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21 February 2024

Mile set to ignite sparks

The 651-yard 18th hole will be the final focus at the Dubai World Championship (GETTY IMAGES)

By Gary Meenaghan

In The Green Mile, a Hollywood blockbuster about prisoners on Death Row, veteran guard Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks, comments that "What happens on the Mile stays on the Mile".

Regrettably, for the greatest golfers on the globe, when they tackle Dubai's very own Green Mile in 42 weeks time, what happens on the Mile will be broadcast live to millions of homes around the world.

The Greg Norman-designed Earth Course, host to the season-ending $10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Championship on November 19, features a final four holes that, combined, measure more than 1,700 yards – or just short of a statute mile.

With each hole boasting an abundance of bunkers (the entire course counts 97 sand hazards) and a plethora of water features (six lakes and two streams), Norman has deemed the final four "the most challenging mile in golf". And with the $10m Race to Dubai also likely to be decided on the same day, the pressure while pitching up to putt on the 18th green will be potentially palpable.

The Earth Course, the first of a quartet of projects to fall under Leisurecorp's Jumeirah Golf Estates umbrella, was previewed exclusively this week and saw the likes of world No2 Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke and Martin Kaymer walk the mile.

With terracotta wood chippings giving the effect of scorched earth and deceptive, undulating fairways providing the perception that the pin is closer than it appears, Norman's newest course is worthy of the event it is set to showcase.

David Spencer, Leisurecorp's CEO for golf, revealed afterwards that the course has been grassed for almost one year, but that it will continue to be worked on in an attempt to ensure the toughest possible test come November's inaugural Championship.

"Earth is one of the world's most anticipated golf courses and we are delighted to show that we are on the home stretch to the Dubai World Championship," said the Australian. "It has been an extremely difficult project to put together and it has involved a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But now it is on show to the world.

"The last four holes are a mile long and very tough. It is going to be fast, but we have to make sure it's fair and its fairways are controllable. It needs to be playable, but we are not into soft courses. We are into firm, fast and fair.

"It was fantastic to see the players out there [on the final four holes]. It was a dream come true for all of us to see this take place in Dubai and we will work hard to make this golf course an extreme test."

In contrast to the Hollywood movie, the Dubai Green Mile will culminate with the winner walking away with a prize purse of $1.67m, while the victor of the season-long Race to Dubai will pocket $2m.

Both prizes certainly beat a choice meal followed by a session with Old Sparky.