Golf etiquette: How NOT to do it!

I would consider myself as a golf youngster with another approach to golf as some of the old blokes. OK, I’m in my thirties also but I take the game of golf seriously, I play by the rules for the most part and respect fairness, personal pace of play and the various approaches to the golf swing as a whole.

Plus I’m a ready golfer, i.e. the first one ready takes the shot no matter the honour. I know that’s not really compliant with the R&A etiquette but it can speed up the game big time. Having said that, all the rest of the etiquette I really totally comply with—and I even do ask all my group mates to do so. To set a good example I usually exaggerate the usage of the divot tool, just to bring that to someone’s attention without saying one word.

In most cases this works. But there are incidents in which it doesn’t and my first round during this year’s trip to Dubai was one of these examples: I was grouped together with a Finnish couple in their 50s, they were nice and friendly and I had nothing to complain. They played their game and I played mine. Their ball striking was actually quite good, he probably a 15, she a 20 or so. So not too shabby at all.

What they immensely lacked however was behaviour and manners. You cannot imagine how dragged down I was by the way the guy was treating this sport, this course and how bad his attitude was in general towards other players. I took notes to remember everything he did, because I immediately knew I have to make this public, once back home.

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I won’t go into too much detail but some examples of the misbehaviour I just have to mention. This guy really was the whole package. He was mostly friendly in his words but apparently had a heart like a stone. Besides he wasn’t talking to his wife at all during the round he acted as one of these grumpy dads who know everything better. In fact he didn’t:

  • He didn’t rake the bunkers. He got in, aligned himself, took the shot, left the bunker and with it all traces he did. He never ever touched a rake in the entire round.
  • He left broken tees in the middle of the tee box. For the other players behind him to clean up his mess.
  • He didn’t replace divots, not a single one! Neither made he use of the sand with which the cart was equipped. I’m not a big fan of this sand either but I on the other hand put back my divots.
  • He used a tee to mark his ball on the green, which is minor, point taken.
  • He didn’t care about pitch marks on the green. Not at all…
  • He literally threw the pin on the ground and he didn’t give a damn about putting lines, i.e. he stood all over the place.
  • He really made pace, with all negative side effects: driving the ball towards green staff, the drinks cart guy and the golfing group in front of us. Sometimes it was really, really close. They were quite angry at some point and made gestures at us, for good reason, but the guy always viciously looked at me when I waited a bit longer because I believed the group in front wasn’t yet out of reach, especially because my driving was not so bad that day. You could see this was going on his nerves and he constantly played too early and too close for my liking. At some point the 4-ball in front of us had enough and let us play through. Needless to say my playing partner didn’t thank them for this, maybe because they were somewhat yelling at him when we passed.

I’m sure he did some other things wrong as well, but I wanted to let you know that I witnessed the worst behaviour on a golf course ever (so far) and as well that I couldn’t even concentrate anymore because my playing partner was such a big asshole.

So please be always fair to your playing partners, to others, to club staff, to the course, to the game in general and your wife. Golf is a gentlemen’s sport and so it should be played. This guy probably would even act badly on a football pitch but as we were playing golf rather than football on a beautiful course in a great city in beautiful sunshine, I couldn’t get my head around why on earth this guy acted so badly. Especially because the green fee was no bargain.

The only good thing is that with this I have another chapter for my book which frankly writes itself.

Great golf day at The Address Montgomerie Dubai

So Dubai it was, our first golf-related holiday destination in 2015. We’ve been here before and back in the days I checked out the Faldo course at the Emirates Golf Club, a great venue, just a stone’s throw from our residence at the Dubai Marina. The course was fun and I immediately knew that with my next trip to Dubai I would schedule in more rounds of golf. A word and a blow, in preparation for the Dubai 2015 trip I did some research, wrote some emails and came up with a fairly fixed plan to play three great courses in Dubai.

I already played a Montgomerie course (in Belek, Turkey) and the most obvious attribute which stood out was the usage of fairly large wasteland areas—which by the way are rarely to find in Turkey and belongs more to a real desert course like in the UAE or places like Arizona, USA. But the course was interesting and I knew I couldn’t go wrong with that decision to play a round at the Montgomerie Dubai. Especially because the course is situated in one of the most affluent areas of Dubai, Emirates Hills, a good copy of Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills, at least when the size of the property or the number of servants is taken as a reference.

