Bahrain is witnessing a burgeoning golfing scene, with more women and children taking to the fairways than ever before.
"Since the opening of Riffa Golf Club in 1999, many new players have taken up the game, while those who were already keen golfers have been able to play and practice regularly, thereby improving their games and lowering their handicaps," says Aine Mangan, the club's sales and marketing manager.
"We regularly see fields of more than 50 players in the weekly competitions at Riffa, while our major tournaments attract even higher numbers of members, their guests and other visitors," she says.
The launch of Night Golf in June this year provided a major incentive to players who were previously unable to play during the week because of work commitments, and the Club is welcoming many more business people on a daily basis as a result.
"We also have a significant number of lady golfers and a thriving junior section with children as young as five years of age coming regularly for tuition. In addition to Bahrain residents, a sizeable proportion of the club's members are residents of Saudi Arabia, so you could say that the thriving golf community extends across the causeway."
Riffa Golf Club offers a number of specially-tailored tuition packages aimed at players of all ages and levels of ability. Some of the most popular include the Ladies Beginner Golfee groups, and children's packages in the club's Junior School of Excellence.
"The highly successful Ladies Golfee morning classes have been running for nearly two years and are aimed at introducing ladies to golf and giving them an understanding of some of the other facets of the game in a relaxed environment," says Mangan.
Each class lasts one hour and is followed by coffee and biscuits in the clubhouse.
The eight-week courses offer ladies, who have never played golf before, the chance to join a group of others in a similar situation, enabling them to learn together in a friendly and supportive environment without undue pressure, at the price of just BD65.
"The chance to relax and meet new people over coffee afterwards adds the finishing touch. We now have a significant number of ladies who started out never having swung a golf club in their lives who have become good players and some have even started competing," says Mangan.
Children represent the next generation of golfers and the Junior School of Excellence at Riffa is dedicated to turning out the Middle East region's top young golfers.
Floodlit golf, however, has been the feather in the club's cap: "It's fantastic, we've really been overwhelmed by the response to floodlit golf. Three months after the launch, the club is still buzzing with excitement as golfers beat a path down to Riffa for the after-dark golfing experience!" says Mangan.
The club aimed to have night Golf up and running at the start of the Gulf's summer season when soaring temperatures during the day would allow golfers to appreciate the full benefit of being able to play after dark.
"The project was completed on target and the strategy was definitely the right one with figures showing that the number of rounds of golf played at the club in July and August this year increased by 25 per cent and 29 per cent respectively over the same periods in 2001. With the weather cooling down, we expect Night Golf to maintain its popularity, especially as the daylight hours diminish over winter."
In terms of special deals, Riffa Golf Club and the Regency InterContinental Hotel are currently offering specially-tailored golf packages.
Riffa Golf Club has teamed up to promote the benefits of luxury five-star accommodation and golf at the golf club.
The 'Weekday Wander' package, she adds, offers one or two night stays between Saturday and Tuesday, with golf on Sunday to Wednesday, while the 'Weekend Wander' package is available for stays on Wednesday to Friday evenings with golf on Thursday to Saturday.
Costs range from BD108 to BD253, depending on the number of golfers and how many nights they stay.
Mangan believes that the region is an area with great potential for growth, given the surge in popularity of golf, not only in Bahrain, but in the Middle East in general.
"I think we are starting to see just how significant a contribution golf tourism can make to the region's tourism revenue as a whole," she says.
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