x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A bit of a stretch

The par 4 16th hole of the Abu Dhabi National Club course is a challenge for even the longest-hitting professionals.

Over the course of time, player feedback persuaded the club to remove trees that had originally blocked the route down the left.
Over the course of time, player feedback persuaded the club to remove trees that had originally blocked the route down the left.

16th hole Abu Dhabi National Par 4 - 475 yards Chris DiMarco played what was described by the club's competitions coordinator Alan Johnson as the "shot of the tournament" on the way to winning the inaugural European PGA tour event here in 2006. The American, not one of the longest professionals off the tee, hit his three iron approach to within 15 feet and sank the birdie putt to give him a two stroke lead over Henrik Stenson with two to play.

Johnson, an assistant professional, has caddied for Prince Andrew, of the British Royal Family, at the course and also played in pro-ams here with the last two winners Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer. He reflected: "DiMarco knew he could not get up the last in two where Stenson could so it was vital that he gave himself a two-shot cushion for the closing two holes and he did so in tremendous style." My guide around the main 18 holes of this 27-hole paradise was the head professional of the club, Paul Dennis.

He warned before we set off that he was not in the best form of his life but I'm glad I didn't take too much notice of the negative vibes he was trying to give me. He had begun the back nine course with an eagle at 10 and a birdie at 12 to make the make the modest observation: "Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds the odd acorn." Dennis told me, as we prepared to negotiate what he enthused was "a superb golf hole" which was the start of a magnificent but daunting finishing stretch, that the player feedback had persuaded him and his club colleagues to remove trees that had originally blocked the route down the left.

Lee Westwood, the British professional, has also asked for the desert areas to be made tougher and for the water to come into play more, but as far as I was concerned as I watched it follow us down the right side of the fairway it is intimidating enough. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae