x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Golf on upswing despite rough economy

Golfers in the Middle East helped to drive the region's clubs and courses to new heights last year, while the industry was in the rough in Africa and Europe.

Superior facilities, such as these in Dubai, have helped Middle Eastern courses to perform well in the financial downturn.
Superior facilities, such as these in Dubai, have helped Middle Eastern courses to perform well in the financial downturn.

Golfers in the Middle East helped to drive the region's clubs and courses to new heights last year, while the industry was in the rough in Africa and Europe. Average revenues at golf courses in the Middle East rose 4 per cent last year from ?5.8 million (Dh28.8m) the previous year, according to a survey of golf operators in Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the accountancy firm KPMG.

The average revenue per course in the Middle East was more than six times greater that of their counterparts in the UK and Ireland, where it was just ?930,000. There was also a 3 per cent increase in the number of rounds of golf played in the Middle East. Mark Sandilands, the senior manager at the KPMG golf advisory practice, said the UAE had some of the best new golf facilities in the region. "Despite the financial downturn, the courses in the UAE have continued to perform well," he said.

"I also believe that the very high standard levels set by the golf operators in the UAE in terms of course maintenance, customer service have helped them to buck the economic trend." In western Europe, the number of rounds played fell by 5 per cent last year compared with 2008, with a 3 per cent decline in the UK and Ireland, while revenues fell 8 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively. Chris May, the general manager of Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, said the Dubai Creek Club and Emirates Golf Club experienced a 5 per cent increase in the number of rounds played last year.

"2009 was actually a very good year for us," he said. Although there was a 25 per cent decline in the number of rounds played by tourists, this was more than offset by an increase in play by members and local visitors, Mr May said. Rounds played by tourists make up only about 20 per cent of the total, so declines in this segment could easily be compensated for, he said. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae