Poland gets capitalism, it will need someplace for capitalists to play. The Wroclaw Golf and Country Club wants to be ready, but for now Poland's first golf course demands a long drive of the imagination.
There are two trailers emblazoned "GOLF," and the clubhouse is a folding table under the awning of a small camper. The club pro has only played for a month. A dozen mats behind a blue rope form the driving range.
But turn the scraggly grass into tended fairways, dig sand traps, teach a few thousand Poles how to putt--and let the deals begin.
"Why not?" says Waldemar Stefanski, a Swedish golf promoter who is bringing his passion to his native Poland. "I know a lot of business can be made on a golf course. It is needed for Polish businessmen."
There's no golfing tradition in Poland. What people know about the sport comes mainly from satellite television. But Stefanski contends that golf, with its system of handicapping to equalize the competition, is perfect for post-communist Poland: "It is the most democratic game in the world."
Stefanski and his Swedish partner, both avid golfers, are building the Wroclaw Golf and Country Club with two Polish investors whose combined time on the green can be measured in minutes.
They opened the driving range in July on a small island adjoining the Wroclaw zoo. The area is best known as a lover's lane, leaving Stefanski worrying about those unfamiliar with the danger of errant golf balls.
A Swedish-designed nine-hole course is to be ready by spring.
Wroclaw officials have been supportive. Even the mayor stops by for a few swings every morning on the way to city hall.
Stefanski and his partner, Romuald Trautman, both from the Swedish city of Malmo, say the club will cost $500,000 to build. They want 2,000 members--each paying about $200 to join and then yearly fees--and hope for profitability in a year.
Hoping to hook new players, the club charges just 50 cents to rent a club and a basket of 25 balls.
The country club's backers are staying up late discussing birdies and bogies with Jerzy Slipko, a handball court expert who swung his first club on a soccer field a month ago. It seems par for the course: He's the new golf pro.