Future of Al Ghazal Golf Club in Abu Dhabi uncertain as contract ends

Final round on cards for sand golf unless new operator is found.

Al Ghazal Golf Club, an 18-hole course adjacent to Abu Dhabi airport, is to shut from August 1. John Dennehy / The National
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One of the last remaining sand golf courses is closing indefinitely after 20 years of providing a near-unique playing experience.

Al Ghazal Golf Club, an 18-hole course adjacent to Abu Dhabi airport, is to shut from August 1.

The course is owned by the expanding airport and they are seeking new operators.

“I am informed this may take three to four weeks but I am unsure of any further details,” said Rory Young, the outgoing operations manager and golf professional at the club.

Young oversees the management company that runs the course.

Read more: Is there a future for sand golf in the UAE?

The contract with the airport ends today and both parties were unable to agree new terms, he said.

It is uncertain if a new golf course will open at the site.

There has been sporadic talk of greening the course, but Mr Young believes this is unlikely.

Al Ghazal is also home to Saracens Rugby Club and it is thought Saracens will be offered new contracts to keep operating. The remaining staff at Al Ghazal are looking for employment elsewhere.

For a story on sand golf published by The National in January, Young was hopeful about the future of the current set-up.

“There is a guarantee we will be here for at least six to seven years,” he said at the time.

Timeframe: When bunkers are not the only sand traps

Club membership was about 100 then.

Al Ghazal Golf Club was formed in 1997 by members of Abu Dhabi City Club when that sand course converted to grass.

Some of those players are still playing at Al Ghazal. “We have players who have been here for a long time and everyone is just sad at what’s happened,” Young said.

Al Ghazal is considered a challenging course where players also have to weave their way around an archaeological site.

It hosted the World Sand Golf Championship in 2004 and 2005. Sand golf is part of UAE history and originated in the pioneering oil days. Greens are “browns”, an oil and sand composite, while a piece of astroturf is carried around from which to hit the ball. The only other sand courses are now in Al Ain, Al Dhafra in the Western Region and Sharjah.

“On behalf of the staff I extend a huge thank-you to all those who made my years at the club very memorable and to those members who created 20 years of history,”  Young said.