‘Dubai is a unique golfing destination’
I know you are the managing director of Dubai Golf, but what exactly does Dubai Golf encompass?
Dubai Golf is the management responsible for the three government-owned golf courses in Dubai – The Emirates Golf Club, The Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and The Nad Al Sheba Golf Club.
Because of our involvement in the development of golf in Dubai for 17 years, we established a management golf consultancy division called International Golf and Leisure Services, which offers consultancy in golf development in the region and abroad. We are currently in negotiations for a contract for golf development in Portugal. Entrepreneurs are in the process of developing a golf destination outside the Algrave and see Dubai as a prime example of how to proceed with their scheme.
We have another division called Dubai Golf Holidays and Events, which is an inbound and outbound golf tour operator division specifically targeting golfing holidays in Dubai and abroad.
Would you give me a short resume of the start of golf in Dubai.
It all started in 1986, when HH 7General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, decided to build the Emirates Golf Club. At the time primarily as part of Dubai’s infrastructure development as a tourism and commercial destination.
The project was so successful that the Creek Golf and Yacht Club was also developed, which is more of a resort development than the first golf course. The Emirates Golf Club is more a semi-members club, but also open to non-members. The Creek Club opened in 1993 at the same time as the nine-hole golf course inside the race track at Nad Al Sheba. In the next couple of years, Emirates Golf Club went from 18 to 36 holes – the Wadi Course and the Majlis Course and Nad Al Sheba went from nine holes to 18. Today, we operate four 18-hole golf courses plus the Emirates Academy of Golf, the Dubai Creek Golf Academy and the leisure facilities attached to the clubs.
At the Creek, we are currently building a five-star hotel, which is due to open in August next year plus 92 four-bedroom villas are also being built, which will be available for rent from February next year and onwards.
The Creek Golf Course is being completely rebuilt, designed by the Danish golfer, Thomas Bjorn. Plans are afoot for renovations and extensions at Nad Al Sheba and also some renovations will take place at Emirates’ Wadi Course. However, these plans are still on the drawing board.
How many golf courses does Dubai offer today? And how many are planned for the foreseeable future?
There are our four courses, the Montgomerie Golf Course and the Desert Course at the Arabian Ranches and they are all open as is the nine-hole course at the Jebel Ali Hotel.
Of newer courses there are the Al Badia Course at the Festival City, which will have a soft opening this month and an official one in February next year. Recently, came the Nakheel announcement of five-and-a-half courses being developed simultaneously and due for opening in February 2007 and, finally, there is the Ernie Els Golf Course being planned at Dubai Sports City.
Will that make Dubai the city with the most golf courses?
I can’t think of any other place, where you will find so many golf courses in a relatively small area. The beauty of Dubai as a golfing destination is the tremendous variety of courses for golfers to choose from within a short distance from wherever they are located and that makes Dubai very unique as a golfing destination.
Are Dubai nationals taking up golf?
Yes, very much so. It mainly started when the Creek Golf Club was inaugurated because it offered the first dedicated Golf Academy in Dubai. The UGA junior development division, which was established, has been very popular among nationals and several young players are developing extremely well.
Going on from this, can you see a champion golfer coming out of this part of the world?
We will certainly have our own UAE professionals from this youth division such as rapidly developing players like Rashid Alabbar, for instance. Whether they will qualify for the top echelon of the PGA European Tour remains to be seen, but I believe that with the next four to five years we will see professional UAE golfers.
Is it easy for a visiting golfer to get a round? Or must he book a round at the same time, as he books his holiday or business trips?
It depends on the day of the week. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are busy days and thus difficult without booking. Other days of the week are easier. If a tourist or businessman is not that bothered about which course he plays on, then there is no problem. However, if his heart is set on the Majlis Course, which is in great demand any time, I would recommend to book well in advance. We now have a central reservation system in place, which was originally set up for the tour operators bringing in groups of golfers for a golfing holiday. At the moment we are working on extending this system to all golf courses in Dubai, thus there will be only one number to contact to get a round of golf.
Which is your favourite golf course in the world and why?
I would have to say the Majlis Course, which is very special to me, because I was involved in developing it from day one. Designed by the American, Carl Litten, it really is a fantastic golf course. I think, one of the very best in the world. Litten has designed many golf courses in the US and around the world. He has just finished one in Egypt, but he always says that the Majlis was the best he has ever designed.