David Howell: Dubai is the perfect fit for a season finale

With the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai becoming a firm fixture on the global golfing landscape since its inception in 2009, here’s hoping there will be more memories created in the coming years as the event continues to go from strength to strength.

Ten years ago I can remember sitting down to listen to a presentation by David Spencer in the ballroom at Wentworth Golf Club, gathered together with almost every other player from the European Tour.

We didn’t know of David Spencer, and we hadn’t heard of the Race To Dubai, but in conjunction with his team from Leisurecorp and Jumeirah Golf Estates, he explained his vision of the year-long race we would soon be competing on, to play our way into a season-ending high stakes grand finale. The Dubai World Championship, to be played slap bang in the middle of the Desert Hills of Dubai.

Every now and then a marketing idea comes along that grabs the imagination and becomes part of the vernacular. Certainly, in the Race to Dubai we had found a superb example of this. No longer did we talk about the Order Of Merit, or the Money List. For a decade now we have discussed the competitive earning of precious Race To Dubai points to qualify for The Dubai World Championship.

The day after the first ever Beach Party in 2009 under the cover of the Atlantis Hotel, Lee Westwood fittingly surged to victory in the inaugural event on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. One of the Tour’s big-time players took the spoils in the richest event we had ever played. If you could have written a script, this was possibly the ending you would have chosen.

Since then, many of European golf’s brightest stars have won the Race To Dubai, quite often with both the season-long prize and the Dubai World Championship itself going down to the wire in front of superb crowds at JGE. Free entry to the European Tour’s season-ending finale was the cherry on the cake that guaranteed the success of this fabulous event.

As Dubai has grown, so has its golfing landscape. Today, it is truly a golfing city and whilst an endless amount of leisure pursuits are available across the city, I feel the world has only become more aware that this most unusual of all seven Emirates offers golf of the highest quality.

I can remember seeing the amazing Majlis clubhouse of the Emirates Golf Club on my television screen 25 years ago, looking majestic as it stood out on the oasis of green in the middle of the desert. As that wonderful course became surrounded by the city, other courses popped up on the outskirts to cater for the demand of both the tourist and city dwelling golfer.

However, Dubai under the leadership of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed, was never a place to rest on its laurels. It took the perfect opportunity to back a new bigger and better event, and the Dubai World Championship became the ideal vehicle to get behind. But, for me, the genius of the initiative was the title – the Race to Dubai. It simply rolls off the tongue. It encapsulates an image of glamour and competitiveness. The Race is talked about throughout the global golf season – promoting every tournament on the European Tour International Schedule.

The major benefit is, whilst any country could pop their name at the end of The Race to… wherever, it’s too late. It is synonymous with Dubai now and for a whole host of reasons it really is the most perfect fit for all concerned.

So, let’s hope that in another ten years’ time we will be looking back at 20 years of history. Who knows, maybe we will be playing at another fabulous golf resort in Dubai and, by then, the list of champions could be filled with players we have yet to hear about.

Golf is a game with a long and great history. It’s one of the beauties of our game. I do hope that Dubai continues to imprint its distinctive, individual style on the game I love.

It’s an integral part of the most multicultural city of all, throughout its exponential growth over the last two decades, golf has continued to grow in tandem. That it should host a global tournament of such huge magnitude is a great achievement. I believe that the fact that we talk about Dubai all year long and the importance of the Race to make it to the season-ending DP World Tour Championship is tremendous tool to keep on reminding the world that the vibrant city of Dubai is only one flight away. 

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