Matt Perry, Emirates Golf Club Course Superintendent, oversaw the complete renovation of the Majlis Course
Matt Perry, Emirates Golf Club Course Superintendent, oversaw the complete renovation of the Majlis Course Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

As Emirates Golf Club ramps up its preparations for the Dubai Desert Classic, which is just around the corner in January, it is all hands on deck.

Alastair Brown, Head Professional, and Matt Perry, Golf Course Superintendent, at EGC are at the forefront of these operations both on and off the course.

As seen at the recent DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the fans are also back following the Covid-enforced ban last year, and Brown believes that things are finally back on track for the golf clubs.

“We are seeing numbers of golfers — members, non-members and tourists — back at the levels on 2019, so it is getting healthy again in terms of that,” he told Gulf News in an exclusive chat. “At our golf course, I don’t think we have an available tee time since we reopened, following the work over the summer, due to demand.”

Perry, who oversaw the complete renovation of the Majlis course this summer, is also delighted to see his fairways getting a regular workout from the conveyor belt of golfers as they come through from sun up to sun down (and beyond thanks to the floodlights on the Faldo course and the Par 3).

Alastair Brown, Head Professional at Emirates Golf Club
Alastair Brown, Head Professional at Emirates Golf Club Image Credit: Supplied

“November is our busiest month of the year due to the great weather and the DP being in town and it has been a pretty busy month given the amount of tourists we have in,” he said. “We have just had back-to-back tournaments at JGE on the Fire and Earth courses, and that brought back a lot of tourists that we used to see in 2019 and earlier. December is also looking as busy and everyone is coming to the UAE. It is one of the safest places in the world and they are coming here to play golf.”

Even Perry is impressed at how the courses are playing given the numbers — especially on the new Majlis. “The courses have done very well, especially the new greens here. I personally would prefer to not have had them used as much given they are only a few months old but they have done very well. If they can take what they have just had in November then they can take anything.”

The new-look Majlis also has another treat to serve up as it now like playing a whole new course. Perry and his team recreated the original size of all 18 greens, with a 33 per cent increase in green size on average and has brought many more greenside bunkers into play with the biggest green size increase of 67 per cent on hole No. 1.

The original greens of the Majlis were push-up style, using just the native sand but as agronomy knowledge and technology has advanced over the last 30 years or so, it was right to bring such a classic style course into the 21st century,” Perry explained.

The 73-strong agronomy staff have also managed other enhancements to the Majlis Course, including bunker drainage, tree thinning and trimming, and Perry is delighted at how it has all turned out.

“It has bedded in better than I thought it would,” said Perry. “We put the grass in six months ago during the it in summer, the most active time for growing, and we have had a but of and extended summer — it is still fairly hot out there during the day — and that has certainly helped.

“We don’t have long to the Desert Classic but the greens still seem to be improving and I don’t need to back off, I can push them as hard as I need to.

“The reception has also been great. We have members who have been here for 20 or 30 years, and they feel we have taken the course back to what it used to be like. The greens are a lot bigger and now we can put in different pin positions that no one has ever played before, so it’s a new challenge. Our older members have played the same course over and over and now it is like a brand new course again thanks to the greens. It all comes down to the greens.”

Brown is eager to see how the pros handle the course when the Dubai Desert Classic gets under way from January 27.

“It will catch a lot of them out,” he said. “You may actually be better off having never played the course before as the ball will now be doing different things. You expectation of what is going to happen to a putt on a green, having played here so many times before, is going to be so different to was is actually going to happen.

“Areas on certain greens, like the fourth, the run off is nothing like before, now it is almost flat. The fifth now has shelving on different sections and moves completely differently to what we have seen in the past. Even the 18th is totally different.

“It will be interesting to see if the rookies handle it better that the veterans of the DDC, but there will be a few surprises.”