19th hole: Course is symbolic of a wider policy

The Abu Dhabi Championship continues to be a tournament of birdies, eagles and one quite largish falcon.

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The Abu Dhabi Championship continues to be a tournament of birdies, eagles and one quite largish falcon. Despite being in only its fourth year and contained in a country in its infancy, the Falcon clubhouse that hangs over the 18th hole tends to give off a beguiling air, a poignant landmark that has rose from the sand. It appears to be content in its own rigidness.

The sport of golf is littered with monuments, postcard images that provide a welcome distraction in occupying one's thoughts on an idle day. Some holes are at one with nature, appearing to hark back to a time when Old Tom Morris used to try out St Andrews, and the anointed stretch of land he ran roughshod over a century or so ago. St Andrews can be held up as an imperious home of the game inside the Scottish town of the same name. The course is better received abroad than the town. It contains some noble nooks and crannies, the road hole at the 17th rendering redundant the hopes of many a lofty golfer, while the 18th hole, surrounded by the regal R&A club house, is constantly fixating.

Revered holes tend to make memories that do not have a monetary value. The 17th hole at TPC at Sawgrass, or the clutch of holes around Amen Corner at Augusta National instantly conjure up that warm gooey sensation. Nostalgia is everywhere in golf. It would be foolhardy to compare Abu Dhabi with any of its older and more esteemed relatives overseas, but it must be said that the closing hole here is something to behold.

Whether the course is manmade or not, the 18th provides a noteworthy backdrop in which to finish a round. The longish par-5 nature gives it a theatrical type of value, even if Alfred Hitchcock would never have penned the horrors of finding the drink near the last. The Falcon appears to hover at times so ominously that one expects it to break free from its concrete cage, and float into the sky, or else swoop down to peck on a player after an errant shot.

Despite the gathering storm of yesterday morning, the Falcon was going nowhere. In golfing parlance, it would difficult to describe Abu Dhabi as a place that has given the game some of its more piercing times. There have been only three winners of the tournament in Chris DiMarco, Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer, but all three men have floated their second or third shots into the 18th green on the Sunday evening knowing they were drilling for a oil, or at least a notable cheque and a silver trophy, which curiously also embraces the Falcon theme.

What Abu Dhabi has in its closing hole, is an element of distinctiveness, a uniqueness that will increase in value over time. The UAE has a penchant for falconry, but tourism authorities are just as obsessed with projecting an image of bristling newness with which the outside world can identify. The Abu Dhabi golf tournament and the course is symbolic of a wider policy. Gary Player, a man of nine majors, could be found inside the Falcon clubhouse 12 months ago. Player spoke with conviction and felt that the new course he is designing on Saadiyat Island could be a genuine host to the Championship in future years.

To move this tournament away from its current location, would be foolhardy. In trying to build a history and tradition for this event, the organisers would be advised to let it run on here. There is little point trying to prise a tournament away from its natural settlement. To do so would devalue the memories it is attempting to unearth. dkane@thenational.ae