Royal Golf Club will be one of Bahrain's great attractions. Before it was completed we took a virtual tour of the course
I’m standing with driver in hand, poised to launch my first shot of the day into the sky-blue horizon at the spanking-new Royal Golf Club in Bahrain.
I’m a little bit nervous, but the preternaturally calm conditions couldn’t be more perfect. Plus I’ve just had some sage advice from my playing partner, club teaching pro Chris Kelby, and my ability to smack a ball prodigiously has always been the only part of my golf game I’ve ever felt comfortable with. This is my time to shine.
‘That’s utter garbage,’ I exclaim in disgust as the ball skids off the heel of my club and scoots off left at the acutest of angles. So disenchanted am I with my remedial effort that I refuse to inspect the outcome of the shot. ‘You got a bit lucky then mate,’ laughs Chris. I squint my eyes and focus on the middle distance and, sure enough, there’s a speck of white sitting proudly in the middle of the fairway within wedging distance of the green.
If reality was this easy, I’d have been a world-beater years ago. Unfortunately, the reason I’m not about to flounder around with rescue club in hand in the sandy wastes of the desert is that, A: I’m actually standing in front of a giant screen in the recesses of the Country Mall in Budaiya Road and, B: the temperamental sensor on the state of the art golf simulator I am pitting my wits against allows for a margin of error as generous as a burger-addict’s waistline. Massively forgiving as the simulator may be, it’s still a fantastic bit of kit for any self-respecting golf nut.
Step inside the Riffa Views Golf and Leisure retail outlet and prepare to be transported to one of over 70 different golfing locations across the globe, courtesy of the simulator’s lordly database of courses.
The technology involved in making the experience as realistic as possible is equally impressive. The sensor pad where you tee your ball up measures a host of variables – club head angle, speed and direction – while a second set of sensors measures the speed and power of the ball as it whacks noisily into the screen.
Eschewing the temptation to test my skills out over legendary tracks such as Pebble Beach and Turnberry and some of the more off the wall options (Finland’s Linna Golf Club and Grief Point Meadows in the US look particularly intriguing) I let Chris load up the Colin Montgomerie-designed layout that should put Bahrain on the world golfing map.
Due for a soft opening at the end of the year, and a grand unveiling next January, the Royal Golf Club is currently causing ripples of excitement among the island’s golfing alliance. On the evidence of my experience on the simulator, it’s not difficult to see why there’s such a buzz.
The idea was, apparently, to create a links-style course similar to the ones that Montgomerie encountered when learning his trade on the west coast of Scotland. And, judging by the number of spectacular water hazards, gigantic bunkers and dramatic contours awaiting to redirect even my most accurate shots into strife, the man they call Monty has succeeded in siring something of a beast.
So exacting did I find the Bahrain course, in fact, that when Chris booted up the famous Road Hole at St Andrews (one of the most vicious holes in world golf), I was actually able to snaffle a par. The fact that every single one of my shots sent jarring vibrations up and down my arm in no way lessened my enjoyment of this epochal sporting moment.
Riffa Views Golf and Leisure outlet at Country Mall Budaiya Road is open daily from 9.30am-10pm. Hire of the golf simulator costs BD20 per hour (four players max). Bookings can be made on 17 59 1760.