Women’s golf has firmly been in the spotlight in Middle East in recent years both in the professional and amateur game. From grassroots initiatives such as Chicks With Sticks and Golf Saudi’s Ladies First programme to the Emirates Golf Federation signing the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter and hiring a full-time Ladies National Team coach, there’s never been a better time for women to get involved with the game.
Worldwide Golf caught up with UAE Ladies National Team player and the very first captain of the side, Hamda Al Suwaidi, to find out about her journey into the game and her hopes of more Emiratis taking up the sport.
How did you get started in golf?
I started in 2015 when a colleague in my office introduced me to the game. He gave me my first ever lesson at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and I got hooked on it immediately – I found it really fun. Here I am, seven years later still enjoying my golf and playing for the UAE National Team.
Why did you have that instant attraction to the game?
You’re surrounded with greenery and the sun in an outdoor setting – it’s much better than sitting inside a gym! The game has also introduced me to many different nationalities and cultures, I have so many friends from across the globe who I’ve met through golf which is amazing. It’s a unique game to me and my culture.
What is the strongest part of your game?
My distance! I average around 240 yards off the tee which I’m happy with. I can improve on that but right now that level pleases me.
How did you get involved with the UAE National Team?
Six years ago, the EGF’s Secretary General, Khalid Mubarak Al Shamsi, saw me practicing on the driving range and could see how keen I was to play, so he asked me to come along and join the team as the EGF were very keen to get more women involved in the sport.
In those six years how much have you seen the women’s game grown for UAE nationals?
The game has grown well over years given the fact golf is quite unknown to our culture. The EGF is putting in a lot of hard work to get as many ladies involved as possible and they’ve done an amazing job with that.
How important was it for the EGF to bring in a female coach when April Varney joined in 2019?
I think it’s an amazing thing having a female coach as she understands us and the women’s game. April is a brilliant coach who is great at communicating with us ladies despite the different cultures we come from. The EGF have done an amazing job in hiring her.
You travel around a lot with the UAE National Team – how much do you enjoy visiting different countries?
It’s an amazing experience getting to travel and play different courses around the world. You learn different skills by playing courses that are set up different or use different grass to what we have in Dubai – it’s a new experience for us. It has helped take my game to another level.
How special was it to be part of the UAE National Team last year at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club?
I was given the honour of being part of the opening ceremony which was an amazing experience but also very nerve-wracking! It was a great tournament and I hope to be part of it once again in the future. The standard of golf was amazing – they were the best amateur golfers I have ever seen.
Being a more experienced member of the team, do you help the youngsters coming through the ranks?
Since I became the first captain of the Women’s UAE National Team I’ve tried to motivate them and give them a few lessons on what I have experienced in the game throughout the years. At the end of the day, I am a player and not a coach but I try and be a role model to them by working hard in practice and competing at a high level in competitions.
What message would you give to Emirati women looking to get into the game?
Look at where we are sitting right now with the beautiful greenery surrounding us. Being able to play this sport outside with the sun shining is really nice. Our country has built all these amazing courses to attract the best professional to play them, so we should be taking advantage and enjoying them as well as they are in our country.
What are your hopes for the future of the women’s game in the UAE?
I think we will see a women’s professional golfer in the future – that is my dream. It’s not only a dream for me but the UAE as a whole. We are trying very hard to make that dream a reality and the EGF are giving us so much support to reach that level. Hopefully one day any one of us can make it as a professional golfer.