Following the launch of a new website to help drive golf tourism in Dubai, Michael Stoneman looks at how the emirate has already established itself as one of the leading golf destinations in the world
When looking at images from the inaugural Dubai Desert Classic in 1989, it’s not hard to see how much the emirate – and the golf that’s played there – has changed in the last 30 years.
The trailblazing players who teed it up in the first European Tour event to be held outside Europe would no doubt struggle to recognise the Dubai that surrounds the Emirates Golf Club today.
After all, back in 1988, the Majlis course was known as “Desert Miracle”, with the verdant layout rising like a lush oasis amid the surrounding sands, standing proudly as the first 18-hole grass golf course in the Middle East.
Fast forward to today, and Dubai’s reputation as a world-class golf destination has grown almost as quickly as its eye-catching skyline. The emirate now hosts three top-level tournaments, including the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, and the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, and boasts 11 first-class courses, many designed by legends of the game such as Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman. Add in the superb leisure facilities, warm weather and world-leading accommodation and dining options, and it’s little wonder that an estimated 16,000 overseas golf visitors are attracted to Dubai each year, all eager to follow in the spike marks of global stars like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Shanshan Feng, who have each won tournaments on the emirate’s courses.
In total, golf tourism is currently worth an estimated US$38m to Dubai each year, but Falcon Golf’s recent launch of www.golfindubai.com – a new website that provides visitors and tour operators with everything they need to know about experiencing golf in the city – aims to help increase that considerably in the coming years, with the emirate as a whole hoping to attract 20 million annual overseas visitors by 2020.
“Driving greater golf tourism is one of the key goals we set ourselves on our establishment, and I’m delighted that just a few months into our operations we have launched a website which for the first time provides one place where Dubai’s fantastic golf offering is showcased in full,” explains Peter Dawson, Chairman of Falcon Golf. “A coordinated approach between all parties who together make up Dubai’s golf experience will unquestionably pay dividends for all concerned. www.golfindubai.com is one important step in our endeavour to rekindle awareness among discerning holiday makers, business travellers and Dubai residents of the enjoyment they all can have playing or watching golf here.”
Having first visited Dubai in the late 1980s, Dawson has seen first-hand the incredible transformation of both the emirate and its golf courses in that time.
“In the last three decades, it is quite astonishing what has happened here, both to the city and to its golf offering,” he says. “We now have so many more courses, and they’ve matured a lot, so they're really world-class. It is absolutely staggering how much development there’s been in Dubai, and in such a short space of time. It’s a unique place. It’s got a dynamism about it that many would envy, and it’s a wonderful place to do business, to live and work, and to visit as a tourist. It’s truly remarkable.”
Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is among the key local stakeholders that has worked closely with Falcon Golf on the launch of golfindubai.com, and its Director General, His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, believes that the future now looks even brighter for a golf destination that already ranks alongside more established markets such as Spain, Portugal, Scotland and Ireland.
“Dubai is one of the most esteemed golf locations in the world and has much to offer beyond the courses,” he says. “With more courses in the pipeline to complement the world-class choices already available, and initiatives such as this new website, there is huge potential for the sport to help us hit our target of 20 million visitors by 2020.”
Judging by what has been achieved in Dubai already over the last 30 years, that target looks par for the course.