I’ve never played golf in my life. I’ve never stood on a driving range, I’ve never swung a golf club and I’ve only ever driven a golf cart when I helped to deliver rum punches to bloated tourists at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. The nearest I’ve come to being a linksman, if I’m really honest, is half-heartedly putting a ball through a plastic sphinx at a drizzly seaside town in the north of England. In fact, it would be safe to say I’m really not a golfer.
Chris White doesn’t seem to think so. The seasoned pro turned golf consultant has arrived at the last minute to tutor me at Scartlett’s Golf Lounge’s simulator, probably to ensure that a complete beginner like me doesn’t end up causing any major damage to myself or the hi-tech machine. ‘We got a golfer here Peej’, he calls out, surprisingly, to Peter Jane (or ‘PJ’), Radio 2’s golfing aficionado who’s turned up with Chris and stands in a Hawaiian shirt behind, nodding approvingly as I ping the ball for a paltry though satisfying 50 yards across the pixellated lawn on-screen.
Tucked away in the back of Scarlett’s Golf Lounge in Emirates Towers, PJ explains that the pleasantly sealed off simulator room has become something of a respite haven this summer for those hungry for golf but not prepared to sweat it out on a real green. ‘You’ve got air-con, a licensed bar and you can play your mates on courses you’ll recognise.’ He points to a low-resolution quaint-looking stone bridge in a Scottish scene that flickers momentarily on-screen. ‘I bet that bridge is familiar, hey?’ he beams at me. I try not to look so clueless.
With The Open kicking off this week and the summer forcing golfers inward, it only seemed right to give one of these simulators a try. If you’ve never witnessed one in action before, there’s an imitation fairway, along with imitation bunker to pitch off, a whole set of clubs laid out and one huge screen pulled taut by bungee cords to swing at. A sensor picks up the ball just after leaves the floor while another senses it just before it bounces off the canvas sheet that you’re aiming at. It’s loaded with a driving range simulator and a whole set of world famous courses to choose from (sadly, the venue for this year’s Open Championship, Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland isn’t one of them).
As somebody who’s never even hit a golf ball with anything other than a putter before, a mere hour with an instructor managed to get me some way towards a permissible swing. While he’s not one of the full-time instructors at the Lounge, Chris’ lessons follow a similar pattern, focusing on getting you to relax, improving swing posture and providing an in-depth introduction into how a correct swing shoud look and feel. The nature of the simulator means that you can accurately chart the arc and elevation of your ball, monitor the left or right deviation as it sails through the air (so as to pinpoint any slightly off-kilter angles on your shot) and also determine your average range with an individual club.
It’s also nice and private, far from the prying, critical eyes of other golfers. So you can hone your swing in secret while other golfers hibernate at this time of year from the blistering heat of the real golf courses.
Scarlett’s Golf Lounge is in Emirates Towers, open daily 8am-12 midnight. Practice and course play time is Dhs180 per hour. Hourly competitions take place daily at 12pm-2pm and 6pm-9pm, Dhs20 to enter. For more information and to book individual golf tuition on the simulator call 04 319 8088.
If you’re the sort of dedicated golfer not to be put off by temperatures pushing 50, here are a couple of deals that’ll keep you putting throughout summer.
Arabian Ranches Golf Club: (04 366 3000) Emirates Road off Junction four by The Autodrome. 18 holes on weekends will set you back Dhs395 while a weekday round is only Dhs340 until the end of summer. Good rates for UGA members. Yardage 6,531, par 72.
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club: (04 295 6000) 18 Holes: Dhs300 (Sun-Wed) Dhs400 (Thu-Sat). A nine hole floodlit course also available. Rate includes complimentary club hire during the summer period. 18 hole course yardage 6,333. Par 71.
Emirates Golf Club: (04 380 2222/www.dubaigolf.com) Sheikh Zayed Road, off Interchange five. Majlis course: (par 72) Dhs400 Faldo course: (par 73) Dhs300 Rates include shared golf cart and unlimited range balls prior to play. 9 Hole Par 3: Dhs100. Majlis course: Dhs400. Faldo course: Dhs300.