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'Charge less to expand sport'

The UAE's placing of 50 out of 75 nations who competed for the Eisenhower Trophy can be regarded as a commendable achievement.

DUBAI // The UAE's placing of 50 out of 75 nations who competed for the Eisenhower Trophy in Australia last weekend can be regarded as a commendable achievement considering that only nine Emirati players attempted to secure places in the three-man team. Compared to the winners Scotland and, more pertinently, the runners-up USA, there was minimal competition for the places secured in the UAE line-up by Khalid Yousuf, the country's top player, and his two colleagues Faris al Muzrui and Abdulla al Musharrekh.

Greater competition inevitably leads to higher standards and leading administrators in the region are aware of the need to seek out more local talent. Saeed al Budoor, the recently-appointed general manager of the UAE Golf Association (UGA), is keen to see the sport expand but believes the rapidly growing number of clubs in the region, particularly in Dubai, could do more to help. "The clubs here are charging too much at the moment in terms of green fees," he declared, "and those clubs should look carefully at the message they are sending out.

"Are they aiming to become too expensive, too exclusive? If they want us to bring players to them who have potential then they have to be affordable. "I am convinced there is a lot of talent out there. We want to bring that raw talent to the clubs but only if the players can afford to play there." A random internet search of the top clubs in the country showed an average green fee of about Dh500 for the casual visitor and typical annual membership subscriptions of Dh35,000.

Budoor stressed his point: "What we are looking for here is to have a strong national team because that is what we are judged on alongside other nations. "A lot of Emirati players see golf as a hobby and are not committed enough to become members of a national team. We need to change that mentality and impress upon them the importance of representing their country in international events." wjohnson@thenational.ae

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