|Abu Dhabi Golf Club|
A: Lengthen the course, toughen up the bunkering and bring in one of most innovative sponsors in golf.
Tim Maitland sat down with some of the world’s top players to work out how to plot your way to success at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
A great event is just about to get better. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club have produced some great championships and some great champions: Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey, who seem to have taken out a time-share on the trophy, would feature on anyone’s list of Europe’s elite golfers.
“I don't know if it can be better than the last few years, because it was always fantastic the way they did it. But I'm sure HSBC the way they are involved in [the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai] – the way they handle that event – I think that they can improve it still a little bit,” mused Kaymer, the defending champion, who returns to Abu Dhabi with his first Major under his belt.
“I think HSBC since many years is a huge sponsor of golf, a huge supporter of golf, and for us players, it's always nice to go back to Abu Dhabi, especially for me, the last three times I've played there, I won twice. But HSBC together with IMG, I am pretty sure they are going to put a fantastic event together,” added the 26-year-old German.
The falcon, the unique and symbolic clubhouse that stands sentinel as the season starts each year, will watch over an event that is new and improved in every way. The trophy is also in the shape of a falcon!
Firstly, the plain and simple fact of the European Tour’s domination of the 2010 worldwide season – the lion’s share of the Majors, the World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup – has sparked a debate: I many ways it may well now be the world’s strongest pro circuit.
The course has had an overhaul; greenside bunkers are deeper and more punishing, the sand traps around the fairways have been added to or strategically altered to further complicate the options off the tee.
And then, joining up with the tournament’s driving force – the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority – you have the new sponsor, whose main target in year one of their involvement is to help enhance the experience for the golf fan and to make the event more accessible and enjoyable for the golf-curious.
“You wouldn’t, as a sponsor, want to make broad, sweeping claims about improving an event as good as this,” said Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.
“But we do have a track record in golf and a reputation for state-of-the-art spectator villages, so it’s a good starting point. We’ll reach out to people and see what we can bring to the golf community and see whether we can bring new people out to enjoy the event.”
While the world’s local bank may sound modest about its potential impact, the players seem to have fewer doubts that a strong tournament is about to get better.
“It’s happy news!” said Peter Hanson, part of the wining European Ryder Cup team.
“It’s been a strong tournament for a number of years, but hopefully it will be even stronger with HSBC coming in. They definitely make a difference. They’ve proven that in [Shanghai]. I played all of [the HSBC Champions] since the first year in 2005 and that tournament just gets bigger year by year. The Abu Dhabi golf course is good and we’ve been spoiled staying in one of the best hotels in the world. It’s a favourite week of the year!”
Let's tee off along with the Euro Tour Golfers as they let you in on the secrets of navigating through the Abu Dhabi Golf Course!
Hole 1 Par 4 405 yards 370 metres
David Horsey (England)
Winner of the 2010 BMW International Open in Munich Germany, numberone ranked player on the 2008 European Challenge Tour.
This is a great chance of birdie really. If you hit driver between the traps and down the right side, you’ve got only a wedge into the hole. As you stand on the tee the ideal line is between the right-hand and left-hand traps; it’s about 280 yards to run out into the left-hand trap, which is about my distance, so I just need to keep it in front of that bunker. Some of the flags are quite difficult to get to because they’re cut quite close to the edge of the green, but generally it’s a great birdie chance. The green is quite slopey and you can spin it back to a right-hand flag because there’s a bit of a backstop there. On the left there’s a little hump in the green so, depending on where the flag is, you need to control where the ball bounces and spins.
It’s a great chance to ease yourself into the round.
The mistake you don’t want to make: It’s a nice gentle start, compared to the rest of the course. You can get a bit cute around the greens sometimes: short is dead. You can spin it off the front of the green and end up with a 40-yard pitch shot, but probably the worst you can do on this hole is bogey.
Hole 2 Par 5 600 yards 548 metres
Colin Byrne (Republic of Ireland)
Caddie for Eduoardo Molinari for his 2010 Barclays Scottish Open win and 2010 Ryder Cup
I’d have to say this is a chance. The hole plays shorter than the yardage: the wind is normally helping and the fairway has got a bit of run to it, so if you can get your drive away you can really get it down there. I know 600 yards looks a lot to amateurs, but these guys have got the name on their bag. They don’t usually struggle for distance.
Off the tee the line is the right column of the temporary arch that is usually there in the distance and there are no real tricks to the hole, although there is a new bunker to the left of the landing area this year that might complicate things.
Even if you get in the rough, there’s a chance of getting a flyer which can actually help you get there in two.
There’s water to the right of the green, but if you can reach it in two you have to go for it even if the green is quite small. Even playing it as a three-shotter, these guys are absolutely deadly with a wedge in their hands.
The mistake you don’t want to make: I don’t care what anyone else says, you have to think this is a birdie chance.