On a Tuesday I made my way to the course, friends dropped me off the front desk, my clubs were taken care of, all I had to do was to enter the impressive club house, go downstairs and pay the bill for a mid-week round: 825 AED (200 EUR). I knew this trip would be costly but every time the ladies swiped through the credit card during that week, I whined, very silently and only inside, but it hurt…

The locker room at The Address Montgomerie is excellent. It offers everything one could want from a room like this: comfy leather chairs and benches, plenty of lockers, showers, toilets, (…) and fully equipped toiletries: soap, creme, hair gel, deodorant, sun protection (50), after-sun, shaving creme, disposable razors (!) and some things more. I was impressed. And the round hasn’t even started.

I strolled along the clubhouse terrace, watched some people in the pool and decided to see the driving range for some warm-up. After I found my cart and was advised how to use it properly I went on to the academy building, another club house-styled building with yet another terrace right in front of the driving range. So I had spectators… tried to get used to that thought pretty quickly as it was winter in Europe and I haven’t swung a club for 5 months! Luckily all went fine, I immediately found my rhythm, smashed some nice drives along the impressive range with the Dubai Marina skyscrapers in the backdrop. It felt good and I was so happy about my performance during warm-up. Needless to say, I lost that rhythm again on the first tee…

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Speaking of first tee, right next to it they had sort of cart path road works, because of which all carts on their way to and from the training facilities had to cross the first hole. That was a bit annoying but hey, I was on holiday, just about to tee off at one of the most beautiful courses in the region and you can believe me, I wasn’t bothered at all.

I wasn’t even bothered when I met my playing partners for the round: a nice couple from Finland, probably 50 years of age. They weren’t talking much but as they had a cart for themselves and I was on my own, I had no problem with it.

By the way, the cart was loaded with tees, towels, ice cold water, repair sand, a scorecard and one of these fancy huge GPS systems. So you know where you are, you know how far to the next obstacle and you know what club to hit. I really like those!

And off we went. It’s February but around midday the sun is already really hot (28°C in the shade) so I had to stay in the cart for the most part not to risk a painful sunburn. In February I’m not that tanned yet you know…

The course layout is a very typical US or Florida-style golf estate course, it meanders along housing areas and you rarely find a place on the course where you only see golf holes instead of golf villas, huge properties and gardens. Frankly you don’t have this at all. But what do you expect from a course in the middle of a bustling city? It basically can’t be that remote like Scottish courses that come to your mind. So all golfers coming to Dubai to play a round of golf, get used to the fact that you will play along houses and especially in Dubai, you’ll have a construction site among them as well.

Fairways at The Address Montgomerie Dubai are undulated but fair in width. Monty obviously tried to create a links-style character paired with a fair resort-style course which suits the most players out there, offering chances to score low, but danger enough to score high also. The Dubai course features similar wasteland areas which I knew already from the other Montgomerie course in Turkey. It was just that here, even though you don’t see any desert here, I believed it belonged here more. Tough to describe but it felt very natural, even with all the houses to the side—which by the way are huge houses! Every villa looks different and jeez, they must cost a fortune! I was told the story that Monty got one of these villas as payoff for designing the course, and shortly after lost it to his ex-wife in the divorce. Ouch! Don’t know whether it’s true but at least it seems possible.

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Back to the course, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by the quality or the condition of the fairways and tee boxes. The greens were fine but at least the fairways lacked some intense nursing and maintenance. Comparing this to other courses you could argue that’s rubbish, but paying EUR 200 for a not perfectly staged course is a bit on the high side I believe. I might not give enough justice to the course but I was expecting greener grass and fewer neglected tee boxes. I found exactly this one day later at another course, so I knew it’s possible to have the perfect grass quality, even in the desert at these temperatures. Some days later I read something on the internet that the course had some severe problems with the grass and had to transplant large areas of it. I don’t know if this was related to my experience at all but it seemed an appropriate reason.

Anyway, the course characteristics were fantastic. The course features undulating fairways, forced carries, multiple water hazards, split fairways, troubling bunkering, wasteland areas, tricky shots into the green, quick greens themselves. All in all a fairly challenging setup.

