I’m a day late writing this week as I’ve been away in Abu Dhabi and Dubai visiting three fantastic golf courses managed by American company Troon Golf: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, The Els Club and The Montgomerie. I won’t go on too much about the trip at this stage as I’m going to write a feature on the Emirates in the next issue of GM. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty mind boggling place with ludicrous amounts of development and heady ambition driven by incredible wealth.
In terms of the golf, however, I made some observations.
Our first port of call was the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, venue of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour. For those of you who feel all the early season tournaments on tour blend into one another: it’s the one with the falcon shaped clubhouse. The event was won this year by German sensation Martin Kaymer with a total of -15. An average score of 68.25 might suggest the course is quite easy. It’s not. We played off the Championship tees 7,500 yards. What’s the problem? This wasn’t just arrogance, we were all reasonable players. There shouldn’t have been an issue. Well, I hit three or four iron into at least five of the par fours and three wood a couple of times. The greens were at 11.5 on the stimp and I just couldn’t bring myself to hit the ball softly enough, I must have had nearly 40 putts. I didn’t keep track of my exact score, but it was probably closer to 90 than 80.
It was an eye-opener and really drove it home to me how skilful the top pros are. It may look like target golf on TV but trying to hold those greens and understand the breaks and the grain is seriously tough.
On the way round, Paul (pro at Abu Dhabi and our playing partner) pointed out some of the places Kaymer had driven to. I don’t think of myself as a short hitter but my Sunday best was generally 50 yards behind where the German was bombing it to. Up the par five 18th he fired three wood into the green from 280 yards. I hit driver, three-wood, full wedge.
The practice facilities at each of the clubs were awesome, the short game areas particularly. These were all to proper greens set up exactly as those on the course. You could pitch off perfect fairway, from rough or out of well-maintained bunkers. I could have spent hours there. Short game is my weakest subject but I’m sure, if I had access to a resource like this, I’d improve immensely.
Each of the courses had GPS systems on the carts. I’m not usually a fan of taking a buggy but out there it makes sense as it gives you some shade and allows you to take copious amounts of water with you. Anyway, the GPS systems are great as they give you an exact yardage from wherever you are. A common argument I’ve heard against them in the UK is they slow down play. From what I saw in Dubai, I’ve no doubt they speed up the play. There are no excuses for messing about or indecision, you get your yardage, pick your club accordingly and hit it.
I thought it was great to know how far you had from 100 yards in. There’s a massive difference between a 60 yard shot and an 80 yard shot and knowing for sure enables you to get close far more often. At home there’d be nothing to stop me pacing these shots out but I never would because I’d hold up the course.
I’m back to wintry Scotland now and will hopefully get a game this weekend. I predict I’ll leave 90% of my putts short and will become extremely annoyed when I pick the wrong club based on the 150 yard markers that are anywhere between 135 and 165 from the centre of the greens.