x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Who needs a driver?

Chief Sports Writer William Johnson continues his journey around the fairways, bunkers and greens of the UAE.

Emirates Golf Club, Wadi course 14th hole. Unlike for other holes, one needs to plot their way round here and not just reach for the driver.
Emirates Golf Club, Wadi course 14th hole. Unlike for other holes, one needs to plot their way round here and not just reach for the driver.

This is where Nick Faldo left his stamp on the Wadi course. The English golfer had a brain wave which is so obvious in hindsight but had not been considered before his re-design to swap holes 14 and 15 which run parallel to each other in opposite directions down the valley.

Doing that made maximum use of the two natural features - a subka rock face and a small lake - which previously added decoration to the 15th tee but did not really come into play. Now they represent a serious hazard to those approaching the new green. Rarely on a course of this length would a hole of only 367 yards command stroke index one status but this one justifies it as Faldo demands accuracy off the tee and bravery in dealing with the approach which can more often than not be a "blind" one.

"Faldo wants people to think and plot their way round here not just spontaneously reach for the driver," said Barney Coleman, my playing partner in extolling the virtues of his club's signature hole which has desert on both sides of the fairway and bunkers behind the green to punish those who deliberately play long over the rocks and lake. The equation facing golfers is how much accuracy to sacrifice for greater length off the tee in the hope of creating a short iron second shot.

Matthew Turner, twice a UAE order of merit winner who plays at the club, said: "I love the 14th. I normally take three iron off the tee and a wedge to the green. It is a bit wider down the right now so if you want to hit driver you can. But I never do. It's suicide." Turner curiously preferred the 14th and 15th holes when they were the other way round and remarked: "I reckon if we had the old course back now it would be much more fun.

wjohnson@thenational.ae