Golfing has always had a hardcore following in Qatar and the Doha Golf Club (DGC) course regularly attracts overseas player for visits, competitions and golf clinics; it is also host to the joint PGA Tour Qatar Masters.
However, in recent years, the sport has increased in popularity among locals as well as expats and enthusiasm has spread to school students of many different nationalities.
The DGC is one of three in the country at present, with two more planned in the new North Beach Development, which is in an advanced stage of planning and on which initial work is just beginning. The two other existing clubs – in Mesaieed and Dukhan – are not grass courses, but rather offer the novelty of playing on ‘browns’ rather than greens, with oil on sand. They represent half a century or so of golfing in Qatar and are still popular with people living in those areas as well as further afield.
The DGC has hosted the Qatar Masters since 1998 as well as a number of local, regional and international events. In terms of current happenings, The Pipeline Magazine / Landmark Classic – the golf tournament of the Excellence in Energy Awards, the region’s annual oil and gas industry Oscars – will be held in Qatar for the first time this year, on November 24. The competition will take a Texas scramble format on the 7,312 yard, 18-hole par-72 championship course, one of two courses at the DGC (the second is the floodlit nine-hole Academy Course). Club officials say the Championship course, designed by Peter Harradine, has 18 holes each with a different character.
Qatar Masters competitors find the occasional strong March winds another challenge, while those who visit the DGC to watch rather than to play love the peace and quiet, the landscaped beauty – and the flora and fauna. Nine years ago, the site was just barren desert; the transformation was achieved with the help of 1,300 palm trees, 10,000 other trees, 5,000 shrubs and 65 Arizona cacti. The lakes have been stocked with fish, birds (including ducks) and butterflies have made the area their home, and the wild rabbits are obedient enough to limit their attentions to the rough, staying away from the 150 hectares of manicured fairways and greens!
The DGC and Qatar Airways Holidays, a subsidiary of the national carrier, along with some leading hotels like Ramada Doha, Mövenpick, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Rydges Plaza and the InterContinental have introduced golfing packages that include airfare, two nights accommodation, breakfast, airport transfers, car hire, two rounds of golf including use of a buggy and GPS. In addition to players from other parts of the Gulf who want to experience different courses, the DGC has proved a popular destination with club pros from other parts of the world who want to find a warmer – and drier – destination for golf clinics than would be provided in their home countries.
By GINA COLEMAN
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