Set partly within, and adjacent to, Kuwaitís Hunting and Equestrian Club - the 18-hole golf course lies at the heart of the Sahara Kuwait Resort. Whilst the resort, handily situated just south of the Sixth Ring Road not far from Messila, offers far more than just a round of golf (the facilities also include a first-class spa, gymnasium, swimming pool and tennis and squash courts - as well as seductively-styled chalets at the edge of the Hunting and Equestrianís horse racing track overlooking twelve of Saharaís holes), today weíre here exclusively for the golf.
The Peter Harradine (also of Jebel Ali and Doha renown) designed course extends to in excess of 6,700 yards. Peter worked hard to include twelve holes within the existing horse racing track (which, incidentally, is a completely separate business to the Kuwait Sahara Resort), the remaining six are located outside of the track and have the luxurious Clubhouse as their focal point.
The course is typically styled as a desert-course and the land was worked extensively to create a beautifully and challenging topography. 750,000 cubic meters of sand were shifted during the process of construction, and the course now has three lakes and over 5,000 trees.
The mirage truly is todayís tangible reality.
The course is only part of the mix. The Clubhouse in itself is an extraordinary building comprising, as it does, fine-dining and cafť-casual experiences.
And then thereís the pro-team - led at Sahara Kuwait Resort by South African Damon Ferreira. We figured who better the get the inside track on the course, the club, and the members than from Damon. In the worldís greatest clubs, the pro is the most recognised face on the course, and is the direct link between the club and its members.
Damon joined Sahara Kuwait in 2007, and is the Head Professional. Prior to coming to Kuwait Damon had played in the Sunshine Tour having turned pro in 2002.
So, what is it that makes a tour player become a club pro?
In Damonís case it was simple, heíd grown tired of living out of suitcases and feel he needed to put down some roots for a time.
Menís Passion: It must be a difficult life as a tour pro not only with the travelling but, unless youíre one of the players in the very top of the rankings, thereís always a pressure to perform. If you donít play well, you donít eat.
Damon Ferreira: Well, financially thereís always the need to continue to play, but I wouldnít say it is really necessary to be in amongst the very top band of players - you just have to be a decent golfer. One than is consistently making the cuts, and one that will just keep the earnings coming in. But itís always in your mind, and of course it does change the approach to the game, but you wouldnít turn pro unless you were able to handle it.
MP: How about your life in Kuwait now? Itís clearly different to that of a tour pro.
DF: My days certainly start a lot earlier than they used to! In the summer here members like to be out on the course early, in the height of summer the first tee-off time is 5am. Iím at the course six days of out seven. Most days Iíll arrive at around 7. Iíll typically start giving lessons at around that time in the summer - people want to get on and off the course early.
MP: I guess thereís a general misconception of the role of a club pro. To many people they see them as the guys giving the lessons and thatís pretty much it. But thereís far more to your role than that.
DF: There is. Sometimes I wish it were that simple though! My role as club pro also encompasses the basic running of the golf course. I look after the golf-carts you see running around here, ensuring the course is in the best condition possible, organising club golf competitions, and organising all the corporate days.
MP: Ok. Well, Iím thinking youíre not maintaining those golf carts on your own. You do have others here working with you.
DF: (laughing) Of course! And thatís another important part of my role - to build a good strong and supportive team. Iíve got that here. Most members and visitors to the course have no idea what is involved behind the scenes in making sure they can just show up, have a trouble-free round, and leave again. Of course, thatís the way it should be. Iíve got two great assistant pros - Cliff and Mark. They concentrate more on lessons, purely because they have more free time than I do.
MP: Do you enjoy the management side of it, or do you find that it detracts from the practical golfing side - do you miss playing the game with the regularity that you used to?
DF: Well, to be honest, I still find plenty of time to get out on the course. Amongst ourselves weíre able to pace ourselves a bit, and spread out the work. Thereís enough time during the day to take care of the Ďbusinessí side of things - paperwork and other management. Once the evening comes Iíll stay and play or give a couple of lessons.
MP: Evening golfing is not a problem at Sahara Kuwait, in fact it is one of the joys of the game.
DF: Thatís right. The back nine holes are floodlit. It means we can play in through the summer in to the evening as the temperature begins to drop.
MP: Youíre no longer the only grass-course in Kuwait. Weíve also got the nine-hole course open down on the Wafra Road. Whatís your view of this?
DF: Itís a good thing for all of us. Any competition is great. Anything that will raise the profile of the game in Kuwait is a good thing. At the moment they are only partially open, but really weíre very happy to see them join us.
MP: Another change, not so much in golf but rather in lifestyle, is the proliferation of cheap air travel in the region. Itís easy and inexpensive for a golfer to fly to Bahrain or Dubai and play a round at the weekend. What do you have to offer the golfer to encourage him to stay in Kuwait?
DF: Weíll always lose some players to other parts of the region. Again, thatís a lifestyle thing. What Bahrain and Dubai offer alongside a golfing weekend in terms of entertainment we canít offer in Kuwait. But what we do offer here is a great course and convenience. You donít want to be travelling every weekend - so we make sure what we have on offer here is a great round of golf in an amiable, friendly, and first-class environment. The location of Sahara Kuwait is ideal for a large proportion of Kuwaitís population. Come down here from Salmiya on a Saturday morning and youíll have your car parked and be playing twenty minutes after you left your home.
For most people in the region, golf has not typically been the sport of first choice - but with the advent of fine courses and an increase in international tournaments it is a sport youíll see more of. If Damon has piqued your interest you might like to find out more from him by emailing email@example.com or by first visiting their website at www.saharakuwait.com