The newly renovated clubhouse at the Emirates Golf Club.
The newly renovated clubhouse at the Emirates Golf Club.

Big names warned Dubai Desert Classic will be tough



DUBAI // The Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club has proved to be a competitive match for most of the top international players who have taken it on since the Omega Dubai Desert Classic was introduced to the European Tour calendar 22 years ago.

Those who look after the desert oasis, therefore, do not plan any major changes as they prepare to welcome the world's best three players and a host of other professionals for this week's conclusion to the month-long Middle East swing.

Craig Haldane, who has been superintendent of what is now a 45-hole complex adjoining Sheikh Zayed Road since 2005, has monitored the winning scores over the past decade. He believes the degree of difficulty is just right to provide the desired mixture of occasionally spectacular but generally respectable scoring.

He is mindful that Lee Westwood, the world No 1, dominated the neighbouring Earth Course 15 months ago when he romped home in the inaugural Dubai World Championship at 23-under par. He is aware that Martin Kaymer, the world No 2, went one shot better when winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for the third time last month.

But Haldane is confident his course will not be humbled.

He points out that since Denmark's Thomas Bjorn overcame Tiger Woods in a final-day shoot-out at the 2001 tournament, none of the ensuing champions has managed to better that 22-under- par aggregate.

"I wouldn't be embarrassed by a score in the 20s under par," said Haldane, a South African who honed his greenkeeping skills working for Gary Player at the Fancourt resort in his homeland. "But for that to happen somebody is going to have to play exceptional golf."

Haldane said he works both sides of a line between making life too tough for his professional visitorsand rendering his course vulnerable to a "too easy" label.

"Last year we probably made the rough too penal," Haldane said, reflecting on the winning score of 11 under posted by Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who beat Westwood in a three-hole play-off.

"It was 100mm deep then. This year we've trimmed it to 64mm. It is not always a question of the depth of the rough, though, more the thickness and the rough as it is now is undoubtedly going to cause problems for those who stray into it."

Otherwise changes have been minimal.

"We decided not to overseed the greens this year," Haldane said. "I think you might see a few more putts holed. Players are going to be able to control the ball better and they like that."

"We have also built a few new tee boxes and on the two par threes on the front nine - the fourth and the seventh - we have shaved the embankment towards the water so there may be a few more balls running off than in previous years."

Haldane leads a staff of 78 who look after the Majlis and its sister course the Faldo, along with a nine-hole course. He and his team have worked closely with European Tour officials, notably Mike Stewart, the regular tournament director of the Classic, and Graham McNiven, the Tour's leading agronomist.

"Our job is to present the course for Mike to decide how it's going to be set up over the four days," Haldane said. "It's good having that level of communication with the two guys.

"Graham sees a lot more tournament play around the world than we do and it's great to be able to pick up his various tricks of the trade. He visits us about four times each year. In our industry we are not too proud to admit that we don't know it all."

While modifications to the course have been barely noticeable, the distinctive clubhouse at Emirates has undergone a massive refurbishment to get it ready for the Classic.

Chris May, the club's general manager, has overseen that multi-million-dirham venture and is delighted with the results.

"It has taken a while because it is a huge project," May said. "We look forward to showcasing it to everybody who comes to the tournament.

It has brought the clubhouse into the modern era. One of the main reasons for undertaking the project was to upgrade the back of house facilities. "When we opened in 1987 we were an 18-hole course. Although we have made changes to the club house in the intervening years, the golf has advanced at a greater pace and now we offer a choice of 45 holes.

"We needed to ensure that our kitchen and catering facilities were able to cater for that extra traffic of golfers. We are now in a much better position to do that."

May is looking forward to welcoming Woods back to Dubai, even though the world's most famous golfer is going through a sticky patch in his career.

