x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Earth is shaping up

Greg Norman has tried to recreate the type of drama which is witnessed annually at golf's "fifth major" in his design of the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

The scenic setting of the 17th hole at Sawgrass in Florida, the golf course that has been the blueprint for the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The scenic setting of the 17th hole at Sawgrass in Florida, the golf course that has been the blueprint for the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

DUBAI // Greg Norman has tried to recreate the type of drama which is witnessed annually at golf's "fifth major" in his design of the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates - venue for the long awaited Dubai World Championship in November next year. Norman, once the world's best player, but now one of the most respected course architects in the game, has used has used the fearsome "Island Green" at Sawgrass in Florida as the blueprint for his signature hole at the Earth course.

Sawgrass, which hosts the prestigious Players' Championship - the biggest event on the US tour apart from the four major tournaments - was designed by Pete Dye, who is working alongside Norman in the construction of four exciting new courses on the Jumeirah estate. Dye's 17th hole at Sawgrass, which has destroyed the hopes of many an aspiring Players' champion, has become one of the most photographed among spectators around the world. A "tiddler' of a par three at 137 yards, it demands pinpoint accuracy to avoid a steep drop into a watery grave surrounding the green.

Norman's version of Sawgrass is also No 17 on the card and will be the penultimate test of a 72-hole tournament which will be worth $2million (Dh7.3m) to the winner of what is the new concluding event to the Race to Dubai - the European Tour's renamed Order of Merit. At 208 yards, it will demand much more than the lofted clubs used to try to "plop" a ball on to the Sawgrass oasis and will require tremendous precision from the 60 leading Tour professionals.

Norman has made his own version of the Island Hole the key part of an incredibly tough finish which involves two 600-yard-plus holes on the closing five, making the overall yardage for the par 72 course a demanding 7,758. The new Earth course is the most advanced of the four at Jumeirah and is now finished and "bedding in" before it is ready to be played next year. The Fire course, also designed by Norman, is due to be completed by the end of January.

Work on the Water course, which has been designed by VJ Singh, who recently won the Fed-Ex championship, will start next month, while the Wind course, designed by the top Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia along with Pete Dye, will follow directly after. All four courses are expected to be used during the initial five-year agreement to conclude the Race to Dubai on Jumeirah Golf Estates. David Spencer, the chief executive of the golfing branch of Leisurecorp, who are hosting the $10million showpiece, is delighted with the progress that has already been made.

"Putting all this together so quickly has been a really determined effort by a young and enthusiastic team," he said. "We have the utmost respect for the traditions of golf in carrying out the work we are doing here and we believe we are one of the good custodians to take off into the future with the R & A and the respective tours around the world." wjohnson@thenational.ae