Friday, May 4, 2007

Miniature Golf in Iraq

TALL AFAR, Iraq—Golf is being played in the far corners of Iraq at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes. The course was made by Sgt. Eddy Arnold, 42, of the 1st Squadron(Air), 17th Cavalry (1/17th CAV) stationed at FOB Sykes.
Located 40 miles from Syria, near the Iraqi town of Tall Afar, the “Chip & Putt” is an improvised miniature golf course. Next to the nine hole course is also a driving range.
Tee time is 1700 for a few soldiers. The Chip & Putt was constructed by Sgt. Eddy Arnold, 42. Arnold, originally from the Philippines, serves in the US Army's 1/17th CAV as a truck driver, but currently his assignment called for constructing this miniature golf course.
“Our job is to support the troops and beautify the FOB,” he said. Sgt. Devon McDermott, 20, from Las Vegas, NV, said he holds the best score. The par is 36, he said, and he came in at 26, while Specialist Kyle Ambeau, 21, from New Orleans said he holds the worst score. Both are in the 1/17th CAV.

The Chip & Putt is open to everyone on the base. Construction, said Arnold, was a group effort. Even the Air Force helped out. Materials were donated from companies of soldiers across the FOB, and some items were recovered from the burn pit, such as the long pipe that runs from the top of the bunker between the 8th and 9th hole.
Prior to placing the holes, Arnold said he flattened the course by dragging a large piece of wood that resembled a railroad tie, over the area.
“This is different from the original plan,” he said. “I wanted to make it a challenge.”
Part of the challenge involves climbing an abandoned Iraqi bunker that resembles a pyramid.

“It keeps them in shape because they have to climb,” said Arnold, who confessed that he never played golf, and still does not. He said he enjoys watching the soldiers play golf.
“It gives them time to relax,” he said. “When I go outside the wire, I will want something like this to come back to.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Jones, 28, from Spokane, Wash. and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Epling, 32, from Stevenson, Wash. are UH-60 Black Hawk pilots in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment based in Wahiawa (Oahu). The 2-25 AVN is attached to the 1/17th CAV. Jones and Epling played the Chip & Putt a few times.

“It's a fun course,” said Jones. “They got pretty creative with some of the holes, like trying to chip on to go up the bunker.”

After playing the Chip & Putt, Jones and Epling got the idea to make a full sized course to play. They started in December.
They scavenged a Driver, an 8 Iron, a Pitching Wedge and a Sand Wedge.
“We finally decided to do something,” said Jones. “It started with us just picking out a piece of trash in the distance and hitting to it.”
They make tees out of the tops of plastic water bottles. The course they made has a varying amount of holes and rests at the end of a runway, near a garbage pit where refuse is incinerated.
“We have a few holes and few targets that remain stationary,” said Jones. Depending on the OPTEMPO of missions and the weather (it's currently rainy in Northern Iraq), they play regularly for a few hours after lunch.
“We play to with in a club length of the hole because the rough terrain makes putting impossible,” said Epling. “We are actually thinking of making a score card.”

“I guess you kind of forgot where you are at for the moment,” said Jones. “It's a good change.”
Jones is on his third combat tour of Iraq. Epling did a tour of Afghanistan prior to this Iraq tour. This is the first time that they have been able to find a place play golf and have a few golf clubs and balls.
When this tour, which was recently extended three months, ends this fall, Jones and Epling hope to play golf at Turtle Bay.

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