russia suggests that every turn the country takes toward the West is followed by a turn inward, toward xenophobia and dictatorship. But I have also learned that only a fool extrapolates from Russian history to publish confident predictions about the future. (One such fool wrote in Newsweek in March 1985 that the history and structure of the Communist Party precluded the possibility that Mikhail Gorbachev would be a genuine reformer.) Russia is, at its core, unpredictable. We shall have to wait and hear how the song sounds when it is finished.
I could be certain only that 100 rubles were still at stake. Igor and I needed a bogey on the par-four eighteenth to halve the match. I was ten feet away, lying four. I hit my putt. It broke gently to the right and curled into the hole—my best stroke of the week. I handed Daniel my putter, trying to look like I wasn't surprised.
"Smyesh-NA-ya igra," I said.
"Da," Daniel agreed.
Moscow Swings: Golf in Russia
The Le Meridien Moscow Country Club is accessible to visitors to Russia. So is the Russian Amateur Open Championship. If you happen to be in Moscow during the golf season, which generally runs from May to October depending on the weather, you can call the club at 011-7-095-926-5925 or 011-7-095-926-5910 and request a tee time. Visitors are welcome on weekdays and on weekends after 1 p.m. The greens fee is $75 on weekdays, $90 on Fridays and $130 on weekends. Non-members are limited to three rounds of golf per season.
If you'd like to play more often, or to stay near the course, guests of the hotel at the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club in Nakhabino (rooms from $175-$325; suites from $550-$850) can usually play as often as they want during their stay and get a discount on the green fee. The hotel's direct number is 011-7-095-926-5911 or for reservations, call 800-543-4300 from the U.S. or visit lemeridien-mcc.com.
The Russian Amateur is a mid-summer event; the dates fluctuate from year to year. One place to ascertain the schedule is the "calendar" page of the Moscow Country Club members' Web site, mccmembers.ru. There are men's and women's divisions, and the championship flight is open to anyone with a single digit handicap. The entry fee is $250. The Le Meridien hotel can provide entry forms, or call the Russian Golf Association, 011-7-095-725-4719.
Tourists to Russia must have visas. Application details are available at the Russian Embassy's web site, russianembassy.org.