I first travelled to Dubai in 1987 after a meeting with Tony Lewis at The Open Championship in 1987. I had first met Tony at the 1984 Masters where he was caddying for the young British Amateur Champion Phillip Parkin. Tony had moved to Dubai and was working for Bain Communications who were employed by the Emirates Golf Club construction project under the watchful eye of Sheikh Mohammed.
All that was visible from the air of the Emirates Golf Club were the first iron girders of the clubhouse and three large rubber lined lakes inside the square kilometre of wire fence. Almost as far as the eye could see was desert and the waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The Emirates Golf Club was perhaps the first piece of the visionary jigsaw of Sheikh Mohammed who had identified the threat to the Emirate of Dubai’s economic position in the United Arab Emirates due to the evident lack of oil and gas within their borders. Whether we can argue that golf was the first part of this jigsaw is a point of question, however there is no doubt that The Emirates Golf Club quickly became a jewel in the desert attracting golfers and was a major catalyst for visitors from around the globe. The first grass golf course in the middle east has stood the test of time and thirty years on the Majlis Course at The Emirates Golf Club still annually hosts one of the European Tour’s flagship events The Dubai Desert Classic and the Ladies European Tour final event the Dubai Ladies Masters. I do not think it is possible to underestimate the contribution this incredible golf course has made to the growth and profile of Dubai.
The aerial pictures tell their own story showing the staggering change from the isolated square kilometre to where it is now in amongst the skyscrapers and communities that surround it. The original Sheikh Zayeed highway that was a two-lane, roundabout punctuated, tortuous road to Abu Dhabi just over one hundred kilometres away would take you the best part of three hours to negotiate. Nowadays the sixteen lane Sheikh Zayeed road will see you in the nearby Emirate in an easy hour assuming there are no delays.