In the early 2000s a project called Dubai Golf City was boldly announced to the world. It was masterplanned as a mixed-use $1.8 billion project covering an area of 55,000,000 sq ft and was projected to have five themed golf courses, an academy, hotel and convention centre, ‘six-star’ resort and spa, themed golf villages, mansions and villas.
I recall visiting the 14 or so completed holes of the first golf course in — under cover, behind fences and over dunes — and admiring the quality of the playing surfaces, especially the greens, perhaps as good as any in Dubai at the time and very much the envy of many other golf clubs.
A few of my friends had even received invites for some preview play on the course designed by the internationally renowned Tim Lobb, formerly with Australian golf legend Peter Thomson of Thomson, Perrett & Lobb fame.
A par-71 course, stretching to 6,787 yards, it was termed in the real estate brochures as a ‘Tournament Course’, under the name of the ‘Oasis Course’, with potential as a resort facility for residents, members, corporates, local and international golfers and even as a tournament venue.
The unique personality of the golf course seems to have been landscaped streams, lakes along with clusters of small bunkers, strategically placed to challenge the thinking golfer with large greens offering multiple pin positions. Of particular note in the design was the par-3 seventh hole which had a 1,000 sqm green, 50 metres in length.
The date of starting this golf piece in the project was 2008. So ... What happened next?
I visited the same property last week, adjacent and across the road from Trump International Golf Club on Hessa Street, near the Al Qudra Road.
The golf course and seemingly the whole project, has sadly just been left to return to nature. Security is non-existent and there is certainly no maintenance, either on the course or elsewhere on this large parcel of land. It is just desert and mounds of grassy sand areas surrounded by what I would hardly call a boundary fence.
Timing is everything in life, so perhaps the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the surrounding challenges took its toll on this huge project that required jigsaw precision to put all the components together: logistically, physically, financially, and with governmental and private-sector backing.
The reason for this background note is to not make any judgement or comments without the full knowledge of the project history, but to applaud all those golf projects involving real estate and/or other enhanced facilities in Dubai and the UAE that have been completed and are operational and financially viable for the operators, stakeholders and owners.
When projects or anything in life works properly, it all looks so easy. When things go a little awry, which can often be out of anyone’s control — just look at the damage COVID-19 has caused — it is so easy to criticise and immediately become a professional expert.
So let’s take time to congratulate the golf industry in Dubai and the UAE and applaud the progress made over the last 30-plus years, and the daily 24/7 operation of the facilities — whether it be golf agronomy, golf operations, golf experiences for all, F&B, merchandise, hotel experiences and even tournament experiences. There are far more success stories than not and that has to be truly commended and