Hole-wise I liked the 4 with a split fairway and a dogleg left with bunkers on the left (short) side; the 6, a nice par 3 over water with a small-ish (or at least hard to find) green; the 9 dogleg left with a narrow fairway and water all the way to the left (I think that hole cost me three balls…) Another interesting hole is the par 3 13 featuring a tee box ring around a island green in the form and shape of the UAE. Missed a clear birdie there. A nice stretch of holes is the 17 and 18, 17 being a well-secured and crazy-bunkered par 3 and the 18 a true test to your golf par 5. Admittedly the fairway is rather wide, but it’s long and there is water to both sides, left and right, the fairway gets split at some point and another (pink!) water hazard waits in front of the narrow-ish green. There are enough obstacles to totally ruin a round of golf. Mine was already ruined 13 holes earlier, so nothing to worry about for me :)

If you come to Dubai and are after some good rounds of golf, I would definitely support you to come play the Montgomerie as it is an interesting setting, has a good character and challenges you as a golfer. You can’t beat that!

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After the round, after my clubs and shoes were cleaned and I refreshed myself, I went to the pro shop to buy the club logo ball and a shirt and only there I noticed that the old logo of the club looks a bit dull and the new, with The Address logo on it wasn’t available yet. So there it is, my reason to come back at some point! :)

Last comment, there was one downside to a great golfing day. That wasn’t related to the course, not even to my personal game, which was OK for the most part. It was because of these horrible people I played with. In general I don’t care when I get grouped together with other folks, even in my home club that’s usually the case. Sometimes you get along very well and quick, in some instances you don’t. Nothing to worry about, just happens, you try not to be dragged down by it, forget it and carry on with your life, but this Finnish couple I don’t believe I will ever forget them at all. Please read the next post on golf etiquette to understand why…

Ball Showcase: Souvenirs from Dubai

B9WBCehIUAESgQI.jpg-largeWhat do you bring home when you play three courses on a short trip? Correct, three golf balls for the showcase: Jumeirah Golf Estates, The Els Club and The Address Montgomerie Dubai. For my collection this makes it four Dubai balls in total, taking into account the Emirates Golf Course ball which I already bought in 2012.

I have to say that I also bought two golf polo shirts. One from the Els Club, one from the Jumeirah Golf Estates. I looked for one at the Montgomerie as well but they still featured the old logo (like in the ball above) rather than the new one with The Address hotel group logo. Would prefer that one. No problem, won’t be the last time that I play golf in Dubai!

Continue reading Ball Showcase: Souvenirs from Dubai

The Dubai 2015 trip: a short recap

els-banner8Just today, early morning I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany after a one week trip to Dubai. At 5:30 we touched ground in wet and cold central Europe. The days before I was fortunate enough to enjoy the sun, go for a swim in the pool, have a breakfast outside, go sight-seeing in the glittering city of Dubai and play some of the most magnificent golf courses in the world! All in all a great one week break! As planned (see here) I booked tee times at:

Over the next days I will publish more in-depth course analyses and descriptions. One thing I can reveal already is that all courses kept up with my requirements and offered outstanding service and great fun, on and off the course. One club however stood out, in a positive sense, and immediately made it onto the Golficiency Top 5 courses list! What didn’t work out was to see the Sunday action of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club to see Rory McIlroy lift the trophy in the end. But as the rest of the week turned out to be so superb, this was easy to get over with. In general I really recommend playing all the mentioned courses, although this is not a cheap endeavour at all. But Dubai really is worth a trip as it offers so many interesting things you can see and do—golf included.

Golf travel plans in 2015

The longer I think about travel plans with my wife in 2015, the more I keep golf in my mind. It’s not what she’d appreciate to hear, but for nearly every location we have on our list, I check whether there are sufficient possibilities to swing a club. If not, I’d find a better place to stay—which is not entirely true, but almost…

But it’s more the general travel bug combined with golf rather than pure golf trips I have on my list for 2015.

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First thing on my list is a one-week trip to Dubai in February. We’re meeting up with friends, staying at their house, playing with their new baby girl and on three consecutive days I will excuse myself for 6 hours respectively to play 3 awesome courses according to current plans. I’m currently checking rates for green fees and boy, these are quite expensive!

