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Latest Golf News
Vic Robbie explores the success story of a Gulf state that is aiming to become the centre of the world in every respect
DRESSED in traditional white dishdasha, the official proudly points out the main features of Dubailand. A gigantic pleasure park, it is expected to become the No.1 sporting, cultural and entertainment centre in the world attracting many millions of visitors every year and relegating most other theme parks to mere sideshows.
He highlights one area on the impressive plan that will house replicas of the Wonders of the World and insists that some will be even bigger than the originals. Only one is missing, the Great Wall of China, he says with an apologetic laugh. But there is a glint in his eye. If that amazing feat of engineering could be replicated, you would bet they would be able to achieve it in Dubai.
Here they deal in superlatives and everything has to be on a grand scale. There is talk of making the emirate the ‘centre of the world’, and the slogan ‘the world is watching’ flutters from the lamposts.
There’s just a hint of megalomania in a nice way of course. Having left the UK from Luton, to arrive in a metropolis that’s akin to New York on speed is overwhelming. If you’ve ever found it difficult to find a builder in Britain let alone get one to finish a project on time then Dubai is surreal. Here not only are things built they are usually completed on time. As one expat put it, go off on a month’s holiday and you’ll probably find a new skyscraper in your back garden when you return.
Big, bigger, best are the most important words in their lexicon. They seem to thrive on doing the impossible and once they have achieved it, they move on to something even more spectacular.
When they laid down the Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis course 20 years ago this oasis of green in the desert was described as a ‘miracle’. Now miracles are happening all over the place.
There’s the iconic Burj Al Arab, claimed to be the world’s best hotel and certainly the tallest. The Burj Dubai, now the tallest building in the world rising at an amazing rate on its way to an ultimate height of around 2,500 feet - more than twice that of the Empire State Building in New York.
With petrol at $2 a gallon, everyone has a car and the new seven-lane highways under construction will be consumed by gridlock so they are building a multi-billion pound metro system that will be completed next year.
Standing on the tee at the Emirates Golf Club the evidence of this amazing expansion is all around. To the west there are around 25 skyscrapers under construction and to the east there’s at least another 10.
A small Gulf backwater 50 years ago, Dubai now has a cosmopolitan population of 150 different nationalities with around 70 per cent immigrants working tax free to make this state of the United Arab Emirates a force in the world.
Expat Ron Francis from England is one who enjoys the Dubai lifestyle. He sails his beautiful yacht around Dubai’s new wonders of the world giving visitors a unique perspective of Dubai’s amazing land reclamation projects and a view of the city skyline from the water that resembles Hong Kong or New York.
With so much high-rise development on the coast, the authorities realised that to attract new property investors they had to build more properties on the water. The solution was amazing and ambitious. The sea would be reclaimed and a host of new islands created. At Jumeirah and Jebel Ali, island formations in the shape of palm trees are emerging from the sea to house upmarket villas. Next will be The World, a development of 300 man-made islands in the shape of the world map. Why stop at the world? The universe is in the planning stages with islands representing the planets of the solar system.
Critics have said that Dubai is a Disney in the desert but they are missing the point. As Irishman St John Kelliher, Director of Business Development for Dubai Golf, which runs The Emirates and Dubai Creek golf clubs, says “Dubai is epic”.
Oil was first discovered here in 1967 but the far-sighted realised that some day the black gold would run out and a more lasting infrastructure had to be built. Now the new gold is property, tourism and business.
Tourism is big business. Around 10 million visit annually with close to a million coming from the UK and Ireland. To keep attracting them, Dubai realises that a vast array of attractions is needed to make it the best one-stop destination in the world for holidaymakers.
As a holiday destination, Dubai ticks most of the boxes. The temperature ranges from 28oc to 39oc. There are beautiful beaches, an abundance of comfortable hotels, friendly, pleasant and efficient service, virtually no crime and costs are comparatively low. For example a 15-minute cab ride costs around £3.
No holiday destination would be complete without a fairway or two and there are enough quality golf courses to keep even the most energetic of golfers amused. The Emirates has the Majlis and the Wadi, which Nick Faldo recently re-designed.
The Montgomerie course, designed by Colin; the Arabian Ranches; the Dubai Creek with the clubhouse designed to look like the billowing sails of an Arab dhow; the Four Seasons at Albadia; and the Ernie Els course, which opened at the end of January, are already in place. And, as you would expect, Tiger Woods’ first golf course design will open next year and four more courses will be added at Jumeriah Golf Estates -
Fire and Earth by Greg Norman, Water by Vijay Singh and Wind by Sergio Garcia, with a little help from Norman and Pete Dye.
Even golf widows are catered for. They can stroll for hours through air-conditioned malls or seek out the excitement of the souks, the most impressive of which is the Gold Souk where they can shop till they drop. After all, this the home of duty free and the Dubai Shopping Festival that attracts 1.6 million visitors annually.
Everything you expect to do in the sun, sand and sea can be done, and more. You can also ski on real snow on the Gulf’s first indoor ski slope and third largest indoor snow dome in the world featuring a 400-metre ski run. But in true Dubai fashion it’s going to get bigger when they complete the new Dubai Snowdrome.
Along with falconry, the locals love their horse racing and Thursday night is race night with luminaries like Frankie Dettori riding at Nad Al Sheba, which hosts the Dubai World Cup racing’s richest race. Even though there is no betting, it’s a fun night and the racecourse would be welcomed anywhere in the UK. Yet by 2010 there will be an even grander track at the new racing city of Meydan, which will include a grandstand for 60,000 spectators.
If you are feeling a little bit more adventurous, you can be taken on a teeth-rattling 4X4 ride over the sand dunes and attempt to retain your equilibrium by sandboarding down the slopes. Or there’s camel polo at the Dubai Polo Academy, where they have 80 polo ponies for the real business.
Camel polo is not to be taken seriously but managing director Steve Thompson swears that it is good for team bonding and tells of the time a large Japanese company had a camel polo day for its staff. Camels are like horses with attitude and the highlight of the day was when one moody animal decided to high tail it back to the desert with the company chairman clinging on helplessly. Several hours later both were found safe in the desert and still together.
It will be Dubailand that will be the biggest draw for the emirate. The £3 billion mixed-use theme park will be twice the size of Disneyworld resort in Florida. It will include ‘The Restless Planet’, a dinosaur theme park being developed in co-operation with the Natural History Museum in the UK.
There will also be a Sports City, featuring large state-of-the-art stadiums; the Great Dubai Wheel; the Islamic Culture and Science World; the Mall of Arabia, set to become one of the largest shopping centres in the world; Dreamland; Global Village National Parks; and animal playgrounds.
The Dubai Sports City will cover an area of 50 million square feet with athletics, football, cricket and tennis stadiums, the Manchester United Soccer School, the Ernie Els golf course and the first Butch Harmon School of Golf outside the US.
And if that’s not enough, Al Ruwaya, Tiger Woods’ first course will be located in a private residential golf community and resort known as The Tiger Woods Dubai.
In this land where East meets West in welcome harmony, there is even talk of one day hosting the Olympics.
Now building an Olympic complex, that would be a piece of cake.
DESTINATIONS OF THE WORLD provided city tour,desert safari, ground handling and airport transfers (www.dotw.com)