The Business Year

Paul Booth

Executive Director, Al Hamra Golf Club

Simon Payne

General Manager, Tower Links

The UAE has long enjoyed the interest of golfers year round, and golf clubs in Ras Al Khaimah are now implementing new ideas to gain an edge over the rest of the competition.

How is the competition in the golf market in Ras Al Khaimah?

PAUL BOOTH Tower Links and Al Hamra are the only two clubs in Ras Al Khaimah and both cater to two different sets of golfers. With various hotels right at our doorstep, we target the holiday segment. Golfers tend to combine both clubs on their trip. Competition is good, and so is having two different styles of courses. Golfers enjoy going to more than one club, and in that respect, it is great to have another club in the Emirate. The nearest competitor in our league is Ajman, which is not that far away.

SIMON PAYNE Al Hamra is our main competitor, but we focus on different segments. There cannot be two golf clubs at the same level; there needs to be differentiation. While Al Hamra is surrounded with hotels and tourists, we are similar to a traditional golf course in many respects; we are a standalone course. Back in Australia, my home country, most of the courses are standalone, which is quite rare when compared to the UAE where they are flanked by large property developments. Our golf course enjoys the Hajar Mountain Range at its doorstep, which is a stunning selling point for golfers.

How are the clubs in Ras Al Khaimah differentiating themselves from the other Emirates?

PB In Dubai, Emirates Golf Club has the unique selling point of hosting various championships and it also benefits from a long history. Over our short history of 10 years, we have established ourselves as a reputable golf course in the UAE. We host the annual European Tour Challenge, which welcomes second-tier and top-level professionals. In addition, this year, the event has been branded as “the road to Ras Al Khaimah.” The golf course is of a championship standard, as are all the golf courses in the UAE; however, with our focus being on the tourism market, people do come from the other Emirates to play on our course and reap the benefits of the proximity of the hotels. Moreover, we are currently in the Troon network. This means that people who are members of other Troon clubs can enjoy a fantastic rate.

SP We are all good friends; we work together fairly closely and do quite a few combined events where we invite golfers from the other Emirates. In addition, we offer the Northern Emirates Loyalty Pass: a membership that offers discounted rates at Tower Links, Sharjah Golf and Shooting, and Al Hamra. The membership plan started in 2011 to attract people from Dubai toward the Northern Emirates. In addition, Al Hamra is set to host another European Challenge Tour and the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, which is part of the MENA Tour.

What is the current status of the golf club business in the Emirates?

PB Getting people outdoors is a key part of any tourism strategy; Dubai offers six months of excellent weather. Ras Al Khaimah’s unique selling point is the extra adventure tourism on offer, such as the world’s longest zipline and rock climbing. Golf is an outdoor activity that offers green space within the city and showcases the city to people around the world when it hosts a tournament. Dubai hosted one of the largest golf tournaments in the world in January 2018 and two weeks before that, Abu Dhabi hosted a similar one. In that short time span, the UAE was promoted to millions of golf players around the world; there are 15 courses in the UAE and one can travel around experiencing all of them. In general, golfers are big spenders, and the whole tourism industry benefits greatly from them.

SP Overall, golf across the UAE has declined over the past few years; we have just over 122 members. The financial crisis has affected that greatly and people do not regard a membership like they used to. A golf game takes four and a half hours and people are viewing things completely differently now. In order to overcome these obstacles, we are coming up with all sorts of different deals that have never been done before to attract nomadic golfers. Moreover, we are trying to come up with packages, such as combining golf with a massage, in a bid to attract females toward golfing.



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