The father of UAE golf Ismail Sharif
The father of UAE golf Ismail Sharif Image Credit: Supplied

The UAE has come a long way in the game over the past 50 years.

Golf was only played on sand when the UAE was formed. The first grass course was, of course, the Emirates Golf Club, which opened in 1988 before the first Dubai Desert Classic in 1989.

The UAE will host at least five European Tour events this 2021 — 2022 golfing season and there are now 20 grass golf courses in the UAE, with Yas Acres Golf & Country Club, Abu Dhabi, officially opened just last week.

Officials from both the R&A and the Masters both came to the UAE to find a safe haven in Covid-19 times for their Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship last month and there is also talk of the MENA Tour returning in alliance with the Asian Tour and other potential tournaments on various tours visiting both the UAE and the region. The Ladies European Tour (LET) have recently announced their desire to see more LET tournaments in the Middle East.

This is excellent news for the awareness of golf clubs and a positive economic impact for these areas with hotel, travel and other spend by all those participating and attending plus the media awareness and tourism benefits.

The future and growth for the playing of the game by UAE Nationals and expats in the UAE as well as Arab Nationals in the region must be playing opportunities.

With the restrictions on regional and international events overseas there have been very few opportunities for ‘local’ players to travel and experience golf competition and golf tournaments over the last 20 months, around the world.

The GCC and Arab Championships have taken a break during Covid-19 and hopefully these will be brought back to the golfing calendar shortly. The R&A have already allocated the 2023 Eisenhower Trophy to come to Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Many of the world’s golf professionals are now based in Dubai and the UAE: Dubai Golden Visa holders Shiv Kapur and Jeev Milkha Singh from India, along with Spaniards Rafa Cabrera Bello and Adri Arnaus, Italian Olympians Guido Migliozzi and Renato Paratore, and more recently Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts has just moved to Dubai with his family.

Alison Muirhead
Alison Muirhead Image Credit: Supplied

Alison Muirhead who plays on the Ladies European Tour and has lived to the right of the 11th hole on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club for 15 years is a product of the junior programmes and golf coaching in Dubai. Chiara Noja has also made Dubai her home base now she has just turned professional.

Olivia Cowen, Amy Boulden and Kelsey Macdonald represent and are supported by JA The Resort, Jebel Ali, alongside Cabrera Bello.

Ian Poulter a DP World Ambassador, who have now rebranded the European Tour the DP World Tour, and alongside the Emirates Golf Federation are partners of the European Disabled Golfer’s Association.

David Horsey is now in Abu Dhabi and Ross McGowan has been a long time representative of Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah.

Peter Cowen is a regular visitor to Dubai to oversee his academies at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Emirates Golf Club and Jumeirah Golf Estates, as well as to coach his stable of players when they are in the UAE for tournaments or otherwise.

These players and others have chosen Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE as their home or seasonal base.

The UAE’s No. 1 golfer Ahmad Skaik has aspirations of turning professional but in the short term will showcase and challenge his game on the amateur stage.

Skaik has participated in four European Tour events, numerous Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships and Eisenhower Trophies as well as high profile regional golf tournaments.

Hopefully, Ahmad can inspire other UAE young golfers to see what they can achieve through the game, both playing as well as potential career opportunities within the golf clubs and golf industry in the UAE.

There are so many different careers within the golf industry and it would be exciting to see a feeder path for UAE National golfers to see a career road map, whether it is golf administration, teaching, marketing, sales, agronomy and so many other sectors as well as the playing of the game. Perhaps even golf tourism is one for UAE Nationals who can be global golf ambassadors for the country?

Let’s look forward to the golf industry collaborating with this talent from the UAE and around the world of golf, who still play on the world’s golf stage in tournaments on various tours.

We collectively hope to see further initiatives to encourage junior development and player participation as well as career development for both UAE Nationals and expats through the golf clubs and elsewhere all over the UAE.

We wonder where the UAE golf industry will be in the next 50 years?