x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Taking the bait

We move on to hole 13 of The National's dream round, which is a delightful par 4 at the Jebel Ali Resort course.

This is the fourth and the 13th hole at the Jebel Ali Golf Course, as the course has only nine holes.
This is the fourth and the 13th hole at the Jebel Ali Golf Course, as the course has only nine holes.

(Par 4, 413 yards) Hole 13: Jebel Ali Resort Course The delightful Jebel Ali course which until recently staged the Challenge Match preview to the annual Dubai Desert Classic is one not to be underestimated, despite being only nine holes. It requires a fair degree of course management so it helps enormously when playing this hole as No 13 on the card to have enjoyed a reconnaissance mission a couple of hours previously.

When I and my opponent Philippa Kennedy, a colleague at The National, played it as our fourth hole, she made full use of the single shot I was conceding by laying up and making a safe bogey (nett par) to win the hole comfortably as my attempted approach was lost at sea. Second time around with Philippa leading one up, she hit probably her best tee shot of the day to finish tantalisingly 178 yards away from the pin.

Playing off levels at this stage, I urged her to "go for it" because the potential reward of a two-hole lead was too appealing to reject, especially with me having chosen to lay up from 200 yards away. She needed some convincing but eventually unzipped her hybrid club and let fly with a gallant effort which carried the water only to be lost in the heavy overgrowth surrounding it. This time I made the safe bogey to go all square in a tense encounter which was ultimately halved.

James Williams, director of golf at the club, has witnessed such bravado on countless occasion. He observes of the hole: "Golfers love a challenge and sometimes can't resist trying to get on in two, even though most handicap golfers get a shot. He told me that Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara, playing together in a greensomes challenge before the Desert Classic, bogeyed that hole two years in a row.

The peacocks which roam freely over the 3,299 yards of fertile terrain seem to know when the large saltwater lake which comes into play on more than half of the holes claims another victim. They squawked when my new Titleist said a swift farewell first time round, but sadly there was no flourishing of multi-coloured tails by birds which have given the club its official emblem when a clean hit had found dry land close to them on the second nine.