Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Ice golf in the Arctic, sand rugby in UAE, cricket at Mount Everest and other unique sports venues - in pictures

We take a look at some of the world's most picturesque places

Sports fans in the UAE have often had to be resourceful when it comes to pursuing their sporting passions.

Some golfers here pitch to browns instead of greens. Macho rugby players, meanwhile, have been known to have to close their eyes when they are tackled, for fear of sand getting in them.

They are not the only ones in the world of sport who have contended with unique playing conditions.

Sand rugby in Ras Al Khaimah

World Rugby’s regulations state the “surface should be grass but may also be sand, clay, snow or artificial grass”, so long as it is safe to play on.

Playing on sand was standard in UAE from the time expatriate oil workers first played the game in the 1960s. Even the Dubai Rugby Sevens did not have grass until 1995.

At present there are no sand pitches, although Ras Al Khaimah played competitive home matches on the beach at Bin Majid Resort between 2016 and 2018.

RAK Goats, in red and white stripes, playing on their sand pitch at the Bin Majid Beach Resort, Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy of Roger Harrison
RAK Goats, in red and white stripes, playing on their sand pitch at the Bin Majid Beach Resort, Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy of Roger Harrison

Ice cricket in St Moritz

Slip fielders approach their craft with trepidation in early season matches in the UK, given how frosty the weather can sometimes be.

So what must the great and good of the international game have made of having to field on a snow-covered lake in the Swiss Alps, in sub-zero temperatures?

Virender Sehwag, Shahid Afridi, Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith all played in the Ice Cricket Challenge in St Moritz in 2018.

ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 02: (EDITOR'S NOTE: AN ON-CAMERA POLARIZING FILTER WAS USED TO CREATE THIS IMAGE) A batsman walks back after being dismissed in the game between Winterthur XI and Old Salopians XI during the 19th Cricket Tournament on Ice held on the frozen surface of Lake St. Moritz on February 2, 2007 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The tournament first took place in 1988, when a group of Britons challenged the students of the international boarding school Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz to a game. Since then it has become an integral part of the cricket calendar, attracting international players and high-flying businessmen from all over the world. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
A batsman walks back after being dismissed in the game between Winterthur XI and Old Salopians XI during the 19th Cricket Tournament on Ice held on the frozen surface of Lake St Moritz. Getty Images

Sand golf at Al Ghazal

Sand golf used to abound in the UAE, with a course at Tarif dating back to early oil exploration in the 1950s, as well as ones on Das Island, at Dubai Country Club, and even Abu Dhabi City.

Most have made way, but Al Ghazal, near Abu Dhabi International Airport, still flies the flag for a niche pastime.

Usually golfers want to avoid sand-traps. At Al Ghazal, that’s all there is.

The fairways are made of it, and players carry a mat of artificial turf to hit to greens that are actually “browns” – slicked down with oil to ensure a smooth putting surface.

Basketball on an aircraft carrier

The “Carrier Classic” was a college basketball match played on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, in 2011.

A crowd of 8,111, including President Barack Obama, watched North Carolina beat Michigan State on Veterans Day.

Temporary seating was installed on the flight deck, and play was paused at sunset while the sailors conducted the retiring the colours ceremony.

Ice golf in the Arctic

Uummannaq, a town of around 1,000 inhabitants in Greenland, has played host to the World Ice Golf Championship since 1999.

It is around 800kms inside the Arctic Circle, so it stands to reason the weather gets a little chilly.

Temperatures can be around -50°C. Players use coloured golf balls, so they are not camouflaged against the snow, and long spikes – or crampons – are advisable.

Chip Thompson of the USA in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship in Uummannaq, Greenland. Getty Images 
Chip Thompson of the USA in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship in Uummannaq, Greenland. Getty Images

Sand cricket in Abu Dhabi

Another item on this sporting bucket list that is unique to the UAE – or, at least the Middle East. Oman has, after all, reached the T20 World Cup twice despite having just two turf grounds.

Cricket is a much-loved game in this country, but not everybody gets to play on grass.

Many Friday morning games from Abu Dhabi to Ajman are played on concrete wickets inside a sand field.