  • The Els Club Dubai
  • The Address Montgomerie Dubai
  • Jumeirah Golf Estates Dubai

Next on the agenda so far would be a one-week hiking trip to Kitzbühel, Austria in June. Together with my parents we’ll stay in the Wilder Kaiser region to climb some mountains. As “Kitz” offers a variety of courses (which is not common in Austria) and beautiful country side alike, it was the perfect match for joint hiking and golfing endeavours. The courses I have on my list are these:

  • Golf Eichenheim, Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Schwarzsee, Kitzbühel-Reith

Some time in summer, when the weather is nice in Germany too, I’ll go and see my cousin who recently moved to a new place outside of Hamburg, Germany. I grew up in the north and I do have quite some friends living in Hamburg but I never managed to play a round of golf there. This is about to change this year. As my cousin lives south of Hamburg, I figured I’ll start with the “South of Hamburg Courses” first (and attempt the others such as Gut Kaden, Falkenstein, Wendlohe, etc. in 2016 maybe):

  • Hittfeld
  • St. Dionys
  • Green Eagle
  • Schloss Lüdersburg

After a short romantic break in Venice in September, during which I (guess what) won’t play any golf at all, we might end up in South Africa for a long Cape Town and safari vacation later this year. This has been on our list for quite a while but we did postpone it again and again as we decided to go to Mauritius for honeymoon instead. Now it’s back in our heads but yet not fully confirmed. Especially the golf is not set in stone at all but of course I think about Fancourt, Pinnacle Point, Leopard Creek and others. In case you have a great idea or even a travel itinerary which combines sight-seeing, safari and golf, I’d be really grateful to receive good advice. I’ve never been there but I’m sure it’s a beautiful country with loads to see, to do and many magnificent courses to play.

Sounds like a plan? The next 12 months will tell whether we managed to get all this golf scheduled into our other commitments. Fingers crossed we all stay healthy to execute everything as envisaged. We’re always very thankful that we are as blessed to have the opportunity to travel that much as this is not taken for granted at all.

Next stop: Golf in Dubai

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I’m restless, especially during winter when there’s not much going on. In those situations I think about trips to make, places to go and courses to play, keeping my bucket list by my side and trying to tick some boxes.

The next awesome trip will be again to Dubai in February. Yesterday I booked the flights and my boss today signed the days off: 8 days in the UAE, mainly Dubai but possibly Abu Dhabi as well, the nitty-gritty details are still to be decided.

What’s pretty much set in stone on the other hand is 3 or 4 rounds of golf. I’ve been to the UAE before and was fortunate to play the Faldo Course at the Emirates Golf Club and Tower Links in RAK, but there are plenty of other treasures to lift in that region.

Desert golf may not be everybody’s cup of tea and I assume some will say “what the heck does he want there?” but truth be told, golfing in the Emirates is a unique experience and this put together with unparalleled service and amenities, it’s just a very fine thing to do. And you will agree the moment I put some pictures on the website.

Looking at my bucket list, there are some interesting courses which want to be discovered. I’m still in a very early planning process, but given that Abu Dhabi is probably out of scope due to other commitments in Dubai, this is what’s currently on my list:

If I could even fit in another round I’m not sure whether I’d go for the second course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates or try another one. That could possibly be either the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club or the Dubai Creek Yacht & Golf Club, both fantastic courses I’m sure. And even Robert Trent’s Al Badia Golf Club or Jack Nicklaus’ Arabian Ranches are far from being shabby dunes courses, they are absolute stunning highlights—everyone in its own way.

But time is precious and playing golf in UAE is expensive, therefore I go for 3 or 4 rounds max I reckon.

Please leave a comment in case you have some advice. I would be very thankful for further insight and ways how to decide what courses to play.

Ball Showcase: Emirates GC Dubai

During the preparation for my Dubai trip, I was looking for a nice golf course that is both breathtakingly impressive and affordable. The point is that none of the Dubai courses are really cheap, therefore I decided to play the Emirates Golf Club, one of the most prestigious clubs in the Middle East. The venue hosts multiple professional golf tournaments and both courses (Majlis, Faldo) are beautifully set into the desert.

It was a golf day that I’ll never forget. And for sure I plan to play all the other Dubai courses as well in the future. And I’m pretty sure Dubai will surprise us with additional courses over the next years to come.

More information: http://www.dubaigolf.com

Desert golf: Emirates Golf Club Dubai

Really a tough choice to make: which course to play in Dubai?! I’ve recently been to the UAE for 10 days and Dubai was first on the list. And everbody who visited this place before will know what I mean when I say ’these guys are totally crazy!’

I mean, I like the idea of a region that is quite empty, rural and suddenly there is money, enough money and the distinct will to create lands of dreams to attract people, incredible things like an island palm, a ski slope in the middle of the desert, world’s biggest and luxurious malls, the world’s tallest building (next to all these other 300 high-rise skyscrapers) and – you probably guessed it – some of the planet’s top class golf courses!

