Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Having Abu Dhabi and Dubai golf tournaments back to back 'can only be a good thing for the whole region'

The National revealed last week that the European Tour will hold the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic the week following the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain plays his second shot on the 9th hole at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 20, 2017, during second-round play of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Scott Halleran / Getty Images
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain plays his second shot on the 9th hole at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 20, 2017, during second-round play of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Organisers of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic say the decision to stage next year’s tournament the week following the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship represents a major plus for golf in the country.

The National revealed on Thursday that the two events will run back to back for the very first time, with Abu Dhabi taking place from January 18-21 and Dubai scheduled for January 25-28.

The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, traditionally sandwiched between the two tournaments and part of the European Tour's three-legged Desert Swing, is slated for the end of February. Next year’s Dubai Desert Classic will be followed by the Maybank Championship in Malaysia, with the revised slots for the UAE tournaments set to stay.

Since its inception in 2006, Abu Dhabi has become one of the highest-ranked regular events on the European Tour, while Dubai is the longest-running professional golf tournament in the region. It was inaugurated in 1989.

David Spencer, strategic advisor for Falcon Golf and the Mena Tour, said having the UAE tournaments back to back should lead to a better collaboration between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and, in turn, could be reflected in stronger fields.

“Having the two tournaments side by side logistically is an advantage,” Spencer said. “It also allows us to focus on the UAE as a golfing destination to the world perhaps in a more effective manner.

“Despite the fact they’re back to back, there’ll be some differences in the fields: Abu Dhabi are looking at having some players compete in their tournament that won’t compete in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and we’re doing the same.

“We’ve always enjoyed a good working relationship with HSBC and IMG, who are the promoters of the Abu Dhabi event, and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. By Qatar not being in the middle, this may be an opportunity to actually work more closely together with Abu Dhabi and assemble fields that are even stronger. So we’re very, very positive about the fact it’ll be Abu Dhabi and then Dubai.”

The European Tour welcomed the change, echoing Spencer’s comments that successive weeks of elite-level golf in the UAE would only boost the game in the Emirates.

“We all look forward to a positive dynamic for everyone involved,” said Nick Tarratt, director of the European Tour International Dubai Office.

“For the players, media and TV logistics, it is obvious to have back-to-back tournaments so close together - a one-hour drive down the road and an opportunity for golf fans to experience a two-week European Tour package that can only benefit UAE tourism.

“Every golf tournament has a different personality of a town, city, promoter and/or country and a healthy rivalry between tournaments is always good to raise the bar for everyone’s benefit - whether it is the condition of the golf course, player experience, spectator experience, prize money and everything connected with the tournaments.

“We look forward to witnessing two highlight weeks on the European Tour international schedule in January 2018 in this part of the world.”

Meanwhile, 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke said the decision would prove popular among players, too.

"The collaboration between Dubai and Abu Dhabi can only be a good thing for the whole region," he said. "The golf we have here in the UAE is sensational - everything it has to offer is brilliant. And two weeks back to back is only going to highlight that even more.

“If you have guys coming to play Abu Dhabi they might stay on to play Dubai, and the fields maybe get a little stronger. And if they do, there’s more world-ranking points and that elevates the tournaments that little bit more again. I for one think it’s a great idea they go back to back.”