Dubai leads the charge for regional golf tourism

Tiger Woods at this year’s Dubai Desert Classic

IF a regional destination were to be declared the golf capital of the Middle East, it would, without a doubt, be Dubai.

Not only is the emirate home to one of the most-watched tournaments, the European PGA Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic, it is already home to seven major nine- and 18-hole courses, with several more under construction.
Much of the emirate’s golf action is led by Dubai Golf, which owns and manages the Dubai government golf courses (the Emirates Golf Club with its Wadi and Majlis courses, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and the Nad Al Sheba Club). The authority also runs Dubai Golf Central Reservations and Dubai Golf Holidays + Events, the only dedicated golf inbound and outbound tour operator in Dubai. Apart from sponsoring local events and nurturing young talent, Dubai Golf markets the emirate as a premium golf destination around the region and internationally. TTN put some questions to Dubai Golf managing director Rodney J Bogg to talk about new courses and source markets. Excerpts:

How much is Dubai a golf destination?
In 2001 Dubai was recognized by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) as the Emerging Golf Destination of the Year. That was five years ago, so we now consider Dubai to be an established golf destination that can compete with any other for choice, quality of courses and associated attractions. Besides the quality golf courses, visitors appreciate the guaranteed tee times and the personal attention they receive at all clubs. Add to that Dubai’s safety aspects, guaranteed weather, and abundance of other attractions, and you have a virtually unique destination.

What are your plans are for 2007?
We have undertaken a significant amount of development in the last two or three years in building the Park Hyatt Hotel and 92 villas at the Creek, in redeveloping the clubhouse and golf course at Nad Al Sheba, and in rebuilding the Wadi (now the Wadi by Faldo) course at Emirates Golf Club. Our development plans for 2007 are restricted to the building of 100 villas at the Emirates Golf Club, we want to give people a chance to enjoy the improvements.
Can we expect to see more golf courses soon? I believe some Dubai will eventually be home to some 18 courses, several of them already world-famous, but isn’t that too many?
There is a significant number of courses either under construction or planned for the future. I would expect to see at least six opened by 2010, but certainly do not consider this to be excessive when you equate it to the planned development of Dubai and its tourism.

What markets do you tap currently? What are your new target markets?
Our most productive markets at the moment are UK and Germany, with other European countries increasing annually. The newer markets that Dubai Golf will be targeting in the near future are Scandinavia, and of course, USA.

With increased connectivity, do you expect to see golfers from North America?
Without a doubt. USA has more golfers than the rest of the world put together. Unfortunately it also has more than half of the world’s golf courses! But that will not deter us from working alongside the DTCM and Emirates Airline in promoting Dubai and its golf courses to such a hugely potential market.

How much do major events like the Desert Classic help to develop the golf market in Dubai and the region?
Enormously. Ever since the tournament began in 1989 it has been a major factor in putting Dubai on the world’s golfing map. People love to play the course ‘that Tiger played’.