Thursday

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship & Other Cool Things

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The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is tees off a month from now and already it's clear that “Everybody wants to win this championship".  Motivations however, are varied.  

Ian Poulter has vengeance to extract, Martin Kaymer has a trophy to defend and two contrasting Irishmen are focused on an Irish win in the desert.  Oh, and all four 2010 major winners will be there intent on making a solid start to in 2011.  No one doubts that the Abu Dhabi Championship will bring together the best players in the world... and attract a record number of spectators than ever.

However on this side of the proverbial pond, when you ask your typical recreational golfer what he or she thinks about golf in Abu Dhabi, or Dubai for that matter, or you'll often get a look of incredulity, incredulousness disbelief.

This is particularly true for those... of a certain age... who spent time the in the United Arab Emirates during the eighties, but haven't been back since.  I spoke to such a couple at a party last night.  These former expats remember a sparse desert landscape, sleepy fishing villages and small dusty cities. An occasional oasis of date palms and eucalyptus trees provided the only touches of green.  They lived in a compound that they rarely ventured out of,  and longed for their periodic trips home.

But that was before the UAE began spending billions of dollars on infrastructure... and making huge investments in real estate, tourism and leisure.  Much has also been spent on education it should be pointed out, and UAE saw its literacy rate rise from 53.5% in 1989 to 98.8% in 2009.

The suburbanites I spoke to last night had left the Middle East in 1986, and though they'd caught glimpses of the region's development in the media over the years, they were still amazed to find out that one of the biggest events on the PGA European Tour was taking place in Abu Dhabi, staged on a sublime championship course.

Events like the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship are meant to showcase the region as one of the world's leading golfing destinations and to display its international attractions to a worldwide audience and with Phil Mickelson starting his season there this year, it's a good guess that even the more... insular... Americans will be paying attention.

I just sent an email to the incredulous couple from last night. Along with a link to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship site I also forwarded UAE Golf Online's UAE course guide and National Geographic's 10 Cool Things About Abu Dhabi.  I'm hoping this will get them up to speed.