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|The Emirates Golf Club is Dubai's best-known golf course - at least until courses by Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia arrive (Courtesy Dubai Golf)|
Golf courses in the Middle East? Not so much.
But that's starting to change. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been doing everything it can to transform its coastal boomtown of Dubai into a world-class golf destination, and it scored a coup late last year when Tiger Woods announced that he planned to design his first signature course there.
That might have been the biggest golf news to hit Dubai lately, but it's not the only sign of the city's growing allure. Earlier this year Sergio Garcia, Pete Dye and Greg Norman announced their collaboration on a new course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
These tracks will compliment an already deep roster of fine Emirates golf courses, including the Emirates Golf Club, home to the PGA European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic. It all adds up to one of the fastest growing top-end golf destinations in the world.
Here's a bit more about the Dubai and UAE golf scene, present and future.
Wind at Jumeirah Golf Estates: Work on this big-name collaboration is expected to begin soon, with the first golfers due to hit the track in 2009. The fourth course to be built at Jumeirah, Wind will be Dubai's first links-style run, featuring uneven fairways, thick rough, small greens and pot bunkers.
"I don't know of another project anywhere in the world that has brought together three internationally recognized figures to collaborate on one golf course," Norman, one of Dubai's first big golf boosters, said when the project was unveiled. "Sergio Garcia brings enthusiasm and excitement to this project that is contagious, and there is nobody in the world today that knows more about golf course design [than Dye], especially links golf."
The Tiger Woods Dubai: This track will be Woods' introduction to course design, a prospect that had golf pundits tearing up their keyboards within minutes of its announcement. Slated for completion in 2009, the Tiger Woods Dubai will be a full-on golf resort, featuring a golf academy, sprawling clubhouse, spa, hotel and other accommodation options.
Not many details about the design have been released yet - Woods' Web site says updates on future projects are coming soon - but duffers should expect significant elevation changes, as this is a prominent feature of the location selected for the course.
Emirates Golf Club: Known as the Desert Miracle since it debuted in 1989 as the first all-grass championship golf course in the Persian Gulf region, this club hosts the Dubai Desert Classic on its Majlis championship course. The par-72 track measures more than 7,100 yards.
Emirates GC's relatively new Wadi course packs an equally challenging punch, with water playing more of a role than on Majlis. If you weren't satisfied with your play during the day, spend the early-evening hours practicing on the club's floodlit range.
Nad Al Sheba Club: Temperatures can reach 125 degrees during the summer in Dubai, so this might be a place to play if you don't want your Middle East golf vacation to feature a trip to the hospital for heat stroke - it's the only fully floodlit 18-hole course in the region. A precision course with deep bunkers, water hazards and undulating greens, the par-71 Nad Al Sheba measures 6,400 yards.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club by Sheraton: Peter Harradine designed the two courses in this neighboring emirate, National and Garden. Both feature plenty of palms, lakes and bunkers to keep things interesting. The Abu Dhabi also has 36 holes of putting and chipping greens, practice bunkers and a 350-meter driving range. The club's golf academy offers personalized coaching.
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Having boarded the luxurious MV Europa 2 in Lisbon, Clive Agran had five days of golf cruising ahead. For those unfamiliar with the concept, golf cruising is a glorious combination of golf and cruising where a sedate sail is punctuated with the occasional round of golf.
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