ON THE GREEN

Oman 2015 | TOURISM | FOCUS: GOLF IN OMAN

Over the past decade, the Sultanate's tourism sector has come to rely on its fascinating landscapes and its natural heritage to attract elite tourists not only from the GCC, but also from across the globe.

In the recent past, the country lacked any recreational facilities such as golf courses. Later, in the 1970s, a number of sand courses were developed, and today the sultanate has three main grass courses: Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club, Almouj Golf, and Ghala Valley.

The unique natural beauty of the country, combined with the importance that the Ministry of Tourism is giving to this sport, are remarkable premises for Oman's transformation into a leading destination for golfers in the future.

Ray Stopforth, Director of Golf at Muscat Hills and Country Club says, “Wherever you are in Muscat you can see the beautiful Hajar mountain range and on the other side you have a beautiful view of the sea. That is why I think the prospects for golf are great in Oman; people are spoilt with nine months of absolutely amazing weather."

The weather is certainly another key factor for the development of the industry; the period from September to May, with its mild temperatures, represents a perfect attraction for European golfers, forced to play in the harsh and cold winter of the old continent. “In terms of overall golf, we are targeting Europe; most of our current golfers come from Denmark, Germany, and the sort of middle-Europe countries where, even in summer, it is cold and miserable. We can offer the perfect weather to escape to and still play golf," said Jay Townsend, General Manager of Ghala Valley Golf and Country Club.

The Ministry of Tourism, along with the Oman Golf Committee (OGC), is currently working to promote Golf internationally, attracting national teams from the UK and other European states to Oman, and differentiating the Sultanate from its major neighboring competitors, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

A relevant challenge is to get the local population involved in this new sport. Ray Stopforth supports this approach; “We need to make the game of golf more affordable to sustain the growth of the game and I believe we will get there through hard work and perseverance. A certain challenge for us is to involve youngsters, who are the future of golf in the country."