A Meeting of approaches

The first grass course in the Middle East, the Majlis, takes its name from the Arabic word for "meeting place".
The fifth hole of the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club forces you to check your shot due to the large pond next to the green.
The fifth hole of the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club forces you to check your shot due to the large pond next to the green.

The Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club takes its name from the Arabic word for "meeting place" and was the first grass course in the Middle East when it was carved out between and around an array of tall sand dunes in 1987. It has since developed into the principal venue for the Dubai Desert Classic, which was won in its inaugural year in 1989 by Mark James, the British former Ryder Cup captain. The world No1 Tiger Woods won the even for a second time this year.

One of the favourite venues among professionals on the European tour, almost all of the holes are contenders for any dream round and several of them were in the reckoning for inclusion until my final selection. The best golf holes are the ones that make you think and not reach automatically for the driver. Most high handicappers will not have the length to carry the large pond guarding the green with their second shots so would have to lay up or bail out to the left and volunteer to sacrifice one of their allowance of shots here.

My playing partner Chris Vallender, the coach of the UAE junior team and a former professional in his native South Africa, was into his big-hitting groove by the time we arrived at the back tee so was able to get up in two. I took his advice to opt for safety off the tee and look for a 150-yard lay-up shot to set up a straightforward chip over the water. That gives you the chance of a single-putt par, but more realistically a safe bogey. Dropping a single shot on stroke index one is acceptable to all but a select few.

Matthew Turner, the club's best golfer off plus two, is in that select band. "I don't think it is stroke index one for a long hitter," he said. "Maybe for the high handicappers it justifies that index because they can't get over the water in two. "It is a seven iron in for me but if the wind is in your face then maybe a bit more." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae

Published: July 2, 2008 04:00 AM

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