Danger fits me to a tee.
As the gunfire continued behind us, I stared at the distant target through a small pair of binoculars and the U.S. soldier next to me did the same. “It’s farther away than it looks,” he said. His words were punctuated by more shooting, which seemed much closer.
“Whatever you do, don’t go left — that’s a minefield,” the soldier added. My mind raced with possibilities. I was an embedded journalist, a non-combatant, but circumstances now forced me to take sides. At best, I had three, maybe four shots at success…but the first one would matter most. I turned to the soldier and asked, “What would you use?” He stared me straight in the eyes and without skipping a beat said, “A three wood.”
This was Camp Bonifas, a Republic of Korea army post just 13,000 feet outside the Demilitarized Zone that separated North and South Korea. Here, more than a million soldiers stare daily across at one another, poised to resume the war that never officially ended. It’s the reason why past American presidents who have come here have called it the “most dangerous place on earth.” Which is how the “world’s most dangerous golf course” earned its name.
Read more about Martin Savidge’s patrol in the DMZ.
To be honest, it’s not a course at all, but a single 192-yard par-3 located next to the base’s target range — which accounted for the distracting gunfire as I teed off. So to call it a course is a bit of a stretch, but the hazards are real. Beginning with its location on the edge of the DMZ, the trip-wire of Armageddon. Then, along the left side of the fairway, is a real minefield. Attempting to retrieve a ball out of bounds there is unwise. It’s safer to just take the one stroke penalty.
The bunkers on the right side are real as well. If the base were to ever come under attack, soldiers could dive into them for shelter. Back behind the green rises is a guard tower complete with search lights. The green itself is too difficult to maintain naturally, so it was fitted with a sort of cheap outdoor carpet. Instead of wearing chinos and polo shirts, my fellow golfers were decked out in camouflage fatigues.
How’d I do? Well, because of a wrinkle on the green, I three-putted and ended up with a double bogey. Feeling dejected, I decided to drown my sorrow with a dip in the “world’s most dangerous pool.”
– Martin Savidge