Is there anything more intimidating than the first tee? Scratch that – is there anything more intimidating than the first tee when the two impatient foursomes behind you look like they know what they’re doing, and it’s been months since your clubs did anything other than gather dust?
It’s been months since I last unsheathed my trusty five-iron, yet here I am, standing on the first tee, staring down the fairway of a hole rated as stroke index number one (that’s the hardest, for non-golf linguists). Luckily for me, the aforementioned grumpy golfers are still in the clubhouse, so I can take my time – and call a mulligan (aka start again) if I hook one into the long stuff.
It would be generous to refer to myself as a fair-weather golfer. I enjoy the game, but don’t have the free time (or the patience) for a weekly round, nor the spare cash to pay for a membership I might only use during the finer months. Like many, I longed for a place to play whenever the mood should take me, without having to make year-long commitments, and minus the danger of being chastised for my ‘slow play’.
Dubai’s newest course, The Track at the Meydan hotel, is exactly that – a nine-hole championship-length course that ‘breaks the stereotypes of golf club stuffiness and inaccessibility’, according to the media release. Or, as general manager Paul Dennis better puts it, ‘the perfect place for golfers who don’t want to be told what to do’.
That would be me, then. Raise your hand if you agree that golf would be a much more fun sport without the stuffy sorts following you, complaining about your speed of play or poor golf etiquette. Of course, etiquette is a key part of such a self-governed sport, but ‘self-governed’ is the point – we don’t need the golf Nazi whipping out The Rules of Golf from his bag every six minutes. But I digress.
The Track is pay-and-play, has some of the city’s best green fees and has no strictly enforced dress code (though golfers are encouraged to dress respectfully and wear golf shoes). Horseshoe-shaped tee markers in five colours transform the course from a challenging 3,700 yards in length to a more manageable 2,690 yards (that’s 2,460 metres). Built on the site of the old Nad Al Sheba course, it is teeming with bird life, with water in play on every hole – often begging you to hit over it – and features ten bunkers. Floodlights will be added in time for summer, allowing the course to accommodate post-work golfers until midnight.
As I hack my way round with maddening inconsistency, alternating arrow-straight shots with water-seeking missiles (the curse of the fair-weather golfer), I become increasingly excited at the idea of a course that’s ideal for commitment-phobic golfers like me. Typically, I finish with a wonderful lob onto the ninth green that makes me instantly forget every bad shot of my round. ‘How did you get on?’ asks course manager Paul upon my return. ‘Good,’ I lie. But now that I’ve found a venue where I can turn up and play more regularly, maybe in a few months I won’t have to.
Dhs195 summer green fees. Membership free. Open daily 6.30am until dusk (floodlighting to follow in summer). The Meydan, Nad Al Sheba, www.themeydan.com (04 381 3733)
Two more to try
Looking for another sport to try without getting committed? Give these pay-and-play options a go
Tackle The Adventure Zone’s in-store climbing wall or cable climb, which involves being strapped to a harness near the ceiling and manoeuvring from one suspended tile to another. Don’t look down!
Dhs50 for 30 minutes. Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Adventure HQ, Times Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.adventurehq.ae (04 346 6824).
Book a court without having to sign over a month’s salary at Al Nasr Leisureland. There are four standard tennis courts, as well as one for coaching and a mini court. They’re floodlit, so beat the heat and play after dark.
Dhs60 per hour. Open daily 9am-11pm. Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha, www.alnasrll.com (04 337 1234).