The out­look is fine

Golf Digest Middle East - - Editor’s Letter - KENT GRAY kent.gray@mo­ti­ Twit­ter: @Ken­tGrayGolf / @GolfDigestME

With the ris­ing mercury mark­ing the end of an­other Mid­dle East sea­son, a cool­headed stock­take of the re­gion’s place in the big­ger scheme of golf­ing things seems timely.

Sadly we’re not im­mune to the game’s most press­ing co­nun­drum, an alarm­ing world­wide par­tic­i­pa­tion slide that is es­pe­cially acute at ju­nior level where take-up and re­ten­tion rates must keep the game’s gate­keep­ers awake at night. The dis­tance de­bate rages on apace as well, a co­he­sive re­sponse to which seems about as likely as a sil­ver bul­let for wan­ing club mem­ber­ships.

In­deed, clubs here con­tinue to sweat on in­no­va­tive green fee and mem­ber­ship of­fers, a fis­cal tight-rope that will surely only be­come more pre­car­i­ous once Dubai Hills, Tiger Woods’ new course at Al Qu­dra and the long over­due Liv­ing Leg­ends nine-holer (see p.42) open soon.

That we are even talk­ing of new lay­outs is a hugely pos­i­tive sign, how­ever, es­pe­cially in an era where clo­sure signs seem in­evitable in some of the game’s most ma­ture mar­kets. You have to won­der where all the new golfers are go­ing to come from to fill Dubai tee sheets that are not ex­actly burst­ing at the seams as it is. Still, the coun­try’s vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship con­tinue to build it and we con­tinue to come to work and play with sunny aban­don. Dubai has pros­pered through mark darker times.

The Euro­pean Tour cer­tainly like the desert. In fact, you won­der where they’d be with­out the re­gion’s re­sources, course riches and guar­an­teed sun­shine.

A new Saudi tour­na­ment tagged onto the Desert Swing brings to eight the num­ber of top flight men’s events now hosted in the re­gion. A mixed gen­der event pit­ting Ladies Euro­pean Tour (LET) pros against Chal­lenge Tour hope­fuls and Stay­sure Tour se­niors also looks likely in Jor­dan from next year and there’s re­port­edly talks on-go­ing in Bahrain and Kuwait as well.

Like­wise, events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai re­main bea­cons of hope for the em­bat­tled LET. At the am­a­teur level, the grow the game work Sandy Meyer is do­ing with her Women’s Golf Mid­dle East pro­gramme is also to be ap­plauded.

Yet noth­ing has been more en­cour­ag­ing in the past year than the emer­gence of a grow­ing num­ber of gifted young­sters, lead by the ridicu­lously tal­ented Josh Hill (pic­tured cen­tre above and see p.36). Much work is still to be done on ju­nior devel­op­ment and the col­lab­o­ra­tion of ef­forts and many of the young­sters will even­tu­ally be lost to the re­gion as they head to uni­ver­si­ties or their fam­i­lies head home. But the Mid­dle East is at least pulling its weight; Abu Dhabi Golf Club were even awarded for their Fu­ture Fal­cons ini­tia­tive re­cently, fur­ther proof the out­look is fine pro­vid­ing the hard work con­tin­ues. Few of the young­sters ex­posed to golf here will achieve the star­dom seem­ingly await­ing the likes of Ray­han Thomas and Hill but that’s be­side the point. As long as the ma­jor­ity are hooked on the game of a life­time, the threat of ex­tinc­tion fac­ing clubs back in their home lands might well be quelled. That’s a job well done in the Mid­dle East, yet one that’s only re­ally just be­gin­ning. We look for­ward to cham­pi­oning the good fight for many years to come.

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