Golf at Dubai Country Club 1970
Golf was the driving force behind the establishment of Dubai Country Club in 1970. Dubai's growing European Population wanted to play golf! Their had been past attempts to establish a Golf Course but all failed. A small group managed to persuade Sheikh Rashid to permit the use of land in Al Khor to establish Dubai Country Club. Once that was in place DCC's Member focused on building a Clubhouse and a Golf Course.
Brief History of Golf in Dubai as it used to be
UK's Royal Air Force built UAE's first Golf Course in Sharjah in the mid 1950's. Dubai Golfers trekked their way around various creeks to get to Sharjah for their afternoon game of golf (Dubai-Sharjah Road did not open until 1971). This led to Dubai's first Golf Course being built in 1965. Dubai Petroleum Company Staff laid out two holes (later extended to nine) on land near the Al Cola Factory, off Zabeel Road in Karama. Course was over sand dunes which constantly moved. Often the "browns" would be covered in sand from an overnight Shamal. Maintenance costs were high for Dubai's 40 Golfers. A search soon began for a more suitable location.
These golfing enthusiasts built a 9 hole course in Ras Al Khor in 1969. They also wanted to develop social facilities. In 1970 His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, then Ruler of Dubai, issued a Decree granting use of the Golf Course and surrounding land and establishing Dubai Country Club Ltd. DCC officially opened in January 1971 with 174 Founder Members, mainly golfers. DCC's 9 hole Golf Course was basic! Fairways were marked with wooden pegs. Playing off the fairway entailed hitting a golf ball off a small piece of plastic pipe stuck in the sand. Hitting a ball off the fairway meant hitting off the sand without the benefit of the plastic pipe. "Browns" were initially 8 feet diameter with flags but no holes! The ball was lifted as soon as it stopped on the "brown" and two putts added to the score. In 1971 Captain Ian Butcher joined DCC. Ian previously worked in East Africa where there were similar golf courses. He became DCC's "Golf Course" Member and made a major contribution to DCC's Golf Course design and development. He become an authority on construction of "browns" and sand golf courses. His advice was sought by clubs throughout the Gulf. Also in 1971 Mrs. Doreen Prince was elected the first Captain of a newly formed DCC Ladies' Section later to have over 40 active golfers with LGU handicaps.
DCC's Golf Course underwent many changes after 1971. In 1978 the original 9 hole course expanded to 12 holes with 20 feet diameter "browns" including R&A standard holes on the "brown". A further 6 holes added in 1979 providing Dubai's first 18 hole golf course. DCC remained "unfenced" with the golf course readily accessible to wandering camels and Bedouins driving Landrovers who regularly damaged the course. DCC eventually raised finance for a perimeter fence but this required a golf course redesign. Ian Butcher, Bill McBride and Ron Holder developed new holes using the area's natural contours. A second 9 hole course was later added to cope with the increasing number of golfers
In 1972 Gray Mackenzie and Co. Ltd (later to become MMI) supported DCC's annual golf championship with Johnnie Walker Whisky as the sponsor. This competition became an important annual event and continued until DCC closed in 2007.
DCC's Annual Golf Championship was Dubai's first commercially sponsored sporting event. Past Winners include:-
1972 R. Thomson
1973 J. White
1974 J. Campbell
1975 J. Campbell
1976 J. Campbell
1977 J. Campbell
1978 J. Campbell
1979 R. Mummery
1980 R. Mummery
1981 R. Campbell
1982 R. Mummery
1983 J. Campbell
1984 J. Campbell
1985 J. Campbell
1986 R. Mummery.
Astroturf replaced "plastic water pipe tees" in 1975. Golfers now played their shots after placing their ball on a small rectangular piece of Astroturf. This simulated playing off grass and raised both the standard of DCC's Golf and interest in Golf. There were restrictions on where and how this Astroturf could be used. Fairways were delineated by wooden pegs. Only balls coming to rest on the marked fairway were played off the Astroturf otherwise the ball had to be played as it lay i.e. off the sand or wherever it came to rest. Astroturf could not be used to gain advantage. Rectangular pieces of Astroturf were eventually replaced by circular pieces of Astroturf. The rectangular shape was considered to provide unfair advantage as Golfers could use that shape to assist their shot alignment. Sabkha paths were laid along the fairways from 1975 to 1979. Golfers no longer walked through soft sand which was exhausting, particularly during summer months. DCC Golfers generally used red coloured golf balls (intended for winter use in Europe) to make them easier to spot in the sand.
In 1976 JOANNOU & PARASKEVAIDES LTD donated a portable Construction Site Office for use as a Golf Clubhouse. Installing and refurbishing the building was paid for by donations from Dubai Companies principally National Bank of Dubai. This new Golf Clubhouse enabled DCC's Golf Section, led by Golf Captain Andrew Millar, to organise its own events. The first Dubai Men's' Open Golf Championship was held in 1977 with entries from South Africa, Australia, England, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the Gulf Countries. Dunlop Oil and Marine sponsored the competition providing prizes that may have been more generous than the Royal and Ancient allowed! Ali Misbah from Bahrain won both the inaugural and subsequent Championship. DCC's Open Golf Championship continued until 2007 when DCC was closed. A Ladies' Open Golf Championship established in 1980 sponsored by the National Bank of Dubai. This also attracted an international entry and continued each year until DCC closed in 2007.
Mike Cahil is an Australian Professional Golfer who played in DCC's 1978 Open Championship. Mike was invited back to DCC in 1979 for 3 days to play with DCC's Golfers and provide tuition. Subsequently Bob Elliot, Senior Teaching Pro at Foxhills Golf and Country Club and John Morgan a UK based Professional Golfer provided tuition until DCC appointed Mohammed Jabar as Dubai's first full time Golf Professional.
British Caledonian Lions
British Caledonian Airways was an independent airline operating internationally out of UK. BCal started their Gatwick-Dubai-Hong Kong Service in 1980. BCal Golfing Lions had been set up as part of BCal's marketing operations. The Lions comprised 12 of UK's top golfers who were flown to various BCal destinations to play with local Clubs. The Team included professionals such as Tommy Horton, Brian Barnes, Malcolm Gregson, Carl Mason, Martin Poxon, John Morgan, Ewen Murray, Roger Chapman some of whom became Ryder Cup Players and competed internationally. With Dubai now a BCal destination, DCC was able to arrange for the BCal Lions to come to Dubai to play in Pro Ams and provide tuition. The Lion's visits were shared with Golf Clubs in Abu Dhabi and Das Island and eventually with Emirates Golf Club when Dubai's first grass course opened.
DCC pioneered commercialisation of Golf in Dubai with sponsored tournaments organised to a professional standard. Sponsors were local Companies with international connections who saw sponsoring golf as a way to connect with the community and gain exposure for their major Clients. Both the Men's and Women's Golf Sections organised sponsored international competitions attracting competitors from the Gulf Region, Africa, UK and Europe.
1986 Dubai announced a new grass golf course. In a TV interview, the Project's Coordinator talked about the new course then ended his interview by throwing a piece of Astroturf into the desert saying "No Golfer in Dubai need ever play golf off plastic grass again". His intent was understandable but his gesture ignored the significant contribution Dubai Country Club's Sand Golf Course made to development of golf in Dubai. DCC's Golf Section introduced hundreds of Dubai Residents to golf in an affordable way.
DCC's Sand Golf Course may have now merged back into the desert of Dubailand but its legacy continues.