The Emirates have a long history but the future looked dark for some of them. Well they have oil, yes, but for how long, what will come after and who would invest in such country where there’s desert all over the place, temperatures of up to 60°C in summertime, 85% foreigners and only some fancy forward looking phantasies? One may argue that everything is built on sand…. and it would be totally correct!

But it would be narrow-minded as well, because the monarchs, the sheiks in this region have one thing in common; they’d like to stand out and fight for attention, for their right to show the world that there is such thing like a strong arabian will to make some things happen that nobody ever dreamt of, besides the sheiks themselves or the people that consult them.

The result is clearly visible if you drive down the Sheik Zayed Road in Dubai, from the ancient part in the north-east to the modern part in the south-west. You pass dozens of newly created quarters, hundreds of skyscrapers, the Burj Khalifa as the tallest building (by far) in the world among them, you pass the only 7-star hotel complex, extraordinary resorts, shiny business centres, fancy restaurants, most expensive cars, the niciest beach clubs, decadent marinas with incredible yachts and some astonishing golf courses as well.

Back to the initial question: what course to play?! After the years Dubai managed to create some masterpieces, or in other words, Sheik Al-Maktoum managed to get some golf artists like Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and other famous names to create a couple of undoubtedly breath-taking courses – in the middle of a desert!

That may be one of the stangest things to realise. There is lots of sand available but for golf one would need grass and humidity in common sense, both rarely seen in the Emirates (at least if you compare it to the British Isles: too much humidity here and vast landscapes of green grass). But like in other occasions you realise mankind is capable of creating incredible things. And these golf courses in the desert definitely belong into this category! People invented new strain of grass that can cope with salt water to avoid using drinking water for sprinkling instead! How cool is that? Environmental friendy golf courses in the desert; a good thinking if you ask me!

This is a selection of the available courses in the small Emirate of Dubai:

  • Emirates Golf Club Dubai
  • Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
  • Jumeirah Golf Estates
  • The Els Club
  • The Montgomerie Dubai
  • Al Badia
  • Arabian Ranches
  • Jebel Ali Golf Resort

The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates is supposed to be a real beauty but as the 2012 DP World Tour Championship is approaching and about to take place exactly here, it was closed for the preparation works.

My choice was a bit traditional: I opted for the oldest and most famous club in Dubai but for the newer course: The Nick Faldo course, also known as the ‘The Wadi’, at the prestigious Emirates Golf Club Dubai – just a stone-throw from Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Palm and Burj al Arab.

I got a 7:15 tee time at my spontaneous visit and was grouped together with three members, two Kiwis and a Canadian, all long-time Dubai residents as they told me.

The course itself is a tricky one I have to admit. Lots of bunkers in play, lots of water, intimidating drives needed over some ponds that looked more like the North Sea rather than water hazards on golf courses to me, and in addition small, fast and slopy greens. It was early, I was excited but nervous, an unknown course with rental clubs and it got hot quite quickly. So it wasn’t the best circumstances to play a perfect round but boy had I fun! Do you know that feeling: you play one double-bogey after the other (very few pars and some decent bogeys as well), your swing feels somehow strange and normally you would hate that day from the beginning, but hey, I was standing there, on a Thursday, in Dubai, playing golf in 40°C, wearing shorts in October, playing a famous course that I always dreamt of playing, looking at the stunning scenery, thinking to myself: forget the score mate, enjoy every single second, every shot, every green and every putt (even if you need 3 on one green…) and I did exactly that. And imagine, I enjoyed it pretty much!!

It is a strange feeling, wandering (or driving) on beautifully manicured fairways, knowing that it was a sand desert here originally and that some wise men managed to create a golf masterpiece out of nothing. Grass, water, trees: all sort of things you wouldn’t expect in a desert in the first place if you are new to golf, but when you see this, it blows your mind.

And I’m sure the other courses in Dubai are no different. Next time I’d like to play 2 more: most probably the Earth Course at Jumeirah Estates and either the Els or the Montgomerie… or the Creek… or the Majlis at the Emirates GC? Too many possibilities! My group partners later told me that they tend to play twice each week and that they already played all courses in the UAE, plus Oman, Qatar and other regions in the Middle East. Nice to have the money and the possibility, I reckon. And off they went in their Ferrari, Bentley and Maserati…