“Major tournaments can be held on any golf course in Dubai”

RODNEY J BOGG, managing director of Dubai Golf, talks to JONNA SIMON about how Dubai is promoting the game

TTN: Dubai is sometimes referred to as the golfing capital of the Middle East. How true is this description?
Rodney J Bogg: I think that is quite true, as we feel we have been the golfing pioneers of the region.

HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, started the initiative for Emirates Golf Club, which was then followed by the Creek Golf & Yacht Club and further golfing developments followed these two clubs. But, it is not just the golf, it is the whole tremendous expansion of Dubai with Emirates airline, the new hotels, shopping malls and entertainment centres, which makes Dubai so unique and at the same time an attractive golfing destination.

Where do the various golf courses in Dubai rank in the world?
Well, the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club has just been voted one of the top 100 golf courses in the world outside the US by the American magazine, Golf Digest. Considering the Majlis Course is a relatively new course compared to some others in the 100 ranking, which go back 100 years or more, we are very proud of the fact that all the courses in Dubai are of very high quality. Remember, with top golf course designers you invariably get great golf courses.

At one stage, it looked as though the courses being built in Dubai were mainly being used by residents. Is this still the case?
When we opened the Emirates Golf Club in the late 1980s, it was predominantly a members club and perceived as part of the burgeoning infrastructure of Dubai. HH Sheikh Mohammed felt it would help to attract businesses to Dubai. Tourism at that time was only a fledgling industry, but it was important to attract businesses to Dubai from around the globe. Since then, tourism has really taken off as has the Dubai business sector. We do a lot of corporate golf, but 65-70 per cent of our business is based on the local market.

Talking about residents, do you believe that these golf courses help to attract expats to live and work in Dubai?
Yes, definitely. We have been told that several companies have set up businesses in Dubai due to various factors and one of them has been the golf courses on offer. Many of our corporate clients and memberships come from the Jebel Ali Free Zone and Media City.

When you were involved in the opening of the Emirates Golf Club, did you ever imagine that there would be eight golf courses today?
I have lived and worked in Dubai for 18 years now and, I feel, I have lived in six different cities. Not only did I not envisage eight golf courses, but I could not have imagined how big Dubai has become. In those early years, Emirates Golf Club was 15 miles outside the city and now it is more or less in the middle. It is truly amazing how Dubai has grown and golf has developed alongside it.

Which are the golf courses, in your opinion, could be classified as world championship courses?
Major international tournaments can be held on any of golf course in Dubai. I particularly think that the Desert Golf Course at Arabian Ranches will host a major tournament as it is of equal standard to the Majlis Golf Course, the venue for the Dubai Desert Classic – and so could the Montgomerie, the Al Badia and the Faldo course here at Emirates Golf Club. If, for some reason, the Desert Classic could not be played on the Majlis course, we could do so equally well on the Faldo course.

What do the pro-golfers say about the golf courses in Dubai?
At one stage, the pro-golfers used to vote for the best golf course in the world (they don’t do it any more) and the Majlis won the title twice as the most popular course on the European Tour. The Creek Golf course also won the accolade twice on the Asian Tour. In one year, in the mid-1990s, Dubai held the two most popular venue trophies for golf. Pro-golfers are all very complimentary about Dubai and they love coming here.

Is there still room for more golf courses in Dubai?
I think, it is essential to build more golf courses in Dubai. The only thing I would like to see is a more long-term plan in phasing of the new courses.

How is the UGA doing from a membership point of view?
The UGA is doing extremely well. In my view, the UGA’s biggest strength lies in the junior development programme. Dubai Golf is bringing the Daily Telegraph junior championship, which has been held in Sun City for the last three years, to the Creek Golf Club shortly. The Junior Championships has been running for quite a few years and has produced some top golfers over the years. The top 21 junior golfers from the UK are coming to Dubai for a final tournament. These young UK golfers will also play a tournament against our juniors, which will give our youngsters the chance to pit themselves against the top juniors in the world.

Once a year, Dubai hosts the famous Dubai Desert Classic and now it looks as if Abu Dhabi is set to enter the big tournament scene. Do you think, we will see other major golf tournament taking place in the Gulf in the future?
Well, now the golfers have a Middle East swing on the European Tour – from Abu Dhabi to Qatar to Dubai – three tournaments in three weeks. With all the new courses being built by Emaar and Nakheel, I think, they will also want to have big tournaments. There might be a World Championship Tournament or The World Cup of Golf, maybe a ladies’ tour or even a senior’s tour. The only thing that worries me a little is that if you stage too many major tournaments, you might dilute the concept – and you also need sponsors for these tournaments, as they are very expensive to run. Thus, future golf tournaments in the region need to be managed efficiently and sensibly.