MINA AL-ZOUR, KUWAIT -- At Buck Sands Golf Club in Kuwait's southern desert the greens are called "browns" and the fairways are weighed down with crude oil to stop sand from whipping into players' eyes.
A faint whiff of petroleum hovers over the 18-hole course close to the border with Saudi Arabia, where Getty Oil has its headquarters and drills the Wafra oilfield jointly with the government.
It's so desolate that golfer Frank Henley jokes: "We've got one golfer who went out there and never came back."
But for him and the 70 members of the unique club, mainly Americans and Britons, it's a place to hone their golfing skills as well as a social center.
The "browns" are dark sand, dampened with a 60-40 mixture of lubricating oil and diesel fuel.
Instead of lawn mowers, special scrapers are used to keep the surface smooth. The sand and gravel fairways are kept in control with straight crude oil.
Players carry around an 18-inch-square patch of plastic grass, from which they hit the ball if it is in the defined area of the fairway.
When it's in the rough, patches of tough desert vegetation, they play the ball as it lies.
"It'll tear you up trying to get a ball out of there," said Henley, an American oilman who's lived in the Middle East for years.
"If you get a ferocious wind, it can make a big difference," said the club's pro, Frank McLaughlin, of Southend, England.
Members in the clubhouse tell how one golfer drove a ball 406 yards helped by the desert wind at his back.
Several spindly "trees," crafted from metal pipe painted brown and green, break the flat monotony of the landscape, along with little hillocks and other landscaping.
Among the hazards the golfers have to grapple with are ponds containing effluence from a nearby petroleum plant.
"It's quite clean, fish swim in it," one golfer said.
The 6,856-yard course is believed to be the longest in the Persian Gulf area and periodically hosts tournaments against Kuwait's Hunting and Equestrian Club as well as with other golf clubs in the region.
Back in the air-conditioned headquarters of Getty Oil, which is now part of Texaco but has retained its orginal name in Kuwait, General Manager Lloyd Austin said life continues much as usual despite three Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti oil installations.
The Getty headquarters are located at Mina al-Zour 50 miles south of Kuwait City. The oilfield is inside what used to be called the neutral zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
In the late 1940s a group of American companies obtained a 60-year concession from the Kuwaiti and Saudi governments to explore and exploit in the zone.
In 1969 a borderline slicing the area in two was approved and it was renamed the divided zone, with Wafra apportioned to Kuwait. By 1977, Getty was the only remaining American oil company operating in the Kuwaiti part of the zone. The American and Kuwaiti corporations provide various services for employes, including the golf course.
It may be an austere setting for a sport usually associated with lush vegetation and green vistas, but as Henley stood near the 14th hole and pointed toward the shimmering waters of the Gulf just a stone's throw away, he didn't seem to mind.
"I don't really know of any other golf course that has a prettier setting than this one," he said.