Living up to Dubai's vision

Dubai is the home of Desert Classic, a major event now on the world golfing calendar with the top players in the world competing in the tournament.

The Emirates Golf Club supports a thriving leisure industry and the emirate also boasts the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and the Jebel Ali Resort and Golf Club. Dubai Golf is the marketing arm of the Emirates and the Creek clubs, playing a pivotal role in promoting Dubai as a golfing destination. TTN's JONNA SIMON speaks to Dubai Golf managing director RODNEY J BOGG.

Getting a helping hand to brush up putting skills.

Q. I believe that Dubai Golf is the marketing arm of Dubai's current three golf courses - can you tell me, what this actually embraces?

A. Dubai Golf is the international marketing arm for the Emirates Golf Club and the Creek Golf Club. We did originally cover all three clubs, but Nad Al Sheba Golf Club has now merged with the Racong Club, so now we manage the two clubs.

What Dubai Golf was meant to do, was to combine the resources, but at the same time keep each club's identity intact.

The aim was to economise on senior management, physical and human resources, set up central purchasing, central reservations for international bookings and to centralise the international marketing efforts.

As an add-on to this function, we are going to in the near future try to extend this aim to some of the other clubs in Dubai and possibly to other clubs in the UAE, so that we market the UAE as an entity.

It makes sense, as the more clubs we have together, the better the product will look to the international visitors.

Q. How many active members are there in the clubs? Ratio of male and female golfers?

A. There is membership of about 600, which gives us about 900-1,000 golfers at the Emirates Golf Club and we limit the Creek to 250 golfers, so maximum we have 1,250 golfers at the two clubs.

At the Emirates Golf Club 30 per cent are women golfers, but at the Creek Golf Club only 10 per cent are female players.

Q. Do you know how many visitors each club hosts annually?

A. Of all the rounds played, between 50 and 60 per cent are by non-members and out of them about half are international visitors.

Q. How does the quality of the club members, when it comes to their handicaps, compare with an average UK golf club?

A. Probably higher, because here we get a lot more new golfers. Golf is still a relatively new sport in Dubai, although we have been operating at the Emirates Golf Club for 14 years. Many expats here have never played before either.

The handicap is a bit higher than the average upmarket British club, I would estimate.

Q. What is the ultimate objective of golf in Dubai?

A. Our mission statement says that we aim to be the most favourite luxury golf and leisure resort worldwide. We try to ensure that the golf clubs reflect the image of Dubai, which is based on quality and constantly trying to make us better and keeping up with that image.

Q. How many nationals play golf in Dubai?

A. When we opened Emirates Golf Club, we had one national golfer, that was in 1988. When we opened the Creek Golf Club, we did not have a whole lot more.

Since we have started the golf academies, it has really caught on. If you take the juniors, we probably have around 200 nationals. The adult handicap players now number around 60-70 and we are constantly generating new players through the junior development programme, which has done a great job promoting the sport to the UAE nationals.

Q. Is it expensive playing golf in Dubai compared to Europe or the Far East?

A. It is expensive, if compared to the normal, local country club in the UK, but for a resort development, which we are, it is not really pricey. There are golf clubs in the USA that charge up to $200 a round. We are still around $100-$110 a round for visitors.

For the members, compared to the country clubs in the UK for instance, yes, it is expensive, but compared to the top clubs in the UK offering the same facilities, it is about the same.

Q. Does golf attract tourists to Dubai?

A. Golf has definitely played a significant part in the growth of tourism to Dubai. It is a very popular game for the top-end of visitors, which Dubai seems to attract and it has become such a big game around the world and all the 5-star hotels here are using us as an added marketing tool.

Q. Can visitors hire golf equipment at the clubs? Do they have to book tee-off times, before they arrive in Dubai?

A. Yes, they can hire the equipment at the clubs and no, they do not have to book tee-off times in advance, unless they want a specific date and time.

Otherwise they can book a round of golf either through the hotels or our central reservation office on the day they wish to play.

Q. I understand there are now four golf courses in Dubai - two at Emirates Golf Club, the Majlis and the Wadi courses, and one each at the Creek Golf Club and Nad Al Sheba. Do you know, if there are plans for more in Dubai?

A. There is also now a nine-hole course at the Jebel Ali Hotel and Golf Resort. The Emirates Hills Golf Course will be opening this autumn. That is the Colin Montgomery course, which will have a major impact on the golfing scene.

It will be fairly exclusive, but will be open for a limited number of non-member players.

There are also plans for a municipality course to try to encourage new golfers in order to broaden the attraction for everybody, who might be interested in taking up golf at a lesser cost. This golf course will probably be built on the Al Ain Road.

Q. A few personal questions. How long you been in Dubai?

A. Fourteen years. I came here to open the Emirates Golf Club as a general manager, while the course was still being built.

Q. Is that what you were doing in the UK?

A. No, I was in Africa, before coming to Dubai. In Zambia and Malawi for 15 years. I went out there originally as a weights and measures inspector and got involved with club management by default almost and then it progressed from there. I worked 12 years in Africa in club management, before coming to Dubai.

Q. Do you play golf?

A. Yes, but very badly. I certainly did not get my job here because of my golf prowess.