9 Ques­tions for El­liott Gray

We chat with the new GM of Dubai Hills Golf Club, a leader al­ready ex­celling at the helm of Ara­bian Ranches G.C.

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents -

Meet the new GM of Dubai Hills G.C., a well-known de­liv­erer of qual­ity golf. BY KENT GRAY

El­liott Gray is no stranger to de­liv­er­ing qual­ity golf at world class venues.

The Scot started his ca­reer as as­sis­tant pro­fes­sional at cur­rent Scot­tish Open venue Gul­lane Golf Club in 1986, work­ing for highly-re­garded PGA Pro­fes­sional Jimmy Hume who helped Gray qual­ify as Scot­tish PGA Trainee-of-the-Year at the con­clu­sion of his three-year ap­pren­tice­ship.

He then en­joyed an eight-year stint teach­ing at Emi­rates Golf Club be­fore ac­cept­ing a Direc­tor of Golf post­ing at Fan­court Golf Re­sort in South Africa be­tween 1997-2000. There­after he served as se­nior pro at Wilm­ing­ton Coun­try Club in Delaware, re­main­ing in the U.S. for three years be­fore re­turn­ing to Dubai in 2004 as Direc­tor of Golf at Ara­bian Ranches Golf Club. In 2010, Gray was pro­moted to gen­eral man­ager at Ranches, a role he con­tin­ues to­day. Now, clos­ing in on 50, his ex­pe­ri­ence has also seen Gray charged with ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for both Ranches and the re­gion’s new­est course, Troon In­ter­na­tional sis­ter club Dubai Hills Golf Club. Hav­ing had the chance to play Dubai Hills Golf Club prior to its of­fi­cial open­ing this month, tell im­pend­ing mem­bers/green fee play­ers what they can ex­pect? It is ex­tremely en­joy­able. You’ll be greeted by gen­er­ous fair­ways, it’s well bunkered and the greens are tricky. It is ma­jes­tic from a back­drop

stand­point and the crushed mar­ble sand in the bunkers is vis­ually ex­tremely strik­ing. How does it dif­fer­en­ti­ate, in your well-trav­elled opin­ion, from other cour­ses in the

re­gion? It’s very unique in that the front nine carves its way through the desert with im­pres­sive land­scap­ing off the fair­ways to the prop­erty edges, the course be­ing al­most sta­dium like. The back nine is a flat­ter nine with an awe­some fin­ish over holes 17 and 18 where wa­ter will chal­lenges play­ers. What’s your favourite hole? The par-3 13th - it’s an ab­so­lute cracker! Very strik­ing from the tee and a chal­leng­ing green with numer­ous pin po­si­tions to test all golfers. What can prospec­tive mem­bers ex­pect from the re­gion’s new­est club in terms of con­di­tion­ing, value for money and mem­ber avail­abil­ity given the iconic Burj Kh­laifa views are sure to make Dubai Hills G.C. a mag­net for in­ter­na­tional tourists? Con­di­tion­ing due to the grass type (Pas­palum) will be the best in the re­gion, 12 months a year. Value for money has been top pri­or­ity when com­pil­ing the mem­ber­ship pric­ing and strat­egy and we will en­sure mem­bers are al­ways able to play this ma­jes­tic Euro­pean Golf De­sign cre­ation. What’s the pric­ing strat­egy for mem­ber­ships and green fees in light of all the world class golf on of­fer in Dubai? When the club is op­er­a­tional, golfers in Dubai and the UAE will be very sur­prised how good the course is and the “word of mouth” on value for money will be out in the mar­ket from day one. How will Troon In­ter­na­tional’s ex­per­tise help? We are ex­cited to have Troon on board and count on their ex­per­tise on all ar­eas of golf course agron­omy, to golf op­er­a­tions and mar­ket­ing. How has Dubai Hills G.C. adapted to the cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions? It has been priced on the cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions and with the ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence of our team on the project, cou­pled with the guid­ance from Troon. Where does Dubai Hills G.C see it­self po­si­tioned in the Mid­dle East mar­ket now and where does it want to be in a year from now, and in five

years time? We are po­si­tioned in the top bracket for con­di­tion and de­sign and we will work hard to­wards build­ing a strong rep­u­ta­tion as a club, very sim­i­lar tow Ara­bian Ranches Golf Club. We will work on our strat­egy and re­view as we grow from year to year. How do you judge the health of golf clubs/mem­ber­ship

glob­ally? Glob­ally mem­ber­ships and mar­ket con­di­tions are tough, that’s no se­cret. How­ever, as I have ex­pe­ri­enced mar­ket con­di­tions change in the past and taken Ara­bian Ranches Golf Club through a sim­i­lar pe­riod, I feel with the team I have around me, Troon, and all our com­mit­ment and drive, we will adapt ac­cord­ingly.

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