Golf in the Middle East. Raising the concept provokes most Americans to scratch their heads and wait for a politically incorrect punch line. But golf in the Middle East is no joke, as evidenced by the golf course building boom happening in Dubai to match the overwhelming demand for starting times. Arabs generally do not play golf, but the hundreds of thousands of ex-Pats and visitors to Dubai flood the courses.
To play golf late in the warm evening under a violet sky and see the ornate, floodlit twin domed spires of a mosque gleaming on the horizon is to understand that golf has once again ignored political and geographical borders to transcend yet another culture.
Dubai has hosted Tiger Woods, but Americans here in this luxurious Arabian oasis are still very scarce. The golf craze booms on here, though, and the resorts and courses being built in Dubai are created in the style of America ‘s best golf resorts.
“Golf is important. We hope we have the proper accommodations and are well-organized to receive Americans,” said Pascal Despieres, the French woman who is marketing manager for Dubai Golf, the government’s organization coordinating golf tourism. We chatted over lunch at the Emirates Golf Club, home of the Dubai Desert Classic, which was won this year by American Mark O ‘Meara. O’Meara, who is from Orlando, beat his younger friend and neighbor Tiger Woods and a field of other well-known PGA Tour players.
Though Woods didn’t win, he received a great deal of attention for hitting golf balls from the rooftop helicopter pad of the world famous Burj al Arab Hotel Dubai’s famed landmark, all-suites hotel with gold-plated rooms that go for $1,500 per-night. The Burj al Arab, shaped like a mammoth sailboat, towers some 400 meters over the golden sandy beach along the Persian Gulf’s crystal waters.
“Golf is a big plus for Dubai. America is first in terms of numbers of golfers, so even if we get 0.5-percent of Americans to come, it is good,” said Derpieres.
Playing Golf in Dubai
Dubai Country Club
27 holes: Al Awir Course: 6,477 yards, par-71. Opened in 1971. 9-hole Creek Course shorter for beginners and juniors. Note: Entire course is sand. Golfers are given a piece of artificial turf to carry with them and hit their shots from. Greens are soaked in oil and brushed for smooth, fast putting. more >>
Emirates Golf Club
36 holes: Majlis Course, 7,101 yards, par-72. Opened: 1988. Architect: Karl Litten. Wadi Course, 7,100 yards, par-72. Opened: 1996. Architect: Jeremy Pern/Karl Litten. Note: Majlis Course hosts the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. Ernie Els shot course record 61. more >>
Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club
27 holes: Championship Course: 6,839 yards, par-71. Reopens in Dec. 2004. Architect: Ryder Cup star Thomas Bjorn. 9 hole, floodlit, par-3 course. Note: The landmark clubhouse is designed to resemble the sails of a traditional Arab dhow (boat). Park Hyatt is building attached hotel. more >>
Nad Al Sheeba Club
18 holes: 6,503 yards, par-71. Opened: Front nine: 1993; back nine, 1996. Completely floodlit for night play. Links-style course has double green and crossing fairways. Note: Inward half plays inside the oval of the Nad Al Sheeba Race Course, home to the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race. more >>
Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa
9 holes, 3,299 yards, par-36. Four sets of tees allow for varying lengths on second loop. Played alongside the marina. A saltwater lake comes into play on five holes. Note: Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, and others have played in challenge matches at Jebel Ali as par of the Dubai Desert Classic. more >>
The Montgomerie Dubai
18 holes: 7,308 yards, par-72. Opened: 2003. Architects: Colin Montgomerie and Desmond Muirhead. Note: 14 lakes and 72 bunkers, plus the world’s largest green: 58,000 square-foot 13th is built in the shape of the United Arab Emirates. more >>