Sharjah to Dubai GolfaThon 1986

golfathon

Sportsaid was given a boost (in 1986) in the United Arab Emirates when Alan Forster, Sharjah Wanderers Golf Club Captain, approached Dubai Country Club Golf Section to arrange a Golfathon. The rules were simple. Teams comprising four players plus a support 4WD Vehicle were to play their golf ball from Sharjah to Dubai across the desert. Starting Tee was Sharjah Wanderers Golf Club with each Team Member playing two shots at the start then Team Members thereafter playing alternate shots with the same ball. Finishing line was the 18th Hole at Dubai Country Club which meant Teams had to cover between 27 and 37 kms across the desert depending on the route each Team took. The Team with the least number of strokes and lost balls would be the winners. Teams were sponsored by individuals and companies for an amount per stroke.

Ten Teams assembled at Sharjah Wanderers Golf Club on 22nd May. At 2.00 p.m., with the ambient temperature nearly 11O°F in the shade, the Teams began to tee off. First 400 meters was dangerous! Teams were jockeying for position and deciding their best route. Golf balls flew in all directions. Cries of “Fore” “Watch Out” and other "exclamations" as Team 4wd vehicles drove in all directions looking for their golf balls. After one hours play and five kilometres travelled, Teams were beginning to spread out across the sand dunes. Vehicles started experiencing difficulties in the soft sand with several becoming bogged down and requiring rescue. Enthusiasm started to disappear almost as quickly as the water in the water coolers. Half an hour later and the Leaders passed the first camel station where a stray golf shot sent some forty odd camels running in all directions. Two hour marker saw the Leaders making better progress helped by a breeze and a temperature drop to 95°F. Now U.A.E's tallest building the Dubai Trade Centre came into view on the horizon, a perfect marker for the next five kms. Half an hour later, the Leaders had to change direction to negotiate a small village. It was Ramadan so the Villagers were sleeping except for the driver of a black Mercedes that suddenly appeared from behind a wall, blissfully unaware of a sweetly struck golf ball flying over his car's roof. The Leaders had now lost contact with the other Teams. Finishing the course in one day became a real possibility.

Some Dubai's Dunes are bigger than others!

Coming over some large dunes, the Leaders were shocked to find their ball had landed in what must be the wor1d’s largest bunker! A huge area of the desert had been excavated to provide building sand for Dubai's many projects. It took several minutes for Teams to extract their golf balls from this mammoth bunker.

golfathon

 At 5:10pm, three hours after tee off, the first major road came into sight. It was the dual carriageway road leading to Dubai International Airport. A well hit 3 wood shot drove the ball across the highway, much to the amazement of passing traffic. After passing another village, the route followed the main power lines across the desert for a further three kilometres before turning right and heading towards the setting sun.

golfathon

At 6.30 p.m. high dunes were encountered requiring skilful driving of both golf balls and 4WDs to negotiate this obstacle. The second major road now came into play. The road was some sixty feet higher than the surrounding desert so it took a well hit 5 iron to get the ball to the other side. But then the Teams could at last see the Dubai Country Club. With only half an hour's daylight left and at least six kilometres of desert to cover, the Sportsaid Golfathon became a "Race against Time”. Now the Teams were on level ground and even refuelling the 4WDs was done on the move using a siphon. 4WDs reached 60 kph between Team shots so, with their spirits lifted, Teams averaged 200 meters per shot over the final stretch. Crossing Dubai Country Club's boundary, Leaders were soon onto the 18th fairway, heading for the 18th Hole with a single putt to finish. The winning Team of Bill McBride, Phil Mulligan, Jeff Lampitt and Ian McDonald had covered a distance of 31.8 km in 174 shots in 5 hours and 5 minutes over difficult terrain and in hot and humid conditions. Many of the remaining Teams finished the following day after night's rest taking some 2 to 3 hours longer playing time. Two Teams beat the Leaders stroke score but they lost more golf balls. A Ladies Only Team bravely finished with a creditable 332 strokes.