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Home > Diversions
Teeing off business

(Staff Reporter) / 23 November 2012

Once a pastime in the Gulf for expats, golf is now one of the biggest businesses in the Middle East, with championship courses popping up as frequently as a Luke Donald birdie

With over 50 million players worldwide and some 40,000 courses to choose from, golf is big business. No longer the domain of badly dressed men in ill-fitting slacks, golf has never been cooler.

While the Rory and Tiger Factor no doubt played its part in making the game hip with the young, trendy stars like Ian Poulter, Camillo Villegas and Joel Sjoholm continue to keep the sport in the hearts and minds of a generation brought up on image and style.

And while the golf course off-ers a unique environment for developing relationships — you can certainly tell a lot about someone by the way they behave on a golf course — associated facilities such as spas, swimming pools and F&B outlets give an extra edge to the game as a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) magnet.

Let’s make no bones about it — the worlds of golf and business are inexorably linked and have been for as long as you may care to remember.

Whether it’s in the creaky country clubs of 19th century England, or among the opulent chrome and panelled woodwork of the finest Dubai has to offer, the world’s 
executives are just as happy 
making deals against a backdrop of lush greenery, as they are in a high-rise glass tower.

There’s no question — the golf course offers a unique environment for developing business ties — and we’re not talking the silk variety.

A round can often last between four and five hours, and allow two or more individuals the opp-ortunity of developing a relationship and an understanding that goes far beyond the type of ‘bonding’ made in a boardroom.

Ever since the first seeds were planted for all-grass championship courses in Dubai back in the 1980s, the growth of golf has been simply phenomenal.

The emirate’s surge forward as a centre for business and tourism has seen its public profile grow enormously, while the development of eye-catching golfing venues — some among the finest in the world — has been welcomed by those very same booming industries of commerce and tourism.

The DP World Tour Championship being staged at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 22-25 — one of the world’s richest tournaments with an $8 
million prize-fund and $3.75 million Race to Dubai Bonus Pool on offer — clearly shows Dubai’s intentions on the global stage as well as the enormous ground made since the first professional tournament was staged at the Emirates Golf Club back 
in 1989.

“I first came to Dubai in 1993, and have seen the tremendous all-round growth in the city,” says former World Number One Greg Norman, now a prominent businessman in his own right and the designer of the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, venue for the fourth staging of the DP World Tour Championship.

“Of course, I am excited to be part of the incredible story that 
is Dubai. No place in the world has this kind of vision, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit…

“I don’t play much competitive golf these days — maybe three or four tournaments a year — but Dubai is something special and I have been coming over here quite often in connection with my projects.”

At a golf conference and exhibition staged in Dubai several years ago, a conservative estimate on the financial investment in golf and golf-related facilities in the UAE, since 2000, was over $1 billion.

Add to this an estimated $500 million that has been invested regionally, including countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, India and Pakistan, and it becomes clear golf is here to stay.

“On the corporate side, you can calculate an outlay of about Dh1,000 a head for a Corporate Golf Day including golf, gifts, prizes as well as an F&B elem-ent,” says Nick Tarratt, European Tour International Director, Dubai Office and a former club General Manager.

“If there are 500 Corporate Golf Days in a year in the UAE averaging 60 players per day, the value is in the region of Dh30 million. If we look at the region including Bahrain and Qatar, 
it will be in excess of Dh50 million. Companies are now spending more money to try and 
distinguish their golf day from the others.

“Corporate golf play is such a big part in the business community, which makes trying to provide something unique and individual a real challenge.”


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