‘Dubai will soon rival any golf destination in the world’

Golfer-turned-brand GREG NORMAN, who’s working closely with Nakheel to design golf courses in the UAE, speaks to KEITH J FERNANDEZ about the mini-boom in the emirate

TTN: What determines golf course design? What appeals to you about it?
Greg Norman: There is no particular philosophy when I set out to design a new course, other than to make sure nothing looks artificial.

We never try and fit a golf course onto land that won’t allow for it. Each piece of earth is unique and, therefore, each design as well. We never go to a site with a preconceived notion of what the property should become. It’s very satisfying to be able to take a raw piece of land and create a golf course that people will be playing long after we’re all gone. It’s something that comes naturally to me, and it’s one of my greatest professional passions.

How different is it designing golf courses in the Middle East from anywhere else?
Each geographic region presents its own nuisances and challenges. The desert is no different. One thing I have learned about emerging golf markets is that variety is a key component. My challenge is to design aesthetically pleasing, playable golf courses with different looks and concepts.

What’s going to be special about the courses you’re designing in Dubai?
Two courses will be interlinked with the elements of nature. They are designed to both inspire and motivate players. The Earth course will enhance the landscape and offer wonderful views of the entire course. For the first time in Dubai, a course will have dramatic natural elevations and the indigenous flora and fauna will be promoted to underpin the environmental balance in the existing landscape. The design will incorporate olive trees, dates and figs. Fire will utilise a least-disturbance approach, so as to maximize the natural landscape. The design will incorporate rock outcroppings, which will emphasize the aesthetic qualities of the site while at the same time placing a premium on shot-making and course management. It will certainly be recognised as a risk-reward course upon completion.

What are the region’s unique challenges?
The biggest challenge is the scarcity of water and the blowing sand. Having sand to work with can be beneficial at times and other times it can be difficult, because it can be tough to shape or form.

Where’s the next boom market for golf?
That’s a great question. I honestly think Dubai will soon rival any golf destination in the world. The scope, speed and unbelievable progress achieved have been incredible to watch over the past decade. The magnitude of the growth is very impressive as well. And every aspect is commissioned to the most exacting standards.