Monday, 28 October 2013

2013 Challenge Tour at Almouj: The challenge remains

The National Bank of Oman Classic golf tournament, part of European Tours’ Challenge Tour was a great debut for Muscat on the international golfing scene.
While the organization of the tournament itself seemed very smooth and professional, there was a whole lot that could have been done for the crowd.
People of Oman are not used to golfing events and their relative charm, so this was a great opportunity to showcase some of it and attract more and more people to the game.
Having visited the event on Saturday I had the impression that the organizers fell very short on this front.

The so called Public Village set up for some sort of “golfing” entertainment was an empty square battered by the sun most of the day with very few people around. I don’t blame them, trying out a worn mini golf putting green or hitting a few irons shots in a net, is not exactly something you bare the afternoon sun for more than few minutes.  The kids area was practically two inflatable slides and air castles in dark in color and got so hot by mid day that you could easily prepare your morning omelets on it. Needless to say the kids preferred to stay away. Somewhat disappointed by the public village, we headed back to the clubhouse to have a drink and collect some strength to watch another hole with one of the favorites (Im). Well, the plan remained a plan, the clubhouse restaurant was reserved for VIPs and players, and two smiley gatekeepers sent us back to the public village furnace.

I think some more attention to detail and a focus on the visitors could have made the event a true success not just on the sporting and tournament but also on the entertainment and public event side. Since NBO was generous enough to sponsor it as a free access event, assumable with the intention to promote the game locally, it was a great chance that in all fairness this time was missed.

Perhaps next time, among much more there will be:
  • A proper covered space for the non-VIP visitors as well. The Wicked tents sponsored a huge VIP tent in front of the 18th hole which was 80% empty most of the time. Perhaps they will consider seeing up one for the participants with families who came out curiously to experience this thing apparently so popular with Europeans and South Africans.
  • Facilitated visits to a number of easily accessible holes, with a dynamic and engaging “guide” explaining what’s going one, the rules, the goals of the game etc.
  • Animated activities in the Public Village with stuff like: “Fix one thing” - golf clinic, “Your first 15 minutes of golf” – for newcomers, “Why we love golf” - for kids etc. all done by people who are good with people
  • Competitions: Hole in one mini golf competition – to engage, waffle draw – to keep people around, Small food court – to keep stomach happy etc.

Again none of these require more fancy equipment or much higher costs, just a bit more creativity and engagement.  Organizers need to acknowledge that this climate is different and if you want to popularize this game you need to adapt to it.

Congrats for the organizers of the tournament and all payers, especially for Roope Kakko for winning the event. Hope the local touch and more engagement of a future golfing crowd will be achieved next time.
(picture source: European Tour site)