"The tournament took off in 2001 when Tiger Woods first played in it," said May. "He took it to a new level and the attendance figures started rising from the time of his arrival here. Tiger was and still is a phenomenon to the game. In 2008, the last time Tiger came, we had 20,000 people in here on the Saturday. That's a lot for any sports event in this part of the world. The Desert Classic has a tremendous amount of history and prestige. To have the top three players in the world rankings competing here might see similar numbers again which would be fantastic."

May welcomed the arrival this year of Bahrain as a European Tour venue, creating a month-long golf festival in the region. "It is great to have three other tournaments now in the Desert Swing," he said. "It really has put this part of the world on the golfing map and that has been beneficial to us in Dubai.

"It is healthy to have competition because it makes you look at what you are doing and what others are doing. It makes you improve and you need to improve every year if you are hosting a tournament as important as this one.

"The Desert Classic has obviously been the forerunner for top class golf in the Middle East with the greatest history and a huge amount of prestige. Our list of winners here would be the envy of tournaments all round the world and I'm sure that roll of honour will have another outstanding name added to it this year."

HEY MERCEDES, WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR ME?

Mercedes-Benz's MBUX digital voice assistant, Hey Mercedes, allows users to set up commands for:

• Navigation

• Calls

• In-car climate

• Ambient lighting

• Media controls

• Driver assistance

• General inquiries such as motor data, fuel consumption and next service schedule, and even funny questions

There's also a hidden feature: pressing and holding the voice command button on the steering wheel activates the voice assistant on a connected smartphone – Siri on Apple's iOS or Google Assistant on Android – enabling a user to command the car even without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Water waste

In the UAE’s arid climate, small shrubs, bushes and flower beds usually require about six litres of water per square metre, daily. That increases to 12 litres per square metre a day for small trees, and 300 litres for palm trees.

Horticulturists suggest the best time for watering is before 8am or after 6pm, when water won't be dried up by the sun.

A global report published by the Water Resources Institute in August, ranked the UAE 10th out of 164 nations where water supplies are most stretched.

The Emirates is the world’s third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

Director: Kushan Nandy

Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami

Three stars

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Alita: Battle Angel

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson

Four stars

Results:

5pm: Handicap (PA) | Dh80,000 | 1,600 metres

Winner: Dasan Da, Saeed Al Mazrooei (jockey), Helal Al Alawi (trainer)

5.30pm: Maiden (PA) | Dh80,000 | 1,600m

Winner: AF Saabah, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

6pm: Handicap (PA) | Dh80,000 | 1,600m

Winner: Mukaram, Pat Cosgrave, Eric Lemartinel

6.30pm: Handicap (PA) | Dh80,000 | 2,200m

Winner: MH Tawag, Richard Mullen, Elise Jeanne

7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Handicap (PA) | Dh70,000 | 1,400m

Winner: RB Inferno, Fabrice Veron, Ismail Mohammed

7.30pm: Handicap (TB) | Dh100,000 | 1,600m

Winner: Juthoor, Jim Crowley, Erwan Charpy

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

More from Armen Sarkissian
The specs: 2017 Lotus Evora Sport 410

Price, base / as tested Dh395,000 / Dh420,000

Engine 3.5L V6

Transmission Six-speed manual

Power 410hp @ 7,000rpm

Torque 420Nm @ 3,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 9.7L / 100km

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Tips for used car buyers
  • Choose cars with GCC specifications
  • Get a service history for cars less than five years old
  • Don’t go cheap on the inspection
  • Check for oil leaks
  • Do a Google search on the standard problems for your car model
  • Do your due diligence. Get a transfer of ownership done at an official RTA centre
  • Check the vehicle’s condition. You don’t want to buy a car that’s a good deal but ends up costing you Dh10,000 in repairs every month
  • Validate warranty and service contracts with the relevant agency and and make sure they are valid when ownership is transferred
  • If you are planning to sell the car soon, buy one with a good resale value. The two most popular cars in the UAE are black or white in colour and other colours are harder to sell

Tarek Kabrit, chief executive of Seez, and Imad Hammad, chief executive and co-founder of CarSwitch.com


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