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Picturesque setting for a grand tee party!












The Emirates Golf Club

By Bala Menon

Everything about it is perfect – its picturesque course, full of movement in the fairways and the lovely, cooling breezes coming in from the Gulf, the high quality of its practice facilities, the magnificent clubhouse and the star-studded field that the fabulous Dubai Desert Classic attracts.

Down the years since its was inaugurated in March 1988, the Emirates Golf Club – a shimmering, green jewel in the brown sands – has been contributing immensely to Dubai’s growing worldwide reputation as a major sporting venue, and the prowess that the emirate has in staging world class events.

The Desert Classic gets richer every year. With almost a million dollars in prizes, the spotlight during the tournament also falls on the drive shown by the emirate to popularize the game in the Gulf and Arab world.

Carved out from a piece of barren desert and designed by American Karl Litten Overseas, the 18-hold wonder, with its swaying palm trees, is kept in top condition through an irrigation system fed by a huge desalination plant at the Dubai Aluminium smelter.

The fairyland greens lap up a million gallons of water a day and thousands of trees, many of them hardy desert species, adorn the course, and help keep rough winds away. In addition, the clubhouse has excellent floodlit tennis courts and a golf driving range, squash courts and a superb gymnasium.

High-fliers in the golf world have all praised the Emirates Golf Club course as one of the best in the world; and it is small wonder that the Desert Classic has become one of the most popular events on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) European Tour since the first event was held in March 1988.

From Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo and Seve Ballasteros to challengers from Japan, all have found the Desert Classic and the Emirates Golf Club complete in all its aspects, and at 7, 100 yards, one of the most demanding in the game.

"Both (the Desert Classic and the EGC) have established a first class reputation and the tournament is the perfect stage for an early show of strength by Europe’s best players," is how Bernard Gallacher, their Ryder Cup captain describes it.

Irishman Eammon Darcy, who won the Desert Classic in 1990, says: "Without doubt, the Emirates Golf Club course is one of the best that we play on the tour…and when we last played here, everything was perfect and…today it is very much at the top of the list of my favorite courses."

Darcy also told Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defense Minister and patron of the club: "We will never play on a better course in a nicer place all season."

Martin Hardy, Golf correspondent of the Daily Express wrote: "…What is produced here is one of the best new courses to come out of anywhere in the last decade. The fact that they have done it in the desert is not only a tribute to modern technology, but also to many wise heads.

"One of the most important things is that they have created something which guarantees that the incredible coffee pot trophy (of the Desert Classic) is only adorned by the names of outstanding players.

"…It is not just the competition which makes this event so popular. Everybody who has turned off the main road towards what is undoubtedly the world’s greatest clubhouse has been made to feel extremely welcome…"

One of the most spectacular holes on the course is the 184-yard seventh which was featured in the 1995 famous Dunhill Calendar of Great Golf Holes. The hole – which challenges the world’s best is a tricky one and tee shots need to be hit with great accuracy or else the player will find the ball going into a yawning lake – teeming with fish which stretches from the tee to the edge of the green.

Players who hit to the front of the green will find the ball rolling into the water, while those tempted to overhit will themselves in the long grass or one of the large bunkers beyond the green.

In fact, Dunhill announced for the 1995 tournament a $50,000 prize for any player who hits a hole-in-one at the par 3 seventh. Nobody won it (although there have been more than a dozen aces on the hole since the course was opened and English professional Paul Mayo holed in one during a practice session for the 1990 Desert Classic).

In October 1995, the course got a splendid boost when Sheikh Mohammed officially opened a nine-hold extension. An Emirates Golf Club executive said: "When the club opened in 1988, few of us would have realized how significant a project it was to become. Today, thanks to the foresight of Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai and the Gulf now boasts championship golf course that is on par with anything the world has to offer."

The new annex means that the oversubscribed EGC can provide extra 96 rounds of golf, which will take a lot of burden from the main course.

Superbly landscaped, the par-37 course is different from the main one in that it is more wind-affected and sports fairways that are similar to a sea of green waves. It features five lakes, three tee-off positions and hundreds of trees moved from the existing course.

The Emirates Golf Club has, besides its Dubai Desert Classic, hosted the East v West Challenge, the Arab Championship, the Toyota Cressida Ladies Pro-Am Challenge, the Emirates Pro-Am, along with various club competitions and special events.

The Dubai Desert Classic is the second stop of the rich $23 million European PGA Tour and a solid showing in Dubai by players is considered a pointer for the rest of the season – one of the reasons that so many stars head for Dubai when the season begins.

As to predicting a winner in the classics every year, the ultimate winner is always the Emirates Golf Club, the emirate of Dubai and the game of golf itself. All in all, every year it turns out to be great and heady tee party….

Contact: Emirates Golf Club, PO Box 24040. Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Phone: (04) 380 2222 (04) 380 1555

© 2009, Bala Menon (This article was first published in Gulf News, Dubai )



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