Most golfers shudder at the word “sand” – conjuring images of fruitless attempts to lift the ball out of bunkers that players can’t even see over. But for some, sand is the point.
In the arid, desert climate of Abu Dhabi, anyone wanting to play a few holes had to adapt. And in this 1950s photo from Tarif, the site of early oil exploration camps, we can see how they fared. One player is trying to hole the ball, while two others watch on a course devoid of any greenery.
The Tarif course was not the only one – oil workers built a course on Das Island, while Abu Dhabi City Golf Club was also once sand. When that was converted to greens, players in 1997 established the 18-hole Al Ghazal sand course close to the airport. It is also partly built on an archaeological site.
Players carry a mat of artificial grass from which they hit the ball; fairways are completely made from sand; and greens are known as “browns” – slicked down with oil to ensure a smooth putting surface.
Sand golf was also popular regionally, with courses in Oman, Bahrain and even Libya. Golfing parties travelled to and from these courses and a sand golf community emerged – on a recent visit to play the Al Ghazal Golf Club course, the faded club house is filled with sepia-tinted pictures of expatriate golfers, along with an intriguing collection of trophies for a sport enjoyed by an ever-dwindling band of players.
* John Dennehy, deputy editor of The Review