We chat with the new GM of Dubai Hills Golf Club, a leader already excelling at the helm of Arabian Ranches G.C.
Interview by Kent Gray
Elliott Gray is no stranger to delivering quality golf at world-class venues.
The Scot started his career as an assistant professional at current Scottish Open venue Gullane Golf Club in 1986, working for highly-regarded PGA Professional Jimmy Hume who helped Gray qualify as Scottish PGA Trainee-of-the-Year at the conclusion of his three-year apprenticeship.
He then enjoyed an eight-year stint teaching at Emirates Golf Club before accepting a Director of Golf posting at Fancourt Golf Resort in South Africa between 1997-2000. Thereafter he served as senior pro at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware, remaining in the U.S. for three years before returning to Dubai in 2004 as Director of Golf at Arabian Ranches Golf Club. In 2010, Gray was promoted to general manager at Ranches, a role he continues today. Now, closing in on 50, his experience has also seen Gray charged with ultimate responsibility for both Ranches and the region’s newest course, Troon International sister club Dubai Hills Golf Club.
Having had the chance to play Dubai Hills Golf Club prior to its official opening this month, tell impending members/green fee players what they can expect?
It is extremely enjoyable. You’ll be greeted by generous fairways, it’s well bunkered and the greens are tricky. It is majestic from a backdrop standpoint and the crushed marble sand in the bunkers is visually extremely striking.
How does it differentiate, in your well-travelled opinion, from other courses in the region?
It’s very unique in that the front nine carves its way through the desert with impressive landscaping off the fairways to the property edges, the course being almost stadium like. The back nine is a flatter nine with an awesome finish over holes 17 and 18 where water will challenges players.
What’s your favourite hole?
The par-3 13th – it’s an absolute cracker! Very striking from the tee and a challenging green with numerous pin positions to test all golfers.
What can prospective members expect from the region’s newest club in terms of conditioning, value for money and member availability given the iconic Burj Khalifa views are sure to make Dubai Hills G.C. a magnet for international tourists?
Conditioning due to the grass type (Paspalum) will be the best in the region, 12 months a year. Value for money has been the top priority when compiling the membership pricing and strategy and we will ensure members are always able to play this majestic European Golf Design creation.
What’s the pricing strategy for memberships and green fees in light of all the world class golf on offer in Dubai?
When the club is operational, golfers in Dubai and the UAE will be very surprised how good the course is and the “word of mouth” on value for money will be out in the market from day one.
How will Troon International’s expertise help?
We are excited to have Troon on board and count on their expertise in all areas of golf course agronomy, to golf operations and marketing.
How has Dubai Hills G.C. adapted to the current market conditions?
It has been priced on the current market conditions and with the expertise and experience of our team on the project, coupled with the guidance from Troon.
Where does Dubai Hills G.C see itself positioned in the Middle East market now and where does it want to be in a year from now, and in five years time?
We are positioned in the top bracket for condition and design and we will work hard towards building a strong reputation as a club, very similar to Arabian Ranches Golf Club. We will work on our strategy and review as we grow from year to year.
How do you judge the health of golf clubs/membership globally?
Globally memberships and market conditions are tough, that’s no secret. However, as I have experienced market conditions change in the past and taken Arabian Ranches Golf Club through a similar period, I feel with the team I have around me, Troon, and all our commitment and drive, we will adapt accordingly.