He says the reason everything looks so smooth and lush is that the course was built with painstaking care. Bulldozers and other heavy machinery leveled the landfill, and sod imported from Sweden and Finland was laid down.
The fine touches aren't restricted to the course. The clubhouse includes a modern business facility where international telephone lines and fax and Telex machines are being installed. In the Soviet Union, where an international telephone line must be reserved hours in advance, such amenities are nothing short of sensational. Construction is continuing at the Tumba Club, which will also sport tennis courts, saunas and, says Tumba, "the best five-star restaurant in Moscow, with imported international cuisine."
Whom is the club for? Good question. The average Soviet worker makes roughly 270 rubles (about $158) per month, and that's not a country-club wage. "An equity membership at my club now costs about $20,000," says Tumba. "Many companies need a place like this, to play a little golf, play a little tennis. Until now, there was nowhere. Now there is finally a place in Moscow where businessmen can relax."
As might have been expected, foreign firms with branches in the U.S.S.R. were the first companies to sign up. They include Japanese and South Korean companies as well as several that are headquartered in Western Europe and the U.S.—Du Pont, for instance, has a membership, as does Spalding.
Tumba's goal is to sell 400 corporate memberships, and he says he's well on his way to that number. He has invested the equivalent of $500,000 of his own money in developing the club, but hopes to be in the black by this summer. After that, Gorby and glasnost willing, the sky will be the limit. Or so Tumba thinks.
As a condition of gaining permission to build, Tumba promised government officials that his club would be available not only to wealthy foreigners with bags full of dollars and deutsche marks but also, for free, to some 250 Soviet kids. "I told them, 'If you think golf is too capitalist, watch the kids. They'll love it.' "
"A couple years ago I was a student in a special sports school, and one day a representative of the golf course showed up and invited us to play golf," says Oksana Ivanova, a brown-haired, freckled 17-year-old. "I didn't have any idea what golf was back then."
Tumba himself first showed the kids how to grasp a club. After months of practice, a group of about 20, Oksana included, began to outshine the others. They became the club's junior traveling squad, and some have participated in tournaments abroad, venturing as far as the United States. They practice five hours a day at Tumba's driving range in the summer, and knock balls into nets in the winter. Wearing suntans and Adidas sportswear, the well-groomed A team looks like a bunch of preppies on summer vacation.
In addition to the corporate subscribers and the kids, there are some very special individual members. Tumba gave them honorary memberships for their marquee value, and most of them still haven't played golf. Well-known Muscovite figures like artist Ilya Glazunov, pop star Alla Pugacheva and clothing designer Vyacheslav Zaitsev belong. Raisa and Mikhail Gorbachev are members, as is Soviet prime minister Nikolai Ryzkhov. Arnold Palmer is an honorary member. Whether he will ever tee it up at the Tumba Club remains a question.
Many of the local, celebrities, if not Palmer, were on hand for the course's grand opening, which was quite a bash and is still talked about in Moscow sporting and business circles. Two hundred fifty glitterati from Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and other places descended upon the clubhouse, frantically ordering cocktails and attacking the smorgasbord, the likes of which hadn't been seen in town for some time. Swedish meatballs and Soviet caviar were devoured by the plateful as an orchestra played classical music from the second floor.