If you live in GCC you might be one of them. This however goes completely against the essence of the game as still to be found in the homeland of golf: UK and more particular Scotland. Clubhouses there are not 40,000 square feet hospitality monuments, with luxury restaurants and massive pro shop outlets featuring the latest, most expensive gear which, contrary to a consumerist impulse, it will not make your game any better. Courses are mainly walked, and there are no GPS screens that slow your cart down when on a slope, or giving hints on how to score a birdie. The number of staff on such courses is typically less than the number of holes, which are designed to seamlessly integrate into their environment.
This is not to say that the new golf courses being built in the country are not good initiatives. So are OGC’s efforts to promote the game among locals, especially youth.
Championship courses built from exorbitant budgets will not be able to charge green fees affordable for a wide range of locals (currently they range from RO30 to 55). Easy courses, enjoyable for beginners, featuring affordable academy programs, perhaps even integrated in schooling curricula are key in achieving a wide reach. Countries like Sweden and Finland have achieved remarkable results growing their golfing population by promoting the game through several 9-hole municipal courses, a sort of golf playgrounds.
On the other hand, it is well known that a destination can only claim appeal for golf tourist if it has at least 4-5 outstanding golf course in close proximity, within 30-40 minutes driving distance. Dubai ticks the box for for a long time now and results are obvious. It claims a major chunk of European golf travelers. Morocco would be another example perhaps more comparable to Oman. Muscat is making good progress as well with two 18-hole green course open (Almouj at The Wave and Muscat Hills) and the third one opening soon (Ghala Valley 9-hole existing with another 9 under construction).
I am afraid we can hardly sit on both saddles at the same time. Focusing on establishing Muscat as a golfing destination and creating state of the art golf facilities will not be a guarantee for promoting the game of golf among locals and building a critical mass of Omani golf enthusiasts. While having more affordable 9-hole “municipally supported” courses and driving ranges with 3-4 practice holes will achieve this result but will not mark Muscat on golfing map of GCC. Rightly or wrongly, it seems priorities are set for the first now; hope it will yield the desired results.
Golf courses in Muscat:
Muscat Hills – 18 holes + driving range and academy. Currently temporary club house to be completed by 2015 together with a new Intercontinental Hotel on site
Almouj (The Wave) – 18 holes PGA championship course + 9 hole par 3 course to be opened in a couple of month. Extensive driving range and state of the art academy.
Ghala Valley – 9-hole green course with second 9 under construction
Ras Al Hamra Golf Club – (PDO's golf club) currently a brown course, with greens made of oil compacted sand, new course under construction to be opened in 2014.