A trio of contenders in this week’s inaugural Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge experienced ‘High Tee’ with a difference today, as they scaled the towering Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain, before firing a series of blistering drives into the rocky caverns of the lunar-like landscape of the Al Hajar mountains.
Although Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm, Dutchman Jurrian Van der Vaart and Monaco’s Sandro Piaget were a couple of hundred metres short of Jebel Jais’s 1,934 metre peak, the trio suffered no fear of heights.
“That was probably the only time I’ve ever stood on a tee box and been completely content knowing my drive is destined for the rocks,” laughed Van der Vaart, 31. “Seriously though, it is very beautiful up here. The mountain environment is stunning and it’s completely at odds with the typical beach or desert landscapes the UAE is known for.”
Sjöholm, 31, was equally impressed: “I didn’t even know there were mountains in the UAE, especially mountains as vast as these,” said the Swede. “You can’t quite see Oman from here but it’s fascinating to know this stretch of mountains link the final two tournaments of the season; standing up here today has really brought it home that we’re chasing end of season honours now.”
Piaget, 29, who hails from a family world famous as luxury watch manufacturers, was happy with the extra distance he generated off the elevated tee box.
“I normally hit it over 300 yards off the tee but these drives were going 400 yards easy; well, I think they were, they travelled and fell so far there was no way to tell where they ended up,” said Piaget. “You have to be so controlled in tournaments, so it was nice to have a ‘grip it and rip it’ day up here.”
The promotional stunt took place ahead of tomorrow’s opening round of the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge, which runs Wednesday 26 to Saturday 29 October at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Organised by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), which develops the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and plans, and initiates and drives its domestic and overseas promotions, the tournament is Ras Al Khaimah’s maiden staging of a professional golf event and the penultimate round of this season’s 26-event European Challenge Tour.
Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA, revealed the exact spot the players smashed their mountain drives would be home to a new tourism project in months to come.
“In-line with our strategy to leverage Ras Al Khaimah’s stunning natural assets in our product development initiatives, this plateau on Jebel Jais will eventually be home to a bespoke viewing deck concept,” said Mattar. “We want to give visitors and residents of all nationalities and ages a purpose-built facility where they can experience the inspiring landscapes of the Al Hajar mountains in temperatures that are regularly 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else in the UAE.”
“With winding roads from sea level up to the peak, Jebel Jais offers the opportunity for travellers and residents looking for outdoor adventures and diverse scenery, while the mountain itself provides a challenging and beautiful backdrop for hikers, mountain bikers and those looking for a pleasant picnic spot or scenic driving route.”
With a US $350,000 prize pool up for grabs including US $56,000 for first place, the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge field includes a wealth of emerging international talents, seasoned European Tour professionals, MENA Tour event winners and a host of the UAE’s best amateur and professional players.
Alongside the on-course action, the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge will feature daily family entertainment from 10am – 4pm. Organised by RAKTDA in partnership with key sponsors, the entertainment bill includes tips for families of all ages on how to play golf from the experts at the Golf Clinic, Mini Golf and other activities such as a softplay area for younger children, a bouncy castle, face painting and roaming characters. Once the sun sets on the fairways each day, Al Hamra Golf Club will welcome players and spectators for an evening of live entertainment at The Bay Sports Bar from 6pm.
Hotel guests staying in Ras Al Khaimah during the course of the tournament will have access to a free shuttle service travelling between the tournament location and hotels around Al Hamra and Al Marjan Island.
Designed by Peter Harradine, Al Hamra Golf Club is one of two 18-hole, all-grass courses in Ras Al Khaimah, the other being the 7,199-yard Tower Links course which meanders through a mangrove reserve.
The Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge has attracted a marquee line-up of international sponsors including RAKTDA as title sponsor, Al Hamra Golf Club, RAK Rock, Stevin Rock, RAK Chamber, BMW and Rivoli as event sponsors, and Waldorf Astoria, Voss Water, Wicked, icflix and Nike Golf as event partners.
For more information on the tournament and The Road to Oman visit www.europeantour.com/challengetour.