Abu Dhabi has hosted the HSBC Championship event since 2006 and in that time, has quickly established itself as a favourite for players and spectators alike, becoming one of the biggest on the European Tour.
The Abu Dhabi Charity Invitational is a Pro-Am contest held in the lead-up to the main event that gives the pros a chance to warm up and test their skills especially after the long break in December, while the amateurs get a once in a lifetime chance to tee-off with their heroes.
It’s also a chance to see how popular the sport is with the broader community, albeit the higher-net-worth end of it.
Tennis player Tim Henman says, “It’s magnificent for us to come from the UK at this time of year when most of the country’s flooded and it’s still raining and it’s windy and it’s cold and you come out here, the weather’s brilliant.”
The retired English professional is also a keen golfer and was just one of the players in this year’s Invitational, teamed with world number 24, Thomas Bjorn.
Henman was delighted to get the chance to play in Abu Dhabi.
“The course just looks in such good shape, the greens are fantastic so it’s a real privilege to get the chance to play a course that’s set up for tournament play,” says Henman.
The tournament sponsor recognises it’s a significant tournament on the international calendar, kickstarting the golfing year and giving everyone a chance to see how the players’ form has carried over the holiday period.
“Everybody gets their rest during December and sort of brings it down, then because of the ranking points, especially in a Ryder Cup year, especially players want to get their year off to a good start because as we all know in anything if you get off to a good start its easier to sustain that throughout the year. I think that’s why it attracts the right level of golf,” says Giles Morgan, head of sponsorship at HSBC.
But Abu Dhabi’s appeal is not only about it’s position on the golfing calendar.
“The course is absolutely world class and has been for a number of years, so they know they’re going to get a true test of golf,” says Morgan.
“The weather is always outstanding its not like playing in other parts of the world particularly on the west coast of America or in Europe where it’s obviously cold, so what’s there not to like? You’ve got wonderful hospitalty, a wonderful welcome, wonderful golf course, wonderful weather. It seems like the perfect place to play golf.”
Originally featured on Emirates News, 16 January 2014.