One of the last remaining sand golf courses in the UAE is to undergo a major expansion as a sport and adventure complex.
A zip line, sand boarding, a skateboard park, bike and jogging tracks, paintball, spa and a baseball practice range are all part of the exciting plans for the historic Al Ghazal Golf Club.
The club closed on August 1 last year but quietly reopened to golfers in November under new management.
The existing tennis courts, gym and driving range are being revamped, while camping, a shooting range, archery and camel and horse trekking will also be available.
A new Korean restaurant is also now open and more outlets including a Brazilian eatery and sports bar are planned with a grand opening set for early March.
The 18-hole course is owned by the airport and is now being operated by TU Management.
“We have massive plans to develop the entire golf club,” said Anthony Barbosa, operations manager at the club.
“I think guests will be happy. It’s a big change.”
The move will come as a relief to members of the sand golf community, will offer something new for regular golfers in the emirate and attract thrill-seekers from across the country.
Its closure last year came as a surprise as a refurbishment of the grounds had just taken place.
New management confirmed to The National during the week that there are no plans to convert the sand course to green.
“It will stay sand but there will be more landscaping. There is a long history here,” said Justin Dong-Jae Lee, the chief executive of TU.
About 50 members have already returned and the aim is to build on this, ensure the club a greater part of the community and make it the top sand golf course in the Middle East.
“We want to offer something unique and we can do that here. We want to keep the history and offer people new experiences,” said Mr Barbosa.
Work is under way and everything is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
“The development will be progressive,” said Mr Barbosa.
More improvements will be made to the course over the coming months and a marketing campaign is in the works.
“[The older members] were very shocked that it closed,” said Rolly Rinos, the front-office coordinator. “But they are happy that we are here again and the club is open. The course is now playable again.”
Al Ghazal was also home to the Saracens rugby club and as The National reported earlier this month, they were able to return to their old training base just before Christmas.
The club was established in 1997 by members of Abu Dhabi City Club when that course converted to grass. It hosted the World Sand Golf Championship in 2004 and 2005 and parts of the ground are an important archaeological site.
Since 1997, trees and date palms have been planted and water hazards added under the careful eye of long-serving ground supervisor Gul Raziq.
“I’m happy,” he said regarding the club reopening. “It’s like my second home.”
Sand golf has its roots in the pioneering oil days. It’s also a lot easier on the wallet than the green courses: nine holes for a non-member on weekdays at Al Ghazal costs about Dh150. Players, or sandies as they are known, carry around a piece of astroturf from which to hit the ball, while greens are “browns”, slicked down with an oil and sand composite to ensure a smooth putting surface.
Other sand courses can still be found at Al Dhafra in the Western Region and Sharjah.