When golf in Dubai was one massive bunker

Fifteen years in the past, one of many Arabian Gulf’s first golf golf equipment closed its doorways for good, later making manner for the Meydan complicated.

As soon as the “place to be”, it had lengthy outlived its authentic remit of giving residents someplace to play golf and socialise. As Dubai developed from the Seventies to 2000s, populated by growing numbers of world-class golf golf equipment, leisure complexes, malls and accommodations, the Dubai Nation Membership (DCC) merely could not sustain.

And but, when it first opened in Ras Al Khor in 1971, DCC instantly struck a chord with residents from the world over.

Len Chapman, who runs the web site Dubai As It Used To Be, says a well-liked fable was that all of it started with a gathering of “males sitting underneath a tree dreaming of constructing a membership”. In fact, it began with a gathering of 150 expatriates, who have been eager to arrange a golf course just a little nearer to their houses than the British RAF course in Sharjah.

When the then Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, donated a plot of land to the group, their goals turned actuality.

Every of the members donated Dh500, however after securing a Dh20,000 mortgage from the Business Financial institution of Dubai, issues actually began shifting. Set over a plot within the desert, the membership opened its doorways in March 1971, with a nine-hole sandy golf course and a small clubhouse.

In ensuing years, it might progressively increase to incorporate a swimming pool, tennis courts and an extension, used to host banquets and theatrical productions — such because the legendary ‘Jones/Penson’ performs of the Eighties, produced by Dubai School drama academics.

Chapman, a member from 1971 till 1989, served for a time as a committee member and golf captain. Though taking part in on sand is at present thought of a curiosity, like many others who learnt their expertise on the Nation Membership, Chapman had by no means undertaken a sport on grass earlier than and didn’t assume something of it.

“People who had performed on grass earlier than quickly tailored,” says Chapman. “There have been golfers who regarded down on taking part in on a sand course and declined to play golf in Dubai till the Emirates Golf Membership got here alongside in 1988. Prime {golfing} professionals performed at DCC’s sand course and different sand programs with none drawback.”

Camels frequently made an appearance on the Dubai Country Club's golf course, with some even getting stuck in the pool. Photo: Dubai As It Used To Be

In addition to native golf tournaments, such because the Tri Emirates that included Sharjah and Abu Dhabi Golf, the membership hosted the annual, five-day Open Golf Championship, and the Girls Open Golf Championship — with amateurs flocking from throughout the Gulf and Africa to compete.

The membership additionally ran Professional Am occasions, the place British Caledonian Airways introduced high skilled golfers to Dubai, together with members of the UK’s Ryder Cup groups. Every professional could be assigned three native amateurs, competing in groups collectively. Some members even let visiting professionals keep of their houses.

“Camels have been an issue for the golf course in that the camels favored to stroll over the ‘browns’ and wallow within the bunkers inflicting appreciable harm,” Chapman tells The Nationwide. “They didn’t trigger an issue for the gamers.”

One other former member, Katie John, says her household used to go to the membership most weekends. “I additionally used to go driving on the Dubai Polo Membership, which was subsequent door. My good friend and I have been out driving within the desert at some point, and we strayed a bit near the golf course.

“My horse instantly acquired the concept the green was a racecourse. He took off galloping and I could not cease him. I believe we interrupted somebody’s sport, judging by the outraged shouts that dwindled into the space behind us.”

Before the opening of the Emirate's Golf Club in 1988, the Dubai Country Club was Dubai's leading golfing destination. Photo: Dubai As It Used To Be

Jackie Griffiths, who arrived in Dubai in 1969, remembers when the concept of constructing a membership was first talked about. “I used to be astonished when a girl mentioned to me ‘it is going to be so good to have a British membership’,” she says. “It was something however that.”

Griffiths did not consider it as British: “It at all times had a world flavour for me.”

The membership was not with out its quirks. Griffiths, who labored with the membership’s early chairman Kirby Broderick at Business Financial institution of Dubai, recollects: “Within the months following the DCC opening, there have been common visitations to Kirby’s workplace from blonde women complaining that their hair had turned inexperienced after swimming within the membership pool — the chemical steadiness was ultimately sorted out.”

Asides from the land, Sheikh Rashid additionally constructed a street stretching out to the membership, which was then thought of ‘out of city’. Griffiths remembers having to be careful for camels on the street at night time.

Automobiles weren’t the one hazard they confronted, although. “Many a snake and the odd camel needed to be rescued from the brand new pool: they’d come to drink and slip in. The camels have been lifted out with a small crane.” Griffiths’s personal cat, Boots, named after an oil firefighter, turn into the membership’s “official snake catcher”.

Ann Fulcher, a membership common all through the Seventies and Eighties, says the ‘browns’ on the golf course have been typically lined in camel hoof prints within the early morning. The Fulcher household spent many a day collectively by the membership pool — when the kids got here house from boarding college for the vacations — earlier than shifting into the restaurant for dinner.

Again to the camels, Fulcher remembers: “I really hit one by chance, on the follow tee. I didn’t assume I might hit the ball far sufficient. Poor factor leapt within the air, however didn’t know the place it had come from.”

Fulcher additionally recollects watching Scottish comic Billy Connolly carry out on the membership’s tennis courts — one of many best-remembered occasions the membership ever hosted.

While some 'looked down' on the sand course, those who learnt to play at the Dubai Country Club didn't know any different. Photo: Dubai As It Used To Be

Former membership supervisor Julian Peck informed Chapman that utilizing the tennis courts for a comedy present was initially thought of a “controversial” transfer. One other common remembered assembly Connolly after the present, noting he might hardly discuss for “dodging the moths”.

Marion Pollard, who joined the membership in 1980 so her husband might play golf, didn’t watch the Connolly present however remembers it being an enormous deal. “It was an excellent household place with nice meals,” she says.

“A number of cooks got here and went however Chef Francois was wonderful.” Francois Porte was a French chef who had labored in England and the world over, elevating the membership’s commonplace to that of Dubai’s finest accommodations.

Chef Francois Porte elevated the Club's food to rival that of Dubai's finest hotels. Photo: Dubai As It Used To Be

In later years, when the membership began to chop prices, Porte remembers pointing to a packet of Hen’s Eye Frozen Peas, remarking, “How do they count on me to prepare dinner with this?”

Pollard says, finally there was an excellent group spirit on the venue. “There have been at all times a lot of kids who quickly turned associates with one another. We made so many associates there, sadly some departed now however nonetheless involved with others.”

Like many others, together with Chef Porte, Pollard’s household left the membership when the Emirates Golf Membership opened in 1988, lured by the prospect of taking part in on grass. Since, Dubai has turn into a {golfing} vacation spot and residential to the Dubai Desert Basic.

“It appears unusual to assume it was the place to go to in these days, when there’s a lot alternative at present,” says Pollard.

Up to date: August 20, 2022, 7:06 PM

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