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Municipal greens to help broaden local golfing talent pool, veterans say

Move to produce a strong national team capable of competing abroad

Bernie Blanchard, Deborah Castle, Anette Rego and Mike Latham came first
Image Credit: Supplied
Bernie Blanchard, Deborah Castle, Anette Rego andMike Latham came first in Al Ghazal Golf Club’sweekly competition, while Peter McManus, KeithSargeant, Sue and Will Murray were ranked second.
Gulf News

Dubai: Local golfing figureheads have stressed the need for a municipal golf course as the key to broadening the game and increasing the volume of newcomers to the sport.

That's in light of the Mena Tour's efforts to raise levels of local exposure to competition and the Emirates Golf Federation's (EGF) National Junior Development feeder scheme into the UAE national team.

Already the fastest growing game in the UAE, golf still isn't fulfilling its potential in terms of producing a strong enough national team able to compete abroad.

For a country of 21 courses over a landmass of 83,600 square kilometres the UAE has three European Tour events unprecedented for a nation of just 5.5 million people.

"Undoubtedly a municipal course [subsidised by the government] would help tremendously," national team coach Chris Vallendar told Gulf News.

More accessible

"It would make the sport more affordable and accessible. This would increase the talent catchment [area] from which to draw a national team 100 per cent. At the moment those in the team are not being challenged enough for their places."

Nad Al Sheba golf course was the nearest thing the UAE had to affordable play until it was closed for the renovation of the Meydan project in May 2007. It will re-open in September but many in local golf question whether it can return with the same marketing strategy, placed as it is within now premium surroundings.

Long-time player Vikram Judge reckons he's spent Dh2 million playing golf in the UAE over the last 20 years.

"Golf has to be affordable to the guy earning Dh20,000 a month and at the moment it's not. US Open winner Rory McIlroy's dad worked behind a bar, but children here are only able to play because their dad is earning a hefty package," he said.

Dumping cricket

"Any time a sport broadens its base it produces champions. In Delhi it's Rs1,200 (Dh97) a round, people are dumping cricket [and] the courses are full. The next Major winner might well be an Indian."

Saeed Al Budoor, general manager at EGF, said: "I don't know how cheap golf can become here due to maintenance and water costs, that's why no one is looking into building a cheap course. But there is a real need for all types of courses, not just Championship greens."

Mark Chapleski, regional director of Troon Golf, said: "Overheads wouldn't need to be that expensive, treated water is that which would go out to sea anyway and if it's a government-run course they would have access to that water at an affordable rate. Then you could minimise the grass to 25 hectares as opposed 25-50 as is usual."