Contributor Perspectives

The 'Fairway Theory of History' Appears to Hit the Mark

Thomas M. Hunt
Board of Contributors
Oct 15, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
This photo shows a Chinese tourist photographing the derelict golf course at the shuttered Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea.

This photo taken on September 1, 2011 shows a Chinese tourist taking photos of a golf course which has been closed for over three years at the Mount Kumgang international tourist zone in North Korea. Once a thriving resort and a symbol of cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang, shops in North Korea's Mount Kumgang are now shut, hotels vacant and the golf course empty, as the lush region opened in 1998 as a jointly-run scenic spot for South Koreans, but tours there were suspended after a North Korean soldier shot dead a visitor from the South who had strayed into a restricted zone in July 2008.

(GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Beyond its value as entertainment and exercise, golf can provide geopolitical insight, at least according to a theory advanced by Richard Haass, the long-serving president of the venerable Council on Foreign Relations. In an article titled "What Golf Teaches Us About Geopolitics" and published in Newsweek magazine in September 2009, Haass argued that the links game offered a useful lens through which to think about the world. His thesis was that a country's relationship with the game to a large degree matched the degree of its economic and political openness. Growth in the former, he asserted, usually occurred alongside growth in the latter; and the reverse was also true. As for what lay behind this relationship, Haass wrote: "It is not just that the game tends to flourish in countries that welcome tourists, who can bring new ideas along with their bags of clubs. Large numbers of golf courses reflect...

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