The UAE has proved itself the practice destination of choice in recent weeks with the stars of The European Tour descending on the region to prepare for the upcoming ‘Desert Swing’ which kicks off the 2015 schedule with this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Perfect winter weather conditions and world-class practice facilities have prompted many players to come to the UAE early to ensure they hit the ground running in 2015 while the National Teams of Sweden and Germany have also followed suit with one eye on next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
The European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI) at Jumeirah Golf Estates has been a hive of activity with Ryder Cup stars past and present including Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson and David Howell among some 20 players making use of state of the art practice facilities, gym and treatment rooms.
“The conditions here at the ETPI are really good,” said reigning US Open Champion Kaymer who was joined at the ETPI last week by fellow countrymen Moritz Lampert and Max Kieffer as well as the German National Team. “You have a variety of chipping greens and a lot of bunkers. The driving range is fantastic as well – it’s a little bit uphill so that’s great. We have good golf balls here and obviously you have 25 degree temperatures everyday so it’s better than any place in Europe to practice at this time of year!
“I’ve been here for four weeks now and I like Dubai. I could’ve gone home in between tournaments but I like to be here. I love the golf courses that we play on, especially the Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic, and it’s always great to come back here again at the end of the season. Overall, Dubai for me is one of the best golfing destinations outside of North America.”
Wayne Johnson, Director of Instruction at the ETPI said: “We’ve seen a lot of players coming out much earlier to practice this year. There’s a lot more desire to get here early this year and I think that’s because the UAE is a wonderful place to practice in the off-season prior to the Desert Swing. We’ve got beautiful weather at this time of year, great facilities, and the players enjoy being here – they view it as a home away from home.
“We’re very fortunate that the powers that be have built us such a great facility here at the ETPI. From the short game practice area to the swing studios to the gymnasium we’ve got all of the ingredients that the players like to work with to hone their games. It’s a great to see so many of the player utilising the facilities that we have to offer and it’s a great accolade for the ETPI and the UAE in general.”
World Number One and 2014 Race to Dubai Champion Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, has been preparing for the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by fine-tuning his game at the Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club in Dubai.
While the 2015 Race to Dubai actually got underway in December at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa the ‘Desert Swing’ – consisting of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic – is when the season really kicks into gear and many players mark their return to competitive action after the new winter break here in The Middle East.
With a multitude of choices for off-season practice bases available to today’s jet-setting European Tour players it is a mark of the regard in which the UAE is held as a golf centre that so many have chosen to come here early ahead of the new season.
Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International Dubai Office, said: “It is once again impressive to see the number of professionals coming ahead of the tournament weeks and the Desert Swing as preparation for the season. There really seems a buzz around Dubai and the UAE with all the pros practising at the golf clubs.
“I was at the ETPI at Jumeirah Golf Estates last week and was overwhelmed with both the number of players practising but also impressed with their positive comments about the facilities and, of course, the weather – with many of the them coming from the colder European winter climate. In addition it was the first visit for many of the players to the ETPI and Jumeirah Golf Estates and some were already wishing they had come our earlier.”
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship gets underway this week (Jan 15-18) at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, followed by the Commercialbank Qatar Masters at Dohaa Golf Club (Jan 21-24) and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club (Jan 29-Feb 01).