Golf enthusiasts in Qatar have for long dreamt of playing on another world class course. Their dream is about to come true, says Michael Braidwood, the General manager of the upcoming Education City Golf Club, in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times Sports Editor Anil John.
Q: At what stage of construction is the Education City Golf Club at the moment?
A: The golf course is 95 percent complete, we have a few small jobs to finish off. The club house, Academy and Centre of Excellence (golf education centre) are all due to be finished in the summer of 2018 in readiness for the new 2018/19 golf season. The final 5 percent finishing touches should be done by early summer so we will be having a soft opening then where we will accept test play, invite some media, VIPs and Tour operators. We won’t fully open until all our buildings are complete so we are targeting a full opening in towards the second half of 2018.
Q: Tell us about how the plan was conceived to build the course and how you went about it.
A: The vision has been developed by Qatar Foundation under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and the project enshrines the values of Qatar Foundation
Q: Would the golf course host the Qatar Masters at some point of time?
A: The home of the Qatar Masters is Doha Golf Club, it’s been there for 20 years and is a firm fixture on the European Tour. We are investigating some other upscale events that will be in line with our vision to grow the game in Qatar.
Q: The course is designed by Jose Maria Olazabal. Could you elaborate on the features of this golf course and if possible how different it is from the Doha Golf Club course?
A: The course is beautiful and has been designed to cater for golfers of all abilities, furthermore we also have a 9-hole par 3 course and an innovative 6-hole course for quick golf! So there is something for everyone. The course has preserved some natural features already on the site, an ancient wadi wall and water well along with preserving a number of indigenous plants. We have chosen a grass called paspalum which is tolerant to TSE water and actually requires less water than other grass species, so very well adapted for this region.
The course has a lovely mix of water and wadi features as well as a lot of different species of landscape. I would say Doha Golf Club is a classic desert course with a mix of rocks, wadis, palm trees and the odd cactus, whereas Education city golf course feels more like a park with a lot more green space and colourful landscaping. Both courses complement each other really well, which offers the golfers of Qatar great variety as well as making Qatar an attractive destination for golf tourists.
Q: What are the other facilities at the course - like restaurants, club house, academy courses etc?
A: We are building a club house with a large golf shop, locker rooms and restaurant on the upper floor with terraces overlooking the golf course. One great feature is the amount of garden space we have around the club house which will lend itself well to a lot of fun activities.
We will have a driving range which will also have a café. The unique features of the driving range are we have the first Trackman range in the region where all the shots are tracked by radar allowing for each golfer to have the ability to play competitive games with others thru their smart phone whilst practicing! Also we will have Power tee installed which is real luxury for players as the golf ball pops up from underground as opposed to the golfer having to bend down and tee it up!
Our Centre of Excellence is an amazing facility purpose built to put learning golf at the forefront, it has a gym designed for specific golf exercise, 5 tuition suites with all the latest analysis equipment of which one has been commissioned into a golf club custom fit suite. In addition there is an amazing indoor putting green with a moving floor to simulate sloping putts and finally we have the first 100 percent private tuition green where local ladies will be able to take lessons in private.
Q: How in your opinion will the course complement the existing one in the development of the game?
A: We are working closely with Doha Golf Club and the Qatar Golf Association in developing golf here in Qatar. ECGC started what is called the Pearl Programme back in 2015 where we trained PE teachers at local schools to teach golf to kids, this train the trainer initiative resulted in over 100 teachers becoming level one golf coaches and delivering golf tuition at schools to over 10,000 kids! The next step is to get the kids over to ECGC to try golf for real out on the grass. One of the biggest goals is to introduce Qatari ladies to the sport, it’s a massive opportunity and when we discuss this with the ladies their faces light up at the prospect. We have developed a private tuition area and will be recruiting a lady golf professional who will lead the instruction. With our facility being floodlit we look to have a ladies-only night once a week.
We are really excited about this prospect as we want to balance the gender participation of the sport which currently worldwide is around 85 percent male, 15 percent female
Q: Is it independent of the Qatar Golf Association? If so who will be in charge of the administration/management?
A: Yes, the club is independently managed, owned by Qatar Foundation and managed in house by our own management team.
Q: Do you plan a major opening – like by hosting a tournament, for example?
A: Yes, we have some exciting opening plans which we intend to engage the whole community with, golfers and potential golfers alike.
The man who runs ECGC
Michael Braidwood is the General Manager of Education City Golf Club. A Certified Club Manager (CCM) and Advanced Fellow of the PGA, Michael is a very experienced Golf industry professional. Michael has a solid educational background and qualified to be an assessor for the PGA’s Director of Golf Program in 2012.
Michael’s previous experiences have seen him hold the following positions: Director of Education for the Club Managers Association of Europe (2014 – 2017) where he was responsible for the delivery of their club education programmes and two levels of certification: the Club Management Diploma and Certified Club Manager, Operations Director for Braemar Golf Developments (2010 – 2014), where he was responsible for all of Braemar Golf’s projects that were operational, and this saw him working on projects in Russia, Bulgaria, Bahrain, Oman and the UK. Prior to that, Michael was the CEO of Bahrain International Golf Course Company (2008 – 2010) overseeing four business units and representing their interests in the Riffa Views development project. Before being promoted to CEO, Michael was General Manager of the Riffa Golf Club, Bahrain (1998 – 2008).
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