x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Floodlights, golf clubs, action

The summer heat has not dissuaded amateur golfers from teeing off on the green.

Never mind the heat, Jason Walloschek's first challenge is trying to tee off at Yas Links.
Never mind the heat, Jason Walloschek's first challenge is trying to tee off at Yas Links.

ABU DHABI // It is humid and hovering around the low 40s just after sunset at the first tee on Yas Links' par three nine-hole course.

The moisture can be seen in a dense mist gathering around the high-powered floodlights. Despite the seemingly unbearable conditions, a steady stream of avid, yet not-so-seasoned golfers passes through.

Everyone has their reason to be here, despite the stifling heat.

Some are here to pass the time, others to take advantage of the lower summer prices. Still others just want to see what all the fuss is about.

Jason Walloschek and his pregnant wife of seven months, Katherine Deuerlein, 33, both of Canada, have never played golf before.

"This is our first time out. It's awesome," says Mr Walloschek.

"We thought we would come down and try it," his wife adds.

Complete with a set of rented, right-handed clubs, the pair headed to the first tee.

The heat is the least of their worries: Jason's main challenge is hitting the ball. After several swings at thin air and then a few hacks into the grass, he connects the club with the ball and lands it halfway down the fairway. "We only have six balls, so we don't know how we will get on," he says before passing the seven iron to his wife.

They have been in the UAE for eight months and say they were getting tired of the Emirates' sandy colour.

"It's funny how contradictory we are," Jason says, pointing to the well-manicured course complete with rolling hills and long, green fairways. "In Canada, a golf course is so bad for the environment. We don't know if we should do it here, but here we say we could be around green stuff."

The couple say they are also trying to keep active. "Rather than staying inside all the time, we're trying to get outside," Jason adds.

In another area of Yas Links, Kurt Hohdensee, a geological engineer for Exxon Mobil, is getting out of the house and avoiding other temptations Abu Dhabi may have to offer.

"Look at me. I am drenched," says the 51-year-old American.

The heat affects his swing and his play time, but he powers on.

"We played Saadiyat last Friday," he says. "We were up at 8am, but after we played 15 holes, we had to call it quits at 11am. In the end, it was 47 degrees."

Last summer, he only teed off at the crack of dawn, or after 3pm, to avoid the blistering rays.

"You might think we are crazy for playing," he says. "It's not that we go out every day, but we look at it sometimes and say we can't play. We don't love it that much so we suffer heatstroke. We watch out for each other and most of the courses have water at each hole."

His golfing partner, Julio Pearson, says they come prepared for extreme heat, and the staff at most courses in the UAE try their best to make it bearable.

"There are carts going around, which bring nice cold towels at least three times," says the 61-year-old Exxon Mobil geotechnical adviser. "We also have a two-litre bottle of frozen water, and it melts while we play."

Kurt says he never sees anyone play during the day, just early in the morning or late in the evening.

"It's a challenge, but it's a respectable thing you can do with your spare time. There are other things to do but we prefer playing golf," he adds.

Berm Sasikasem, a 40-year-old engineer from Thailand, says the supply of water keeps him teeing off during the summer.

"It's a way to exercise," he says. "That's the point. Everyone is lazy, and you've got to get out. It is the easiest way to exercise because you are walking, playing and joking.

"But without the cooler tanks, you'd die."

Pointing at his sweaty brow, he says: "I keep drinking, but it keeps leaking out."

If he arrives at the course at three o'clock, the heat doesn't stop his swing. He will slap on sun cream and don a hat.

"You don't feel too much heat, and the moisture off the grass is also good. We come at five and play one round [of nine holes] and then go again because we enjoy it so much," he says.

Seth Leong, of Malaysia, is not going to let the humidity stop his game, either.

"There is not much else to do when it gets hot," says Seth, 30, who manages costs related to building and civil engineering projects.

"You can only go out at night only to floodlit places like basketball courts and here. There is a really good deal, which is the main incentive."

He also finds some respite from the heat, albeit only a few degrees.

"If you walk down towards the bunker, the air drops about five degrees," he says. "The only other activity I can think of during this time is fishing."

Yas Links, Yas Island: Visitors 9 holes, weekdays Dh200; weekend Dh250. Contact: 02 810 7777

City Golf Club, Al Mushrif: Visitors 9 holes Dh175. Contact: 02 445 9600