Hole 3 Par 4 439 yards 392 metres
Simon Khan (England)
Winner of the 2010 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England
It’s a deceptive hole. This tee moved back two or three years ago. You never used to hit driver. It used to be a three wood over the corner off the forward tee. They moved it back a good 60 yards and you had to hit driver and the bunkers are definitely in play down the left. So you would hit driver at the right-hand trap over 300 yards. Even though it’s downhill you shouldn’t reach that; I don’t reach that. I haven’t seen how the bunker on the right has been reconfigured, but I’m told it’s more in play, so the game-plan might change this year.
It’s a slightly uphill second shot to a really sloping green from back to front and a bit left to right. On a calm day you’re going to have 130 yards to the front, so an eight iron to the back and a nine iron to the middle. When the pin’s back it’s a hard pin to get to. You’ve got to be quite aggressive to get back there.
The front right pin everyone hits it to the left of the pin [to avoid the bunker on the right side of the green] but then you’ve got a tricky downhill left to right putt, so it’s not one of the toughest holes but it grab you as well. If you hit your tee shot left and because it’s not easy to hole putts.
The mistake you don’t want to make: The bunkers on the left tempt you a little bit. It dog-legs left and you think you can just hit it over those bunkers, but it’s a big hit to carry over there. Into the green it’s easy to spin the ball back to the front and you’ve got a tough two putt from down there. It’s not the longest hole, but it’s full of danger.
Hole 4 Par 3 174 yards 159 metres
Peter Hanson (Sweden)
Winner of the 2010 Czech Open and 2010 Iberdroia Open Cala Millor Mallorca. Member of Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup-winning team.
It’s a great hole; a fantastic hole. If the pin is on the front of the green it’s playing a lot easier than if the pin is at the back. All the pins on the back of the green are a lot more difficult. Normally the prevailing wind is off the right, when we play this hole and it can be pretty strong. You need to hit a seven iron or six iron into the wind. A great hole! It can play so differently difficulty-wise when you move the pin around. The green is covered by bunkers on all sides and they’re even deeper and more difficult this year.
The ridge across the green is big enough that you have to get it up there if the pin is up the back. If you’re playing a little too conservatively and don’t get onto the back level the chance of a birdie putting from front to back is very, very small and you might be looking at a three-putt.
I like the shorter par 3s rather than these 240-yard or 250-yard holes where you’re hitting three woods or three irons. This is about accuracy and about controlling the ball and controlling the flight.
The mistake you don’t want to make: The one place you don’t want to hit it is long. If you hit it into the back bunker you have a very difficult up and down. That’s the big mistake. You’re pitching onto a down slope and that’s why the back pins are so difficult. You’re on a little bit of a top tier and from the back bunker you’re in big trouble.
Hole 5 Par 4 469 yards 428 metres
Fredrik Andersson Hed (Sweden)
Winner of the 2010 BMW Italian Open in Turin
The fifth hole is a really tough one. It’s normally played into the wind (if I remember it correctly) and it’s a long hole with a green that’s quite undulated and tough when you get there. It’s 430 metres long and the wind makes it play more like 460 or so; so it’s a tough par four.
I remember it as a driver-three-iron/driver -four-iron hole. We don’t get tested that often for length – there are a few holes in the world that are really long – but it seems the courses, the new courses, get longer and longer.
You definitely have to be on the right level of the green to make putts, but the middle level is quite big so you can still have a chance to hole a decent putt from a decent distance.
The mistake you don’t want to make: If it’s into the wind you can’t fly the bunker on the left and they’ve added a new bunker in the landing area on the right this year. You have to play down the right, but the closer you get to the left side the shorter your second shot.
Hole 6 Par 4 469 yards 428 metres
2009 HSBC Caddie of the Year. The other half of Lee Westwood’s rise to world number one; caddied for Lee at the 2010 Ryder Cup.
I have absolutely no idea about this hole! The one time we played Abu Dhabi Lee missed the cut doing handstands and I can hardly remember this hole!
It must be selective memory loss. Something like that.
I seem to remember there is water that comes into play down the left and the tee shot sort of snakes to the right. A lot of guys were hitting a three wood off the tee in the region of 270 yards, which would leave probably an eight-iron into the green. Some guys were trying to take it on; being more aggressive, cutting a driver and feeding it down into the neck of the fairway to leave a wedge in. There’s a new tee and they’ve added a fairway bunker in front of the water on the left so until we see it, it’s hard to know exactly how it’ll play.
Looking at the yardage book, there’s a longer carry to the right side of the green and it breaks from right to left in the middle of the green. It doesn’t look too funky a green.
The mistake you don’t want to make: Driver certainly brings the water into play on both sides off the tee.
Golf for Beginners (and Tim Maitland) will bring you hole-by-hole golf tips from European Tour golfers playing in the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships all this week.
Photo credits: Getty Images/Tim Maitland
Photo credits: Getty Images/Tim Maitland
2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships holes 7-12
2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships holes 13-18
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