Peter Dawson, the former R&A chief executive, is now Chairman of the Falcon Golf Management which aims to increase golf tourism in Dubai
What distinguishes Dubai as a golf destination?
Home to 11 of the finest courses on the planet and with a subtropical climate, year-round blue skies and sunshine, Dubai is perfect for a golf holiday. Not only that, visitors can play courses designed by greats such as Thomas Bjorn, Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman, and enjoy hospitality and practice facilities that are second to none.
For many golf fans, though, the idea of teeing up at the courses that they have seen on TV is the biggest draw. As the host of three professional tournaments, Dubai has a rich history as a stage for the world’s greatest players to shine. Visitors have easy access to the courses that have seen famous victories for Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Rory McIIroy and Sergio Garcia.
The development of the professional game also gave Dubai the ability to tell its story to the world. Over time, amazing moments of sporting brilliance have etched Dubai in the minds of golf fans all over the world.
Dubai is described as an ‘extraordinary’ golf destination. What best illustrates this in your eyes?
It is the combination of having a vision that pushes the boundaries and then realising it. This is what makes Dubai truly extraordinary.
It is hard to conceive how far Dubai has come in such a short period of time, and I think it is only really apparent when you arrive here and experience the city first-hand.
The clearest illustration for me is when you see early photos of locations that have since been transformed into world-renowned landmarks.
I have also been impressed by the vibrancy of the city and the quality of lifestyle enjoyed by its residents. There is such positive energy and a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Explain how Golf in Dubai will optimise how Dubai is perceived in the golf marketplace?
Falcon Golf – an affiliate of Falcon and Associates, a strategic advisory company working for the Dubai leadership – was set up to optimise the sport of golf in Dubai.
Through its Golf in Dubai brand, Falcon Golf aims to increase awareness and appreciation of golf as a leisure pursuit for discerning holiday makers and business travellers.
The Race to Dubai and the city’s professional golf event roster give regular touch points for consumers to gain insights into the experience on offer, which is a tremendous advantage. Golf in Dubai will capitalise on this exposure and work with Dubai’s golf stakeholders to highlight the city’s remarkable tourism offering.
How will the new integrated website make the golf and destination experience more accessible?
Golfindubai.com provides potential golf tourist and members of the travel industry access to all the information they need – for the first time in one place – giving them the ability to find the answers to any questions they might have and make informed decisions.
It is another great shop window into Dubai and will be a valuable tool for members of the trade and consumers alike.
How is Falcon Golf working with Dubai’s golf stakeholders?
Dubai has an abundance of talented individuals working hard to attract visiting golfers and we want to harness their capabilities to optimise the growth of the sport here. By uniting our efforts, we will strengthen our market presence and perception among our target audiences which will hopefully lead to measured growth.
So far, we have had great support from all involved which, of course, is very encouraging. We look forward to working together and maximising the opportunities for the city’s golf tourism landscape.
How significant is Dubai’s professional golf event network to i) the world of golf ii) Dubai as a destination?
Dubai has been a significant catalyst for the global growth of the professional game in the modern-era.
Running since 1989, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic was the first European Tour event to be staged outside European borders and paved the way for the Tour’s transformation into a year-round global competition, while The Race to Dubai provided the European Tour a springboard to connect its profile internationally, culminating in Dubai for the season-ending finale.
Without the vision of those behind creating new ways for the professional game to flourish, I don’t think we would have quite the wealth of playing opportunities and great golf events we see week-in, week-out on the European Tour.
Golf unquestionably has played a role in putting Dubai on the world map, attracting international visitors and long-term residents, while also spurring real estate development and investment.
The task at hand is to realise the full potential for growth that golf can unlock.
What does the future have in store for Golf in Dubai?
We are making good progress. The introduction of our new brand and website will give trade and consumers a focal point and ignite renewed interest in Dubai.
We are looking at the best ways with which we can refine aspects of The Omega Dubai Desert Classic and The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, which have both been hugely successful and paved the way for Dubai in the world of golf.
Falcon Golf manages Dubai’s involvement with the Race to Dubai and we will also be looking at ways to tell the city’s story via the worldwide marketing activation of the European Tour’s season-long competition to crown the No 1 player.
There are also new developments that will strengthen the city’s golf offering. New courses in the pipeline, including a Tiger Woods design, will increase capacity and also encourage more golfers to visit Dubai.
For you, what was the defining moment in Dubai’s golf / sporting history?
There are so many to choose from.
For me, the image of Tiger on the Burj Al Arab back in 2004 is one that will not be forgotten. It was a brilliant exhibition of using a global sporting star to draw the world’s attention to Dubai.
I saw first-hand Tiger’s admiration for Dubai during his visit earlier this year. He was visibly taken aback by how much progress had been made and was vocal about his connection to the city.
I think one of the others would have to be Rory McIlroy’s breakthrough win at the 2009 Omega Dubai Desert Classic. I am sure we will look back on that moment as one that helped to shape the career of one of the greatest golfers ever to have played the game. A further demonstration as to why Dubai’s investment in the sport has been so positive for the world of golf.
If you were to describe your perfect day in Dubai, what would it entail?
Where do I start? Well, it would certainly involve a morning round of golf. Watching the sun rise over the city skyline is something you should definitely experience and something that can be enjoyed on many of Dubai’s courses.
I love the contrast between old and new in Dubai and finding out more about the city’s rich Arabic heritage. After lunch I would take an Abra ride on Dubai Creek and wander through the Spice, Gold and Textile souks. It is where the growth of Dubai originated, a glimpse into Dubai’s trading history and a reminder of how much that has been achieved here.
In the evening, you can’t fail to find a fantastic spot for dinner. Dubai has some of the finest restaurants in the world, many of which are accompanied by breathtaking views of Dubai landmarks including the iconic the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab.