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What can the finalists of the Golf Care Matchplay expect to experience at the Els Club Dubai?
The Els Club has become one of the Middle East’s finest tests of golf due to the design and year round course condition. Whilst playing Ernie’s gem the finalists will recognise features from a few of his favourite course worldwide such as Royal Melbourne and Muirfield which inspired the undulations, shapes of the green and run offs around the greens. Tee to green the course is relatively friendly but there is a strong emphasis placed on a sharp short game.
What’s special about the course?
We would like to think there are many special and memorable parts to the entire experience here at The Els Club. One of the first noticeable things that will catch the finalists’ eyes on the golf course is the contrast. The native sand dunes against the well-presented turf, highlighted by the clean sharp lines of the golf course.
What are the course conditions?
We have been pleased with the golf course conditions so far this year. The Bermuda turf has held up well despite the busy golfing season with the playing surfaces being well presented and are tight and firm to play off. The summer has started a little earlier than previous years, meaning our cool season grasses have started the check out a little early. This is only noticeable in high traffic areas in the roughs.
What aspects of the players’ games will this course test?
The design of the course places the emphasis on short game due to the undulations on and off the greens so coupled with green speeds that can be upwards of 10 on the stimp meter the winner will certainly come from those golfers that can use their imaginations to seek out the pin locations.
What advice would you give the finalists?
Use the course guide during the practice round to take notes on where to position tee shots as driver is not always the answer to attacking pins at The Els Club. The golf course consists of 96 bunkers and is surrounded by native sand so it’s inevitable that you will find a number of “bunker shots” so be prepared to hit a variety of shots from the sand.
What are the most difficult elements of the course?
I think the biggest difference to adjust to will be the Tiff eagle Bermuda greens here at The Els Club. Being able to adjust to the green speed (which we will be aiming for around 10ft daily) along with learning and allowing for the very subtle movements caused by the grain in the greens.
Which are the most challenging holes?
For me personally it's holes 8 and 15: 8 is the second par 5 on the front nine, which incorporates more of the local dunes and desert than most of the holes. While 15 has our water hazard running along the right-hand side of the hole pretty much all the way. It’s also hard not to mention the 9th, a very strong hole to finish off the front 9.
What is the par of the course?
The par for the course is 72 from all tees.
What is the course record and who holds that?
We are very blessed that Rory McIlroy chooses to use the Butch Harmon School of Golf located at our practice facility to prepare for the season ahead and in January 2014 he decided to put his hard work to practice on the course and shot an amazing course record 62 from the tips!!!
Can you tell us about the recently opened Club house and the new ‘The Big Easy’ Grill concept that’s recently opened on site.
The new clubhouse is 60,000sqft and has an Andalusian look and feel with an open atrium/courtyard which opens up to the picturesque 9th and 18th holes towards the rear of the terrace area. The locker rooms are spacious and extremely luxurious where one can unwind in our wet room areas and enjoy the steam room, sauna or Jacuzzi. The clubhouse also boasts 2 restaurants namely 261 and Big Easy restaurant with the former commencing late 2013. The Big Easy is Ernie’s signature restaurant and the first to operate outside of South Africa where Ernie’s original Big Easy restaurant is located. The menu contains many native South African dishes with an Asian twist and features the full range of Ernie’s award winning wines.
Is there anything else new at the Els Club that the finalists can enjoy? Has anything changed on the course since last year’s Golf Care Matchplay final?
We have added more landscape areas on hole 6 and 14 which will not interfere with the way in which the holes are played but will certainly heighten the concentration levels when hitting from the tees.