Despite recent storms Abu Dhabi Challenge set to kick-start back-to-back Challenge Tour events in the UAE

The game’s rising stars and DP World Tour winners will be in action over the next four days at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club

By KT Golf

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Dubai resident Nicolas Colsaerts making his first start on the Challenge Tour this season in Al Ain. - Supplied photo
Dubai resident Nicolas Colsaerts making his first start on the Challenge Tour this season in Al Ain. - Supplied photo

Published: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 8:25 PM

Despite the UAE witnessing its heaviest rainfall on record this week, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club has pulled out all the stops to ensure the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Challenge goes ahead as scheduled from April 18th – 21st.

The game’s rising stars and DP World Tour winners will compete in the seventh event on the Challenge Tour’s 2024 Road to Mallorca schedule, including 2023 Ryder Cup Vice Captain and Dubai resident Nicolas Colsaerts, five-time DP World Tour winner Alex Levy.


Joining them are UAE’s No.1 professional Joshua Grenville-Wood and Craig Howie, who is an ambassador for this week’s host venue and has been a regular at the course for over a decade.

The Scotsman’s association with Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club began during winter training camps with the University of Stirling, where Howie found the tranquillity of the course a particular positive.


“It’s great to get away from the hustle and bustle of cities like Dubai,” said Howie, who has made the cut in all six of his Challenge Tour starts this season.

“Al Ain is a little bit quieter, so it’s a perfect place to come and work away from distractions. The course is always in great condition, and the team do a great job of keeping it like that. The practice area is as good as you’ll get anywhere else.”

Howie and Co. will be joined by several of the UAE’s homegrown talents thanks to the Emirates Golf Federation’s (EGF) long-term partnership with the European Tour group, which aims to develop golf in the UAE for at least the next decade.

As part of that agreement, the EGF has received 60 invitations across the Abu Dhabi Challenge and next week’s UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to help create playing opportunities and provide a pathway for UAE golfers.

As well as giving local amateurs a taste of elite-level tournaments, two club professionals in the UAE are also set to rub shoulders with the stars of tomorrow.

Dubai Hills PGA Professional Louis Gaughan, who made the cut at this event last season, secured an invite from the EGF after topping the Emirates PGA Order of Merit, while Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club’s Thomas Ogilvie banked an invite after winning the Emirates PGA Play-Offs.

While the local players will be able to take advantage of prior course knowledge, the test this week will slightly differ from what they have come to know after the team at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club introduced ten new tee boxes to lengthen the course from 6,700 to 7,117 yards.

With Thomas Love, Director of Agronomy, ensuring those changes to the course were made in plenty of time in the lead-up to the club’s Challenge Tour debut, a new challenge was sent his way this week when the course was hit with a major storm that swept across the country.

The National Centre of Meteorology confirmed that the record rainfall that fell in the country was an exceptional event in the UAE's climate history since the start of recording climate data.

The Khatm Al Shakla area, just 36 km away from this week’s host venue, saw the worst of the weather with 254 mm of rainfall in less than 24 hours.

Despite the challenges that were sent Love’s way, he and his team have done everything in their power to ensure the course remains in tip-top shape ahead of tomorrow’s first round.

“It's the biggest storm I've ever seen in my lifetime and something I wouldn't expect to see in the Middle East,” said Love.

“We knew rain was forecasted, so we were already semi-prepared for it. The agronomy team came in at 3 am and I think the last storm was around 1.30 am.

“Most turf areas were playable and allowed us to let the practice day go ahead. Bunkers however were all full, including cart paths and any roads around the facility,” he added.

“It was all hands on deck this morning with multiple pumps and big 4500-gallon tankers working non-stop all day. The main goal is to get the bunkers back in play for the first round tomorrow.

“I'm still very confident we will have the course in fine shape for the event and be able to showcase our facility,” said Love.

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