Some 235km south-west of Abu Dhabi, golf in Al Ruwais went from Jebel Dhana Golf Society to Al Dhafra Golf Links to the future at Al Ruwais Golf Club. Gulf News met up with 54-year-old, 17-handicap Belgian golf enthusiast Geert Saman — known as Sam — Maintenance Manager, Borouge, living in Al Ruwais.
When did you first come to Al Ruwais, Abu Dhabi and what was the golf scene like then and its history?
I first arrived in Al Ruwais in 2000, unfortunately at that time my passion was tennis. I returned to Europe in 2004 and upon my return to Al Ruwais in 2007, I started learning to play golf here, on sand with a round piece of artificial grass and playing on browns and not greens. The first golf course here was the Jebel Dhana Golf Society, a nine-hole sand course. As it was on ADCO land and premises access was restricted to employees only. This is when the nine-hole sand course at Al Dhafra Golf Links was born with its first four-hole tournament on March 25, 1988, two years after the idea was first mooted, aligned to the Al Dhafra Beach Hotel which is still operational today. The facility was then enhanced with a clubhouse and the golf course extended to par 72 (playing the golf course in two loops of nine). At its strongest it had a membership of 120 golfers, a healthy golf calendar and many social events. Its final official tournament was in mid-2019 as it closed due to land challenges.
You obviously have a passion for golf in Al Ruwais. Put into words how Al Dhafra Golf Links was run?
It was very much volunteer run under a committee with regular Monthly Medals and Tournaments, Men’s and Ladies Captains, Committee Officers involved in Finance, Course Member, Match and Handicaps, House Member and an Honorary Secretary. We even had an Annual Dinner with Black Tie and Long Dress being the compulsory dress regulations. I was the Men’s Captain for a total of 10 years. It was great fun. We had so many nationalities in the Membership including Members from Wales, Belgium, England, Scotland, UAE, South Africa, Thailand, Portugal, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Finland, Sweden, France, USA, Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, China and Japan plus others.
What have you been doing to play golf since 2019?
With the support of my wife Kay, who I first met at Al Dhafra Golf Links, who still does all the administration for the club, there are still around 30 active golfers from our old club that is now called the Al Ruwais Golf Society. We have monthly away days and staycations to Abu Dhabi and Al Ain to play golf. These initiatives attract around 20+ golfers for each outing. We have always been loyal to the Emirates Golf Federation and still hold our handicaps through the EGF. We still have Society Members boasting handicaps of 5, 12 and many a little higher.
What are your thoughts on the new nine-hole floodlit grass golf course coming up at Al Ruwais Golf Club?
I have recently met Damian McHugh, the new General Manager at Al Ruwais Golf Club, who showed me around the golf course and clubhouse. It is beautifully designed, looks challenging and must be played with excellent game management. I am hugely excited to have such a golf facility under ADNOC ownership, on our doorstep in Al Ruwais. Once word gets out that it is opening soon, I am sure it will attract a lot of interest from golfers and potential golfers, who want to learn this fantastic game. It will add a lot to the sports facilities and lifestyle in Al Ruwais. I look forward to hopefully joining and participating in all the club competitions and activities. I hope to see all the community taking up the game, especially our UAE National friends, men, ladies, boys, and girls, through golf lesson programmes.