02 Jan 2017

Pete Cowen: Dubai needs to unite behind golf

I remember coming to Dubai in the 1980s as the Emirates Golf Club had just opened and it was remarkable to find a grassed championship course with hardly anything but desert surrounding it for miles. Word soon got out that Dubai had produced one of the first golfing wonders of the world and people started to venture to the Emirate to find out what it was all about.

To this day, golf remains the number one tourism sport in Dubai but a great deal has changed. Try explaining to anyone now that Emirates Golf Club used to be isolated in the middle of nowhere and they will think you’ve gone mad – it’s probably now the most central point in Dubai.

Countless other championship courses have been developed since Emirates opened their doors in 1988 and the whole region has grown into a stronghold for the European Tour.

This all sounds great but like many things in Dubai, golf has started to get far too expensive and many British golf tourists have been hit hard on the exchange rate since the Brexit result.

Some friends of mine came over to Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship to support Danny Willett. It cost them £650 per night for a room, plus breakfast and a fourball on one of the championship courses cost £1,000!

If Dubai is to revert to attracting golfers – not just internationally but locally as well – all the clubs need to get on board and sort the pricing out. It’s great to see Worldwide Golf doing their bit, with so many of the clubs getting behind its new discount app but Dubai needs government involvement to unite the various clubs and make the game more affordable.

Dubai had a thriving golf tourism industry with just three courses, now with the wide selection of great facilities that are on offer, with more waiting to open, it should be the go-to destination for any keen golfer.  One golfer who enhanced the Dubai golf buzz was Tiger Woods. We still need him in the game and it would be great to see him at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic but it looks like he’s set to remain in the States, having entered the Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club in February. But does that leave time for Abu Dhabi to put in a last minute bid to get him to play their championship along with Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy?

Tiger on the move

That would be interesting, especially when I see Tiger already has better odds than Henrik to win the Masters. That’s the Tiger following for you. Henrik played one of the best final rounds in Major history to win the Open Championship and went on to win the 2016 Race to Dubai. Tiger, on the other hand, showed signs of his old brilliance but came 15th out of 17 at the Hero World Challenge and isn’t officially set to play again until February. That goes to show just how much golfers want Tiger to come back. But there’s a fair amount of tournament rust to knock off before he can challenge on a Sunday.

He’s signed a ball deal with Bridgestone and who knows what he will sign with regards to hardware.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the venture capitalists at TaylorMade offer him a shareholding in the company if he plays their clubs, as he currently has the M2 driver in the bag and seems to be getting on great with it.

One driver the lads will be keen to get hold of in the New Year is the Callaway Epic. I’ve not seen it, but the TrackMan numbers I’ve been sent, together with the technology in the head, look very impressive.

Whatever happens, I’m hoping for another great season. Who knows – if my players can bag a few more Majors and tournaments I might stand a chance of winning BBC Sport’s Coach of the Year!

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