Turkmenistan is one of the Central Asian nations that formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country, which is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and enjoys a long coastline on the Caspian Sea, has some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. Much of the land is covered by the Karakum Desert, while historic cities like Merv recall a time when the Silk Road passed through. Though it is seldom visited by tourists, Turkmenistan's people have a rich culture and are very open to outsiders. Part of the reason for the country's isolation has been the government, which until 2006 was in the hands of a dictator who covered Turkmenistan with images of himself. A presidential republic was established after the strongman's death, and some tentative steps have been taken toward democratization, though Turkmenistan remains for all intents and purposes a one-party state.
Golf does not appear to have been played here before the Soviet era, and the communist regime certainly did not promote the game, nor did the dictator. The president who replaced him and has remained in office ever since, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, has however committed to building a course, since Turkmenistan is slated to host the 2017 Asian Games. The hope is that this course will attract tourists and generate interest in the game among locals. Jack Nicklaus is in charge of creating the championship layout, which will be located in the capital city of Ashgabat.