x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Golf's sandy oasis

Amid the lush greenery of the UAE's conventional golf courses is an oasis of sand beloved by many of Abu Dhabi's duffers.

If you build it they will come. This week, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship embraces this maxim by hosting the world's greatest golfing talent.

"You don't attract six of the world's top 10 players without it being a great course," said Ken Kosak, general manager of Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Indeed, the UAE is blessed with so many top-class courses that many of the world's leading players, as well as keen amateurs, already consider it a preferred golfing destination.

But amid the lush greenery of these courses remains an oasis of sand that holds a special place in the hearts of many of Abu Dhabi's duffers.

The capital's Al Ghazal Golf Club is widely considered to have "the only world-class sand course on the planet", in what is an increasingly shrinking category. The course was established in 1997 and even hosted the World Sand Golf Championship in 2004 and 2005.

But the popularity of sand golf in the UAE goes back to the 1970s and still draws a loyal following. It might be a world away from the glitz of the European Tour but it still retains a unique charm. There are the sporadic desert bushes between the holes, sand-sweepers fixing the "browns" after each putt, and a homely, English-style clubhouse.

The Al Ghazal Golf Club calls itself, with some justification, "the friendliest golf club in the UAE". Hopefully it will have enough friends and supporters to continue welcoming golf enthusiasts for many years to come.