Sixty of the world's top players will take on Greg Norman's golden final four holes next month, as William Johnson reports.
Dubai's 'Golden Mile' is a stiff challenge
DUBAI // Any mention of the Golden Mile in my childhood days sent tingles up the spine and made hairs on the back of the neck stand up in anticipation of a trip to the English seaside to sample a mixture of excitement and uncertainty created by Blackpool's array of white knuckle rides and arcades of slot machines. Now we have a Golden Mile forming a delightful oasis in the more extensive sand of the UAE which promises to provide roller coaster experiences and risk-and-reward opportunities when 60 of the world's best golfers arrive in Dubai to chance their arm next month.
Greg Norman, the charismatic Australian who, at the peak of his playing days, was the best golfer on Planet Earth, has created his own version of Earth at Jumeirah Golf Estates (JGE) to provide the venue for the inaugural US$7.5million (Dh 27.5m) Dubai World Championship. Norman has described the last four holes of the 7,706-yard Earth Course as one of the toughest home stretches on the golf calendar and labelled it the Golden Mile because it measures a total of 1,703 yards - 57 yards short of the imperial yardstick.
"It's certainly worthy of that golden label," enthused Wayne Johnson, the resident teaching professional at JGE, who gave a fascinating insight into the four holes which are likely to decide the destiny of the winner's cheque of $1.5m when the DWC rounds off the European Tour's first $7.5m Race to Dubai. Johnson has privileged inside information that those who qualify for the season-ending Tour championship would possibly kill for. He emphasised that "course management" will be a vital factor because of Earth being at the moment uncharted territory for the Tour members.
"There is enormous potential for a large swing on these last four holes," said Johnson as he stepped on to the tee at the 371-yard 15th. "Somebody who is four strokes off the pace when he arrives at this point will believe he can retrieve those shots and equally somebody who is leading by four will know he is not safe until he reaches the clubhouse. "It makes for a really exciting finish for what is a flagship tournament and that is ideal for the golfers and those coming to watch." firstname.lastname@example.org