Asian Games Golf Venue Desert Oasis No More
Ten years later, as Qatar's booming economy radiates Doha's suburban sprawl out from downtown, the oasis label hardly fits. The area around the club these days is surrounded by condominiums, small office buildings and hotels, most of them under construction.
And course manager Ranald McNeill even debunks the desert part: The site of the original golf course was hardly a classic desert -- for a start, there wasn't any sand.
'Nothing but rocks,' says McNeill, smiling at the anomaly. 'It used to be a popular picnic spot for the locals with a few palm trees. Back then, it was a fair way out of town.'
In fact, McNeill had to import sand from as far as 60 miles away to help grow grass on the fairways and fill the bunkers.
In 1998, the course hosted its first Qatar Masters, now a regular stop on the European and Asian tours. Ernie Els, who won the tournament in 2004, will be back on Jan. 25-28, along with Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen and Stuart Appleby.
On Sunday, the best amateur golfers from Asia competed at Doha Golf Club in team and individual events at the Asian Games. The third round started with an unusual condition -- the wind wasn't blowing strongly off Doha Bay. The sun was shining, and scores were low. Mika Miyazato and H.Y. Choi were among the leaders in the women's tournament that concludes Monday.
Officials shortened the men's course from its usual pro tournament length of 7,374 yards to 7,122 for the Asian Games, and 5,751 yards for the women.
Still, the only grass course in Qatar has its challenges. Visitors to Doha pay $275 to see if they can keep their ball on the fairways and not in the desert scrub and the natural rock formations that architect Peter Harradine incorporated into the 18-hole layout.
If the limestone rock outcrops don't punish you, watch out for several holes that incorporate man-made lakes, including the par-3 17th. More than 60 imported cacti run along the 18th fairway.
The 16th hole has been reduced by about 45 yards to 306 yards for the men at the Asian Games, but accuracy remains important.
'If it hits the rocks not far from the front of the green, it's a lottery -- it could go anywhere,' says McNeill, an Australian. 'Often, the ball will land on the green and roll off the back into trouble. The course is like that -- low scores are there for the asking, particularly if the wind's not blowing. But there's also a lot of places where you can get into trouble.'
Wendy Stewart, from Aberdeen, Scotland, who was following a group of Asian Games golfers Sunday, agreed the course could be challenging.
'You can see on a day like today when the wind's light, there could be some good scores,' said Stewart, who regularly plays at Carnoustie, where the British Open will be held next year. 'But you can see a number of places where even the pros will be tested.'
Asian Games golfers this week got one break -- the course's winter grass program had summer Bermuda grass switched over to Kentucky blue for the cooler season. To do that, McNeill and his staff had to 'overseed' the greens with the Kentucky variation.
Bermuda grass grows horizontally, making putting more difficult. Kentucky blue grass grows vertically, allowing for a softer lift as the grass wraps around the club face on the fairways.
'And it makes the putting easier,' adds McNeill. 'The green is pretty true and smooth.'
The golf club has grown in the past several years. Recently, it opened a golf academy for up-and-coming golfers in Qatar. To try to tap into the local market, there's a nine-hole academy course fully floodlit for night play.
'With the traditions here of having people take from about 1 to 4 o'clock off in the afternoon, particularly in the heat of summer, it has become very popular,' says McNeill. 'Our last tee time is about 10 p.m., and we're getting as many people through there now as we are our championship course.'
As the only major grower of grass anywhere in Qatar, the club has started a subsidiary -- basically, a turf farm. The eight artificial lakes can handle the course's irrigation and also provide water to an area near the 17th green and 18th fairway where the turf is grown.
It came in handy for Asian Games organizers two weeks ago. After 10,000 athletes trooped through the main Khalifa Stadium for the opening ceremony, McNeill and his staff transferred a football stadium worth of turf from the golf course to the games' soccer venue.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.
The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.
There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18