Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Paddy's Sports View 22nd May 2002

Regular readers will recall how I shared with you the first foray that my wife and I and two friends made onto the brand new “Montgomerie” course. It was a humbling experience for us all. Well I am pleased to report that, like golfers through the ages, we returned recently confident that our first attempt was an aberration and that the next time it would be a whole lot better. Well so it proved. We all played far more respectably and even I had a reasonable round in prospect as I strode confidently to the 18th tee. Three balls in the water later I had to settle for a rather more modest card! This experience set me thinking about opening and closing holes on our Dubai courses.

I don’t really know how course designers work but you can certainly sometimes see a rather sadistic intent in what they do at the 1st or at the 18th. The opening hole of any course is always the most nervous\and the start that you make sets the tone for the round. A par will clam the nerves and get you going in a positive frame of mind. Blow it and all the nagging fears that come with the game may bubble to the surface. So what does the designer try to do when he lays out the 1st? At the “Monty” it is a fairly kindly hole. A very wide fairway to aim for. No nasty hazards in view and not too long for a par four either. What about the “Majlis” down the rood? Again a fair start is in prospect. No real horrors off the tee and even if you are a bit wayward you will probably not be too heavily penalised. The green is ringed with bunkers but it is not a hole to give you too many nightmares. The same at Creek and Nad Al Sheba where the opening Par fours are not too mean. Surprisingly it is at the otherwise fair Jebel Ali course that the 1st is a bit of a nasty surprise. It’s a Par five and a long one with a final carry over water. I cannot recall having ever played the hole well and so my Jebel Ali rounds have never got off to a good start. I hope that when Jebel Ali gets another nine holes that they will make the current 1st the tenth and create a fairer opening hole.

Now although I don’t like Jebel Ali’s opener, I do find their final hole an ideal finishing hole. Again it is a Par 5 but although you need to play straight to avoid trouble it seems a decent way to finish the round – and a very beautiful one as well (the line to the green is the million dollar yachts in the Marina!). But my adventures at the Montgomerie indicate that their 18th is much less benign! Also a Par five the tee seems to have water in every direction and you play onto an island. Thereafter it’s not too bad – but what an intimidating tee shot. Many a round is going to come to grief at the “Monty’s” final hole! As it does at Nad Al Sheba. Once again we have a long Par five 18th with a carry over water to the green. To me it’s a reasonably fair hole and I have parred it from time to time. But for the ladies it is much more of a challenge. I know quite low handicap ladies who find the final shot to the green over water virtually impossible unless they are very close to the water’s edge for their shot. I don’t think that Nad’s course designers were very charitable to the fairer sex when they designed this final hole. But the really great 18th to me is at the Majlis at Emirates. We saw at the 2001 Desert Classic how it can catch out even the great Tiger Woods. And a few years earlier the same thing happened memorably to Ian Woosnam when he took on the water, and lost. But there is nothing unfair about this closing hole for the pros and the high handicappers alike have the option to play it conservatively if they want to.

So to me the ideal solution is a not too demanding Par 4 to open the round and a fair test at the closing hole. Maybe next time I play the “Monty” I’ll conquer my nerves at the 18th and triumph. Next time it will be better – the cry of every golfer!

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