What impact has The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters had on golf in Qatar?
MYERS: The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is like any professional golf event worldwide. It adds a huge amount of value to the golf course itself and to Qatar. Golf is one of the few sports arenas in which professionals and amateurs can play in the same venue. Golfers around the world watch professional golf tournaments on television. They put into their little black book that they want to play as many famous, professional golf venues as they can in their golfing career. That adds huge impetus to our ability to attract people to play golf at our golf club. Broadcast to millions of homes worldwide, The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters serves as huge marketing tool in terms of getting publicity for The State of Qatar.
What sort of cooperation, if any, exists among the golf clubs in the region to promote the sport?
MYERS: There are other venues in the UAE which host events similar to The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. We deal with them frequently to arrange the schedules of events and to make sure that we are comfortable with scheduling all of the events around the same time. We also discuss with each other the maintenance periods and the maintenance operations that we are putting into operation for those events. This gives the players as many similar surfaces and as many similar playing conditions as possible.
Are there any initiatives to promote golf as a sport in the GCC?
MYERS: Tiger Woods and some of the younger superstar golfers have changed the perception of golf worldwide. It’s attracting a much younger audience and a much younger group of people who want to play golf. In general, this adds value to the game and sport. Equipment and merchandise manufacturers are all jumping on this bandwagon and producing this equipment which helps beginners to the game hit golf balls to a reasonable standard. I think the game is more than just a region or an area; it’s an evolution in itself and golf has got a lot more to come for it in the future.
What can be done to increase golf’s popularity in the region, particularly among the national population?
MYERS: Middle Eastern countries are relatively new in terms of golf and in terms of sports in general. It’s not always easy to convince someone to start playing a game for which it takes time to become good. It takes a long time to start to understand the technicalities of the golf swing. It is a work in progress, but that would be true of any nation in which golf is not a big sport currently. We have a very positive view on bringing Qatari nationals into the golf game. The Qatar Golf Academy brings in a lot of juniors. We are also exporting the game of golf to a lot of the local schools. We have a lot of good players right now and we are confident that there will be some world-class golfers coming out of the Middle East area in the future.
How has the demand for golf training and coaching changed over the last few years?
MYERS: The manufacturers have all jumped on the bandwagon that is golf right now. Everybody is developing new training equipment and new facilities to make the game of golf easier to learn from a beginner’s point of view. If you combine these factors with the fact that golf is being more exposed internationally on television, you can see that many people want to have access to the sport. It is a lot more of an accessible game than it used to be.
How do you overcome the challenges presented by the local climate?
MYERS: The climate here in the Middle East is relatively severe in comparison to other parts of the world. There are also some areas in the middle of Australia and in parts of America that have severe summers. We have challenges. As you see behind me, there is grass growing in a climate which is used to sand and this is not an easy thing to deal with. Water is a huge issue for us in terms of cost and availability. The costs of maintenance for our golf courses are much higher than other parts of the world. Because of the issues that we have with the environment, we have to bring in highly qualified golf course maintenance staff and large amounts of assistant staff behind them. It is a challenge; but as you can see behind me it is possible, and these end up being some of the best playing surfaces in the world. We are very fortunate that we are able to afford to put that amount of water on the grass in order to maintain the courses the way that we do.
Golf tourists are very high end and they have a high spending ability. They add value to the country in which they are staying in terms of hotel room nights and other facilities that are available in that country.
How do operating costs impact Qatar’s golf industry?
MYERS: The cost of actually maintaining golf courses in this region doesn’t make the game of golf or the construction of golf courses a particularly financially viable thing to begin with. Golf does, however, add much value to a developing country like Qatar and other to parts of the Middle East. Qatar has its 2030 Vision, it is hosting the World Cup in 2022, and it is bidding for other major sports events. These events will bring more people into the country. Many of those people, whether they are here for meetings, incentives, conferences, or business, will want to play golf. This means that people are going to stay longer in your country. They will add value to the hotel room nights during their stay and will also add value to all of the other ancillary activities that go with staying longer in a country. Golf tourists themselves are another big thing.
What impact does golf tourism have on the local economy?
MYERS: Golf tourists are very high end and they have a high spending ability. They add value to the country in which they are staying in terms of hotel room nights and other facilities that are available in that country. How many golf courses do you need to become a golf destination? Personally, I think that three would be suitable for this country. This would add a lot of value to the local market place because players would be able to play golf whenever they want. I do not think that Qatar is necessarily looking for mass tourism. The people who are here on business, meetings, incentives, and conferences are the kind of people who would fill up the green tee times on two or three golf courses.