The Gulf Club

A comforting solution for amateurs driven to distraction by the toughest holes

By Kent Gray
Which hole in the Middle East has your number? The 1st at The Track is a personal and perpetual nemesis, a hole so taxing I’ve often spent my entire handicap allowance before I’ve even reached for my putter on the beastly par-5.

If it’s not a blocked water ball it’s a tugged tee shot into the desert on the left, a calamitous over-correction to spare the life of a battered old sphere. Yes, it’s got so bad I’m not brave enough to de-box a new ball there any longer. Call it a saving on future mental health costs.

Even if you do find the fairway, the hole keeps coming at you. Your second needs to be long enough to leave a short-iron approach but that only narrows the landing area and widens your odds of getting wet again, left or right. And even with a wedge in hand, the magnetic properties of the water around the green have been known to reduce virtual tears.

Sure, I could arrive earlier for a decent warm-up to be ready for the instant examination, but my shrink charges by the hour and I need all the help I can get. It also doesn’t account for the inevitable capitulation at the second time of reckoning on what becomes the 10th at Peter Harradine’s testing nine-holer. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s simply a lack of ability. Or mental fortitude. Perhaps both.

My regular golfing pals aren’t overly enamoured with The Track’s opener either although just as readily pick out the 18th at The Monty, the 12th at The Els and the long par-4 7th at Trump from a line-up of heinous, card-wrecking perpetrators.

It’s funny how certain holes simply don’t suit our different eyes and even more depressing that we can’t seem to find a solution to the repeat blowouts. But what if there was a way?

The team at Jebel Sifah G.C. have come up with a novel system to tackle the Omani-layout’s trickiest holes. They’re calling it the “Comfortable Card” where you can choose to play from any tee box on any given hole. At the end of your round, the total course length is calculated to give a course rating.

“The fun part within a group is that a lot of strategies can be involved for players trying to figure out the easiest course at the longest length,” explains Jebel Sifah head pro Gavin Campbell. “In principle, it can create a more enjoyable game on a course the player is more confident with.”

As with any new system, there are gremlins to overcome, most notably assessing ‘Comfy Cards’ for handicapping purposes.

“Perhaps course ratings in the future could be bracketed. The bands (noted for Jebel Sifah on the scorecard pictured) would have their own rating without worrying about if the overall length was at the lower or higher end of that band,” says Campbell.

I’m not sure teeing it forward would make much difference to my army golf (left, right, left, right) at The Track, but applaud the innovative thinking.

Initial member feedback has been positive and the club is considering a tournament where the winners will be decided by the best net differential after all course lengths are run through the abacus.

“I think all of us are trying [to find] fresh concepts of golf without making the game too gimmicky and totally losing its identity. It’s still early days although it has been interesting to see the strength of feedback on LinkedIn so perhaps we may be on to something.”

It will indeed be fascinating to see if the concept migrates beyond Oman but it’s certainly piqued our interest.

Anything to make the game more enjoyable, inevitable blobs on the 1st and 10th at The Track aside, are to be encouraged and commended.


Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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