Meet the new protectionists – Scottish golfers

Here is another kind of protectionism, which I experienced recently. I took a phone call from an old pal in Glasgow, Scotland. As a fellow fan of the famous Celtic football club from that city, he wanted to share congratulations on our team's achievement on winning the championship for the third season in a row, but he also had a question about business in the UAE.

"Who are the guys from Dubai who've just bought Turnberry golf club?" he asked.

I explained that Leisurecorp, which recently announced it was buying the venerable Scottish course for £55 million (Dh396m), was the sports and leisure arm of DP World, one of Dubai's leading commercial and investment entities and as solid an owner as anybody would want. Run by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, one of the ablest of Dubai's new breed of entrepreneurial executives and with multi-billion dollar backing, Turnberry would be in good hands.

I went on to explain that Alan Rogers, Leisurecorp Chief Executive, had shown an acute awareness of the prestige and heritage of Turnberry, and had pledged to work with the current owners, the Starwood hotels and resorts chain (who would continue to run Turnberry under Leisurecorp ownership), to ensure a successful refurbishment for the course and its world-famous hotel in time for the 2009 Open Championship. Millions would be spent on Turnberry, I added enthusiastically.

"Aye, well they better think about it before they try to buy any other courses up here," my friend responded, in a manner of thinly disguised threat that only a Glaswegian accent can do justice.

"We don't like foreigners buying up our golf. They'd be advised to get some local advice if they want to buy any more." Now I don't know much about golf, apart from the observation by Mark Twain that it is "a good walk spoilt", but I do know that many famous courses in Scotland, from Loch Lomond to Gleneagles, are owned by "foreign" companies or by wealthy "foreign" individuals. So if my pal was trying to start some golf course protectionist bandwagon rolling, it's probably too late.

If, on the other hand, he was genuinely offering "local advice' on Scots-Emirati trade, or even gossip on fairway conditions, I'd be glad to pass on his details.