Golfing legend Gary Player finds Abu Dhabi a “great tourist destination” and a place where visitors have “as good or better hotels than you will find anywhere else in the world.”
He was speaking to TTN at the Abu Dhabi Golf Course recently after the launch of his eco conscious design for his signature Saadiyat Beach Golf Course, the Arabian Gulf’s first ocean course due to be built on Saadiyat Island.
“I think people who visit this area can learn a lot about what many are oblivious to. The average person in the world is not aware of Abu Dhabi, but they will do, so long as these people [the TDIC] get their message across to the world. And everyone is looking for new places to go.”
The Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), a tourism asset developer and the name behind the transformation of the 27 square kilometre Saadiyat Island 500 metres off the coast of Abu Dhabi, is planning a mixed use development here which will include luxury hotels, apartments and villas, office space, marinas and two golf courses. The island will also be home to cultural assets including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Player believes his golf course will entice tourists to this part of the world, and, supported by Abu Dhabi’s other attractions, it will be an “extraordinary destination”.
“The UAE is a very exciting place to be. It is such a thrill for me to be here because the people that I am dealing with have much the same philosophies as I do. If you look at TDIC – their philosophy is to go along with nature. What we are trying to do here is to get the natural environment to be a part of the operation.
“There are not many companies who would sacrifice hotels and buildings along such valuable beach front land to give you golf holes going in between the buildings,” he said.
Player has developed about 250 golf courses around the world, and his par 72 course, due for completion next year, has been designed within environmentally sensitive guidelines, an integral part of part of the South African born and based Player’s philosophy.
“I want to see golf courses being more eco friendly, attracting birds, and implementing ideas such as reusing effluent water within a golf course area rather than pouring it all into the sea,” he said.
Player’s gold course comes under the jurisdiction of a water strategy mapped out for the entire island. Initially the daily course requirement of one million US gallons of irrigation water will come from desalination plants, but as the island’s population grows, irrigation water will come from the sewage treatment works being established on the island.
“Water management is the number one issue for successful golf course maintenance and conditioning. This course will have a modern, computer controlled irrigation system which allows for flexibility to ensure sound irrigation practices are utilised and the dispensing of adequate water to guarantee optimum plant growth while avoiding over-irrigation,” he said.
Other eco guidelines for the island course include a protection zone for a section of beach which is a hatching spot for hawkshead turtles, and sand dune protection schemes. In addition, landscaping and course garden areas will utilise native grasses and desert palms.
The amphitheatre style course is styled in a classic figure of eight configuration with more than a third of it commanding views of the Saadiyat coastline. It will be capable of hosting major tournaments in the future yet has been designed for all levels of golfers.
“I strongly believe it will prove to be one of the most dramatic and challenging golf courses in the Middle East, if not the world,” said Player.
“My motto is not just to build a golf course but to contribute. We have to promote the sport of golf to youngsters, although I am aware that the costs involved keep chasing people away from the game. This is a shame. Local people should be allowed to play. It is imperative for any government to bring golf to the local people,” he said.
by CHERYL MANDY