Every golf course is unique in its own way. Those courses fortunate enough to play host to a prestigious tournament on the European Tour must stand out from the crowd as they inevitably find themselves under the microscope from the international golfing community for a week every year.
Doha Golf Club, home to the prestigious Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, is perhaps more unique than most, and it takes a world-class team of specialists to prepare it for its moment in the sun each year.
“The Championship course has been playing host to the Qatar Masters since its inception in 1998, and having been built 21 years ago, it is one of the oldest grass golf courses in the Middle East,” says Chris Myers, General Manager of Doha Golf Club.
Doha’s Championship course sits on a site of 150 hectares, fairly unusual when compared to other courses in the region. The landscape, inspired by the natural topography of Qatar, features lakes, dunes and sand traps that form obstacles as well as bringing aesthetic characteristics to the course. Spread over the entire site are thousands of shrubs, trees and cacti that add to the natural rugged surroundings.
That being said, maintaining the Club’s greens presents substantial challenges.
Being located in the Gulf region, the blazing hot days of summer can reach temperatures as high as 58 degrees centigrade, while winter seasons can cool down to chilling temperatures especially at night time; the juxtaposition of these variable conditions poses problems in maintaining the course.
Myers explains: “There is a huge variation in golf course grasses in the region now, but when construction began in 1995 at Doha, the choices of turf grass capable of surviving these extremes in temperatures were limited.”
Besides managing the club, Myers has been the Tournament Director of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the past eight editions, and has been involved throughout the entire process of preparing the Championship golf course in such conditions.
“Over the last ten to fifteen years, there has been extensive research into grass maintenance technology, which has resulted in radical improvements to grass’ ability to adapt to changing weather and extreme conditions.”
“If we were to build a course now, we would use a totally different hybrid,” he added. “New turfs are more tolerant to saline water and soil, require fewer fertilizers and water, and as a result are far less expensive to maintain.”
Myers acknowledges that it’s a thin line they have to walk in maintaining the Doha Golf Club fairways. On the one hand, they try to get the greens running as fast as possible for the Championship; but on the other they have to be cautious of the prevailing windy conditions to ensure that the course remains playable and that balls don’t oscillate on the greens.
“The Club’s dominant Bermuda grass goes dormant as we approach the winter,” Myers explains. “It stops growing as rapidly as in the summer, which makes it difficult to present definitions around the course.”
“To overcome this issue we over-seed the whole course in October with rye grass (a type of grass which is prevalent on many European courses) which adapts perfectly to the Middle East’s winter temperatures.”
Obviously not many golf courses have to undergo such a process, and most other tournament venues don’t have to deal with the extreme weather conditions experienced in Qatar. An all-out effort is required to prepare a Championship course for such a prestigious tournament as the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
For the recreational golfer, playing a Championship course like Doha is an outstanding, if rather daunting, experience. For those who take golf a little more seriously, however, driving down the same fairways as Sergio Garcia is a chance to pit their talents against the best in the world. Mr Abdullah Al Raisi, Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Qatar, believes that playing the Doha Golf Club is an absolute thrill.
“Imagine standing on the same first tee from which Garcia hit his drive, or on the 18th green where he holed the putt to win the trophy; it’s a thrilling sensation for any golf lover! This course has seen the sport’s best professionals compete on its turf over the past 19 years, and we look forward to hosting yet another star-studded event at the 2015 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters,” He said.
The 19th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters golf tournament will be staged at Doha Golf Club from Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 January 2016.
The event is promoted by the Qatar Golf Association (QGA), the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), Doha Golf Club and Commercial Bank of Qatar and sits at the heart of the European Tour’s three-week Middle East swing.