Khalifa Abdulla Al Masaood has had something of a rare challenge as he juggles his time between his role as a director at one of the largest companies in the UAE and his other passion — playing golf. 

The 39-year-old is a product of the dedication put in by the likes of the Emirates Golf Federation to support and develop golfing talent of all nationalities across the country and Al Masaood recently had the honour of representing the UAE in the 2023 GCC Golf Championship in Bahrain. While he is part of the growing number of Emiratis who have embraced golf, it all started with a trip with his grandfather as a kid.

“I got into golf through my granddad at the age of six,” Al Masaood told Golf Digest Middle East. “He originally came from New Zealand and he was in the Royal Air Force. When he was out here, from time to time we would play on the Al Ghazal course in Abu Dhabi — the sand course — the first experience I had with golf was with that little plastic green mat.

“That was really my first experience on a golf course. He would always have the golf on in the house and we would always watch together — all sports, but really the golf.

“One day I said I would love to try it and that’s where we began and I got into it.”

As with many budding young athletes, Al Masaood got into different sports as he grew, but the golf bug remained. 

“In my teenage years I really got into tennis and focused on that,” he said. “But got has a funny old way of coming back to you and that is what happened as I fell back in love with the game. 

“I began to really improve and played some junior events in the US, including the Junior Worlds in 2001, which was an amazing experience.

“During my twenties, I got into the family business and that took up a lot of my time but, as I said, golf is one of those games that after a while you realise how much you miss it and get back into it. But then you remember how difficult it can be, too. Now I have been playing consistently and sometimes with the National Team, including at the GCC Golf Championship.

“That was something I will never forget. I felt privileged to be invited and I know I will not get another opportunity like that to play against some of the best amateurs in the world. It was something incredible — it is tough as the level is so high, it can be quite daunting, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing you would never want to miss.

Now, as he nears 40, Al Masaood has witnessed first-hand the next generation of golfers like the UAE No. 1 amateur Ahmad Skaik, coming through and he has noticed a big difference from his days as a youngster. 

“I have known Ahmad since he was a teenager, and not only is he a great golfer he is a very respectful and likeable guy. It is incredible how far he has come, and he is a good role model for some of the other juniors, and even they have really come on. 

“The popularity of the sport in the region has increased massively and we have so many amazing courses. Every course is different. In any other sport, you are playing on the same shape of field, but golf is unique in that it can change massively from course to course.”

The growth of the game is not only limited to the Emirati players as a number of ex-pat youngsters located in the UAE have broken through, including Josh Hill, Toby Bishop, Chiara Noja and Maya Palanza Gaudin.

“It’s incredible the talent across the board,” Al Masaood said. “The nice thing is there is now a group of them and they all push each other to get better and they realise that once someone is winning like Chiara, they can do it too. It’s a bit of a snowball effect when they see their friend can do it.

“Also the practice facilities, the courses and the coaching is world-class. There is an immense involvement in the game and a great opportunity for a lot of people to try the game.”

The World Amateur Team Championship (WATC) is taking place at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in October and Al Masaood cannot wait for the event to showcase what the UAE has to offer the golfing world — even if he is not playing himself.

“I won’t be able to play [due to other commitments in October],” he explained. “It is an incredible thing to have here as it solidifies the UAE as a golfing capital the world. It’s good to see we are not just having the professional events but the amateurs are coming too. It shows the best players come from and how they have developed and grown and to host it is an honour.”