The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is just a little bit different as Jeremy Ellwood, a veteran of five Middle East campaigns, reflects...

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and having personally notched up half of the five stagings to date since Chris DiMarco lifted the inaugural title in 2006, I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting on five things that make my now-annual January trip to the Middle East such an enjoyable part of my golfing calendar…

1) The city and surrounding Emirate is just such a fascinating place architecturally, boasting some of the most stunning, state-of-the-art buildings you’ll find anywhere. But amid all the futuristic designs, one building stands out – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (main image), which my room in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel overlooks. Despite vowing every year to pay a visit, thus far I have been unable to find time in our busy schedule, and sadly this year looks set to be no different. Maybe next year…

2) The hotels are, without exception, excellent and often extremely progressive architecturally, with this year’s Fairmont Bab Al Bahr no exception. It was here two years ago that a certain Mr Mcllroy first swore allegiance to the Nike throne!

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr where Rory signed the big deal two years ago

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr where Rory signed the big deal two years ago

3) The iconic ‘Falcon’ clubhouse is one of the most instantly recognisable on tour. This year our two photographers, Messrs Kevin Murray and Paul Severn, both declared that the falcon’s head – if you look very closely – is angled slightly to the right. I will be heading out tomorrow to verify that this assertion is borne out of reality rather than overtiredness or overindulgence.

Abu Dhabi Golf' Club's famous Falcon clubhouse is now up there with the world's most iconic

Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s famous Falcon clubhouse is now up there with the world’s most iconic

4) The players are all very relaxed, hugely approachable and in generally good spirits. I think there are two key reasons: 1) Who wouldn’t object to a little January sunshine and warmth, especially those from the UK & Ireland? And 2) It’s a time to start afresh, full of hope and enthusiasm, with the slate wiped clean and everyone venturing out into the new season’s voyage of discovery together.

GM's new columnist, Tommy Fleetwood, was in a great mood for today's chat

GM’s new columnist, Tommy Fleetwood, was in a great mood for today’s chat

5) The range and practice facilities are undoubtedly among the finest on tour. The range is vast and well laid-out, the putting green immaculate and well-sized, and the chipping, pitching and bunker area just perfect. It’s the ideal place for your average tour pro to shake off the post-Christmas rust and really get in the mood for the long season ahead.

The practice facilities at Abu Dhabi Golf Club are among the finest around

The practice facilities at Abu Dhabi Golf Club are among the finest around