Golf can be a tricky sport to understand. It involves a lot of standing around, plenty of odd ornithological phrases and is often played by middle-aged men who dress badly out of choice. Yet despite these outdated stereotypes, golf is a global phenomenon that aggregates millions of viewers and amateur enthusiasts and generates huge amounts in ad revenue and sponsorship.
If there ever was an event that encapsulates the popularity of the modern golfing game, it’s the Dubai World Championships (also known as The Race to Dubai), which draws big crowds and even bigger prize funds. Played on November 25-28 on the Earth golf course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the event is a culmination of the 48 tournaments played in the golfing season at 26 global destinations, offering a US$7.5 million prize fund and a further US$7.5 million to divide amongst those who finish in the top 15.
Aside from the huge amounts of money at stake, this year’s event will be given an extra edge after the Europeans wrested the Ryder Cup from the Americans on the rain-swept greens of Celtic Manor in Wales in October. All 12 members of the winning European Ryder Cup team will be playing, and such is Europe’s golfing ascendency at the moment that six of the world’s top 10 will be coming to Dubai this month. This includes Ryder Cup talisman Lee Westwood (above): the Englishman won the Ryder Cup last year and recently toppled Tiger Woods from his 281-week position as world number one.
Although only in its second year, the Dubai World Championships has already garnered a reputation as one of the best-attended tournaments in the world, drawing some 60,000 spectators in 2009. What’s more, the atmosphere is electric – not usually an adjective we’d pair with golf – thanks to the entertainment at the 17th hole, where some of Dubai’s favourite bars set up shop to refresh the thirsty masses.
While watching from the stands is one thing, Time Out thought it best to try to get in the swing of proceedings by taking up lessons with some of Dubai’s prominent golf clubs. There are lessons on offer for everyone, from reluctant beginners to keen amateurs who want to polish off their skills.
Emirates Golf Club
Jumeirah Golf Estates aside, the Emirates Golf Club is one of Dubai’s premier golfing establishments. Hone your skills with coaches Jamie Wood, Alastair Brown and Steven Dean on the Majlis – the first grass course in the Middle East, no less – for Dhs400 for a one-hour lesson (non-members). A foundation course, comprising four one-hour lessons, costs Dhs1,600, while the complete beginners’ course, aptly entitled ‘Every Step of the Way’, costs Dhs3,200 for eight private lessons, which can be taken over a six-month period. This also includes complimentary usage of the practice facilities for three months.
Emirates Hills, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 380 2222)
Dubai Creek & Yacht Club Golf Academy
The oldest course in Dubai benefits from its relatively central location (it’s within the city, not miles out in the desert). It also offers beginners and those who want to develop their skills some pretty reasonable prices: individual 30-minute lessons cost Dhs210, while one-hour lessons cost Dhs400. You can also double up with a friend and have a two-person, one-hour lesson for Dhs500.
Next to Park Hyatt Hotel, Deira (04 295 6000)
Jebel Ali Golf Resort
This out-of-town spot is popular with causal golfers who don’t want to pay some of the prices charged at the city’s more exclusive courses. British teacher Stuart Fee takes would-be Westwoods through their strokes; a half-hour lesson costs Dhs190, or Dhs350 for an hour, and packages are also available for Dhs850 (five half-hour lessons) or Dhs1,595 (five hour-long classes).
Jebel Ali (04 814 5555)
The Address Montgomerie Dubai
The Montgomerie has some of the most thorough training programmes of all Dubai’s courses. The instructors focus on developing the weakest aspects of your game, whether it’s technique, putting, or even the rules and etiquette. The ‘Black Pearl’ programme (Dhs3,500) is a private three-month course featuring 12 lessons, which are broken down into nine development lessons and three on-course playing lessons. The package also includes a voucher for 18 holes and a flash sports bag. The Sapphire (Dhs2,350), meanwhile, is a two-month private one-on-one instruction, featuring eight lessons (six development and two on-course playing lessons). Finally, the Emerald (Dhs1,575) is a month-long private one-on-one course, consisting of five lessons, including four development classes and one on-course playing lesson. What’s more, these packages include access to the practice facilities (including floodlit nine-hole course and driving range), as well as video swing analysis in the state-of-the-art swing studios. Individual lessons (45 minutes each) with a seasonal instructor start at Dhs395.
Emirates Hills (04 390 5600)
What: Dubai World Championships
When: November 25-28, from 7.30am
Where: Jumeirah Golf Estates (04 390 3333)
How much? Tickets are free from www.dubaiworldchampionship.com