Excitement is building as top class golf returns to the UAE this month with the second edition of the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge.
Taking place at the stunning Al Hamra Golf Club from October 25-28, the event will see the pros locking horns in the penultimate event on the Challenge Tour calendar as they aim to end the season in the top 15 on the Road to Oman Rankings and gain promotion to the European Tour.
Something former Challenge Tour player Jordan Smith knows a thing or two about. After winning the inaugural event last year, Smith went on to secure his first European Tour Card for the 2017 season and won his first Tour event at the Porsche European Open in July. The English ace has already sealed his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, open only to the top 60 players in the Race to Dubai rankings (he’s currently 17th), after a terrific rookie campaign which has also seen him finish tied ninth in his first Major, the US PGA Championship.
“I might sound a bit biased as I won the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge but I remember turning up and everything was just perfect,” said Smith, who was in RAK last month to promote the upcoming Challenge Tour tournament and played a round at Al Hamra GC with Worldwide Golf editor Alex Gallemore. “We stayed right next to the course on the beach and I really enjoyed my stay.
“I think the event has the potential to become the Grand Final of the Challenge Tour season as it is very similar to the setup at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman. Al Hamra Golf Club has some great facilities and the course is definitely good enough.
“I’d had a very strong Challenge Tour season last year but winning in Ras Al Khaimah was the icing on the cake.
— Jordan Smith (@Jsmithgolf) 13 September 2017
“Performing so consistently with so much on the line was a huge confidence boost and I’ve been fortunate enough to carry that form into my rookie season on the European Tour. Everything is going well but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think how important my Ras Al Khaimah win was in getting me to where I am today. I’m only really at the start of my golf career – a bit like Ras Al Khaimah – and it’s going to be a long journey but that particular junction was a crucial point in my progression.”
With the world’s up-and-coming golf stars due to tee-off in the second Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge in a few week’s time, Smith believes Al Hamra Golf Club will prove a stern test for this year’s crop of emerging European Challenge Tour superstars.
“The Al Hamra course is in very good condition; you would never guess we’re at the tail-end of a scorching summer season in Ras Al Khaimah. It will be in perfect shape by the time the guys touch down. If you can keep the ball straight off the tee and stay away from the lagoons, the course can be relatively straight-forward, but with so much at stake in the season’s penultimate tournament it will definitely test the field – I have no doubts about that.”
The Challenge Tour class of 2017 includes Finnland’s Tapio Pulkkanen who is currently top billing in the Road to Oman standings. With one Challenge Tour win under his belt at the recent Kazhakatan Open in addition to three more top tens including two runner-up finishes he will be hoping to add a second with a win in Ras Al Khaimah giving him a great chance of following in Smith’s footstep by not only sealing a European Tour card, but doing so by topping the rankings.
Also on the hunt for glory is England’s Aaron Rai, who already has three wins to his name and has secured automatic promotion to the European Tour but is expected to play in RAK in a bid to top the Road to Oman Rankings.
Frenchman Julien Guerrier won his second title of the season in Ireland last month and is breathing down Rai’s neck in the Road to Oman knowing that a good showing in RAK and then Oman the following week, could be enough to see him crowned Challenge Tour Number One while England’s Ryan Evans, winner of the Turkish Airlines Challenge, will be another one to watch.
As well as top glass golfing action, this year’s RAK Golf Challenge will offer activities for all the family to enjoy. Visitors to the event can stay in one of the nearby hotels in Al Hamra Village, which are offering great deals during the tournament, set along the pristine beaches and offering fantastic swimming pools, spas and facilities. While taking time out from the excitement on the greens, spectators can head down to the golf tournament fan village – branded the Adventure Zone. Here kids will find a climbing wall, trampolines and other activities from Adventure HQ, as well as a bouncy castle and face painting. A DJ car from Red Bull and a dedicated Octoberfest garden will be open from 16:00pm to 22:00pm from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 October.
For more information on hotel offers and the fan village visit: rasalkhaimah.ae