Unlike in the game’s traditional form, the outfield is rolled flat, rather than the pitch.

Sand cricket pitch at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy photo
Sand cricket pitch at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy photo

Singapore floating football stadium

Often used as a football pitch, but The Float at Marina Bay in Singapore has many uses.

It is the world’s largest floating platform, and the stands which look down on it can hold up to 27,000 people.

The area also features in turns 17 and 18 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit where Singapore’s F1 Grand Prix takes place.

Beach cricket in Scotland

Beach cricket is commonly played by holidaymakers, but for a club in Scotland it is far more organised than impromptu pick-up matches.

The Ship Inn are a team who play on Elie Beach, not far from St Andrews, and arrange their matches according to the tide.

Meaning, when the tide is out, they can play, with the central pitch made playable with a light roller.

World’s toughest par three

The Legend Golf Resort in South Africa had 18 renowned international players design a whole each – but it is most famed for its 19th.

Not, as is customary, the clubhouse, but a hole that is claimed to be the “world’s toughest par three”.

It is surely a fair claim, given that the tee box – which is only accessible by helicopter – is 400m metres up, at the top of Hairlip Mountain.

If they can conquer vertigo, the players then tee off to a green shaped like Africa – because, why not? – that is 391 yards away.

So far, in fact, it is said the ball takes nearly 30 seconds to arrive, and spotters have to locate the ball for the players.

ENTABENI, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 07: A view of the Extreme 19th hole from the tee, Par 3 631m long, where the tee is at the top of Hanglip mountain and the green is the shape of Africa at the Legend Golf Course on the Entabeni Safari Reserve on January 7, 2009 in Entabeni, South Africa. The Legend Golf Course has been designed by 18 different golfers, each one doing an entire hole, plus an extreme 19th 631m long par 3 (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
A view of the Extreme 19th hole from the tee, Par 3 631m long, where the tee is at the top of Hanglip mountain and the green is the shape of Africa at the Legend Golf Course on the Entabeni Safari Reserve. Getty Images

Cricket on Everest

The Everest Premier League is a fully-fledged, T20 franchise competition which international stars like Chris Gayle and Corey Anderson were due to feature in – had the pandemic not hit.

Not that it has anything to do with Everest, per se. The league actually takes place in Kathmandu, around 165kms away from the world’s tallest mountain.

But cricket has been played nearer to the mountain than that – on the Gorakshep plateau 16,945ft up.

Two teams from England played what was, at the time, the highest recorded cricket match – although that has since been bettered, by two teams on Mount Kilimanjaro.

TO GO WITH LIFESTYLE-NEPAL-BRITAIN-EVEREST-CRICKET By Deepesh Shrestha In this handout picture released by Jamie Zubairi on April 28, 2009, British cricket teams named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men known to climb Mount Everest, play the short form Twenty20 version of the game at Gorak Shep, a sandy plateau 5,165 metres (17,000 feet) above sea level, near Mount Everest on April 21, 2009. After completing a record-breaking charity cricket match close to Everest base camp, the exhausted players trekked out of the mountains with one piece of advice: don't run singles at high altitude. AFP PHOTO/HO/Jamie ZUBAIRI RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. GETTY OUT. (Photo by HO / Jamie Zubairi / AFP)
British cricket teams named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay play a game of Twenty20 cricket at Gorak Shep, a sandy plateau 5,165 metres (17,000 feet) above sea level, near Mount Everest. AFP

River football, Bourton on the Water, England

A tradition dating back almost 100 years sees two five-a-side teams play each other on a summer bank holiday on the River Windrush at Bourton on the Water in the west of England.

The water is only ankle deep, so playing a game resembling actual football is just about doable.

Cave cricket in the Lake District

In 2013 teams from nearby towns played the first underground cricket match in a slate mine in the Lake District in the UK.

The pitch was 600 metres inside the mine, the pitch was mesh matting, while pieces of slate were used for the bails.

The fixture took place in December, so well outside the UK’s usual summer window for cricket. It remained unaffected by the weather, luckily …

Updated: June 21, 2020 07:26 AM

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