The game of golf is always won or lost on the back nine of the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club. Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf tells Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
Chris, how has the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club grown over the last three decades?
‘Emirates Golf Club holds a very special place in the history of Dubai, it was the first grass golf course in the Middle East and the first professional golf tournament in the Middle East as well and that really set the tone for what Dubai has become. It has become a very important golf tourist destination and that was largely driven by the Dubai Desert Classic which was first held in 1989. Seve Ballesteros won the event in 1992 then followed up by many of the best players in the world who participated, many of them won it like Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and of course Tiger Woods’ participation in 2001 really took the event to another level.
‘Rory McIlroy’s first win as a professional in 2009 is a big thing and Tiger’s win in 2008 he was in a really rich vein of form and had already won several times in the states in a row and then he shot five under on the back nine and holed an amazing putt where you saw the Tiger fist pump which was also very very special.
‘It’s three times been won by Ernie Els, twice by Rory McIlroy, twice by Tiger Woods so it really is an amazing role of honour and this tournament has done a huge amount in driving the interest of golf in the region and really was the pioneer of golf.’
What makes the Majlis so special?
‘Emirates Golf Club is the ideal destination to host the event. The golf course itself is very special it’s one of the best in the world. The players love it and the conditions are always immaculate, the players get welcomed in a very special way and always have done. So it’s always been a special stop on the DP World Tour.
‘The club lends itself very well for tournaments, it’s a great host venue and the clubhouse is an iconic building and that is really the centre piece of the tournament during a tournament week and it’s the place everyone wants to be.
‘The course itself is not only a great course for the players but the spectators as well, easy to walk around, easy to flip between front nine and back nine so fantastic tournament golf course but also fantastic to watch on as well.’
The Majlis is renowned for creating a lot of drama isn’t it?
‘We have seen some amazing moments, the back nine of the Majlis is always very very interesting and the tournament is never won until the 18th hole. Obviously water has an influence on the last hole but there is lots of birdie opportunities on the back nine of the Majlis which makes the back nine very very interesting on the final day.’
What makes the amateur golfer want to play the Majlis golf course?
‘The Majlis golf course is probably the most popular golf course in the region largely because of the tournament. Last year we had 46,000 rounds played on the Majlis, many of those are member rounds, but still the Majlis is very important as it brings tourists from all over the world to play the golf course.
‘The great thing about the course is even though this week it is setup for the professionals and quite tough for us amateurs when you are out of Desert Classic week it is a very enjoyable golf course for golfers of all levels. I think that is one of the really special things about the Majlis golf course.
‘In addition to the Majlis we have got the Faldo course which is floodlit and you can play golf until midnight and behind us you have got TopGolf Dubai as well which opened two years ago which has had over a million guests in the first two years of opening so the golf club has become a very busy part of Dubai and it brings a lot of people into Dubai from overseas which is really important for us.’