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Serious Hazard Golfing in a Volcanos Shadow

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia -- The caddies have fled. A pair of cleaning women squat beneath the shade of a tree close to the 18th hole. The club's manager sits and smokes, knowing he is in for a quiet couple of weeks.
When dormant, the volcano that gives Golf Merapi club its name is its biggest draw. Golfers from around the world come for the experience of playing on the flanks of a still active volcano, the crater of which is just 5 miles from the course.
But when the mountain is erupting, it stops play like nothing else.
'I tell people, it is probably safer to stay at home,' said Sukirman, the manager who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.
As Sukirman spoke the peak belched massive clouds of ash and sent searing hot gas clouds rolling down its slopes Monday. The club is situated just outside the peak's mandatory evacuation zone, and it is not the only business suffering because of Merapi's wrath, which scientists say could last several weeks.
Scores of guesthouses popular with adventure tourists are now off limits, as are campsites and restaurants catering to day-trippers from Yogyakarta, the nearest city to the volcano.
The peak sputtered to life several weeks ago and activity has steadily increased.
On Saturday, officials raised the alert status to the highest level, and more than 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many are staying in temporary shelters close to the club.
Sukirman said the caddies that ply the 6,969-yard, par-72 course ran home when a particularly large eruption shook the mountain Monday. The club closed its gates, and most of its 250 staff were told not to come to work.
'This is the risk of putting a club here,' Sukirman said. 'When there is an eruption, it can make the future look pretty unclear.'
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