What a week it‚??s been over here in the UAE. ¬†Hard to believe that we‚??re finally here after months of ‚??sure, we‚??re heading through Dubai later in the year‚?Ě. ¬†Even harder to believe that our time on Emirati soil (read: sand) is almost over! ¬†Below are a few, condensed reflections on The UAE Leg thus far (Mike‚??s going to pen a few words focusing on Abu Dhabi in particular).
1. ¬†We have a love triangle of Fairy Godparents to which we owe a huge debt of gratitude. ¬†(I use the term ‚??love triangle‚?Ě loosely, and only because there are three ‚??fairies‚?Ě, to be clear). ¬†Martha & Bill Wong have gone out of their way to make us feel like royalty ‚?? housing, feeding and entertaining us as if we were their own. ¬†2 days before we boarded the plane in Glasgow we had no accommodation organised for our 8 days in Dubai. ¬†Martha (a friend of a friend of a friend) came to our rescue with no questions asked. ¬†Since she picked us up from the airport at 2am in the morning Martha has ferried us around Dubai, fed us at home and at lavish eateries, and generally mothered us with faultless compassion. ¬†Staying at Chateau Wong has recharged our batteries beyond belief. ¬†It‚??s also been a true pleasure to sit and chat with Martha and Bill ‚?? who hail originally from Singapore ‚?? about All And Sundry; amusing to realise that despite coming from a cultural landscape so different to my own, and being a good few years my senior, both are in many ways Just Like Yours Truly. ¬†‚??Poor sods‚?Ě I hear you cry. ¬†Their generosity has been mind blowing to say the least.
2. ¬†The third wheel in The puregolf2010 UAE Leg Love Triangle is one Mr. Chris Turlik. ¬†An Englishman (of sorts), no less. ¬†He has of his own volition taken care of all our golf needs in the UAE, and even joined us for a couple of games himself. ¬†(Poor bugger has teamed up with Goldy on both occasions and unsurprisingly found himself on the losing side...ha!). ¬†After what sounds like an interesting path woven through the hotel management industry (he worked on the QEII) Chris has spent the last decade or so in golf, most recently as GM at The Emirates Club for 8 years. ¬†Now he‚??s running his own business organising events, one of which we played in down the road in Abu Dhabi (great craic ‚?? Goldy will tell all). ¬†The Man Himself has had us ‚??round to his place for BBQ and rugby viewing; driven us to and from our golf fixtures; and generally been A Tremendous Human Being. ¬†He‚??s even thinking of coming over to Auckland for our event at The Grange instead of going to a U2 concert in Melbourne! ¬†Encouragement please...
3. ¬†Wealth takes on a new meaning here. ¬†Granted it‚??s Abu Dhabi that has all the oil (i.e. cash) but Dubai has grabbed the bull by the horns and Made It Happen. ¬†How surreal it is to see a city that‚??s sprung up with such urgency in just a decade or two. ¬†Skyscraper upon skyscraper; construction at every corner. ¬†Without these concrete peaks it‚??d be hard to get your bearings here, because the desert is so dam flat. ¬†They also have the ‚??biggest X, the fastest Y, the longest Z‚?Ě and so on and so forth. ¬†An Emirate of superlatives. ¬†And rich, rich ‚??locals‚?Ě (ironically in the minority). ¬†Everyone has a new car (SUVs are par for the course, especially Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes); it seems most have maids (Bill & Martha‚??s Burmese maid is to washing and ironing what Roger Federer is to tennis); and there‚??s a general consensus that quality of life over here is unparalleled. ¬†A long way from little old Nu Zillin...
4. ¬†Golf here is a past time for the wealthy, but everyone‚??s wealthy so everyone plays. ¬†The clubhouses are fantasies that only in this dream world could come to being. ¬†At Al Badia GC ‚?? which we played on our first day here ‚?? every imaginable luxury was available to the sweaty golfer. ¬†Cucumber infused iced water for me took the cake though ‚?? simple but heavenly. ¬†It‚??s very much a case of resort golf too, in the sense that you always hit range balls before play and take a cart out on course. ¬†Lazy man‚??s golf. ¬†An unfortunate offshoot of this complacency is the lack of etiquette observed by many: bunkers not raked and pitch marks not replaced. ¬†Word is half of these folks see themselves as above such menial tasks. ¬†Luckily no one we‚??ve played with has fallen in this camp.
5. ¬†Bermuda greens are dam near impossible to putt on. ¬†In fact not near, just plain impossible. ¬†How those tour players sink putts for their living week in, week out on the Asian PGA Tour or in Florida I‚??ll never know. ¬†The paspallum grass used as an alternative is much less disagreeable in my books. ¬†In any case there‚??s no excuses because the conditioning out here is, well, hard to believe. ¬†Despite recent overseeding we‚??ve still been blown away. ¬†
6. ¬†Because all the courses are relatively new, they‚??ve been designed with modern technology in mind. ¬†So the black tees are real black tees, often a good wedge away from the whites. ¬†And given we masochists play as far back as we can, we‚??ve been hitting ¬†a lot of mid- to long iron second shots. ¬†Not many birdies then...and plenty of bunker practice.
7. ¬†During an average round you‚??ll pass 30-60 staff members on the cart paths, none of whom seem to ever do anything. ¬†Can‚??t fault their manners though ‚?? among the smiliest demographic I‚??ve ever come across. ¬†But they must just drive around and ‚??round. ¬†Full employment an‚?? all that innit. ¬†
8. ¬†Waste bunkers are not provided for in the R&A Rules Of The Game, and as such should be used only in such extra-terrestrial domains as the moon. ¬†
9. ¬†November must be just about the best time of year to come here, weather wise. ¬†It‚??s been between 25 and 32 the whole time; for someone who grew up in Scotland, any hotter and golf‚??s not pleasant. ¬†And for a trio that‚??ve just come from Glasgow in November, well...‚??nuff said. ¬†At last we‚??ve started absorbing Vitamin D once more.
10. ¬†Cart paths carry off-line tee shots even further astray. ¬†I love it how sometimes you just know as soon as you‚??ve struck the ball that it‚??s going to career into the concrete and bounce 20 feet in the air. ¬†Despite that sense of inevitability you still plead with your ball ‚??don‚??t you f#@$ing dare.‚?Ě ¬†But it dares. ¬†Long story short: don‚??t like cart paths.
12. ¬†The Majlis Course at The Emirates Club is the best course here if you ask me. ¬†Long and classy, it plays host to the upcoming Dubai Desert Class tournament. ¬†Golf World lists it as one of the Top 100 Courses in The World too. ¬†Fair dinkum.
11. ¬†Henrik Stenson despite being Swedish is rather good. ¬†We played the front 9 at The Els Club with him yesterday, and he took it apart like a Jack Russell takes apart a brand new pair of shoes. ¬†A cool 7 under through 9 (having made disappointing par 3s at the short holes). ¬†I parred the first 8 holes and was 6 down! ¬†Hits the ball two country miles too... ¬†As much as it pains me to say it, his company was tremendous too ‚?? a sound balance of banter and insight. ¬†When I told him about the birdie challenge we‚??re jacking up for December (have you signed up yet?), he then asked, ‚??so you‚??re hoping to raise a good $50 then?‚?Ě ¬†Put me in my place. ¬†At all day he was. ¬†But then I had the last laugh when I interviewed him: a wee snippit of which you‚??ll see soon. ¬†Anyway, great lad and rather good golfer. ¬†¬†¬† ¬†
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