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03 October 2023

'Toughest finish for toughest course' as Abu Dhabi raises bar again

Matteo Manassero tries out the new 18th tee ahead of next week's Championship. (SUPPLIED)

By Staff

The world’s best golfers face a tougher than ever finish at this month’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, with course upgrades including a new and higher repositioned 18th tee, giving the most challenging drive yet into the face of Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s iconic Falcon Clubhouse.

The new 18th tee is five metres higher than in previous years and has been positioned to the left with the hole angle creating a straighter tee shot and bringing into play bunkers which punctuate either side of the fairway, as well as the water stretching down the right-hand side.

Bringing into view the clubhouse, Championship Pavilion, 9th and 18th hole grandstands, along with the brand new HSBC Skybox, the new position makes for a tougher Championship 18th tee shot than ever before.

The changes are just part of a series of enhancements made by Andrew Whittaker, Director of Agronomy at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, and his team, to ramp up the pressure on the Championship’s stellar field while improving sightlines for the tens of thousands of spectators expected.

“We are constantly seeking ways to take the golf course to a new level, keeping ahead of the ever-changing technology which helps golfers hit the ball further,” said Whittaker. “Over the last eight years, we’ve added many new tees and bunkers to the original design as well as extending and increasing the green sizes to add more challenging pin positions.

“With tighter fairways, tougher rough and fine-tuning across all the holes, the Championship course is the most challenging in the Middle East. The changes to 18 really create a ‘wow’ factor – and mean the toughest course will have the toughest finish.”

Whittaker’s team has also increased the number of bunkers at the 11th green, giving a more testing approach shot around the dog-leg and enhanced fairway shapes and landscaping around the course.

The new tee will help ensure a thrilling finale for a field including Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup winner Henrik Stenson, world number five and five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, world number six Rory McIlroy, former world number one Luke Donald, Abu Dhabi’s record-breaking ambassador Matteo Manassero, crowd favourite and world number ten Sergio Garcia and reigning champion, Welshman Jamie Donaldson. Three-time Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer is also returning for his fourth shot at the title.

Abu Dhabi’s Global Golf Ambassador Matteo Manassero commented on the new 18th tee ahead of his return to the UAE capital next week in pursuit of the coveted Falcon Trophy.

“I personally think it’s a great change. It doesn’t make the hole longer but just gives you a better perspective than the old tee shot. You can see the bunker on the right much better and its easier to start it off down the left, but it’s also easier to link it down the left and hit the water.”

Spectators will also be able to enjoy new changes on the National Course, including a brand new HSBC Skybox overlooking the 17th green, open to the general public. The popular Championship Pavilion has been expanded by a third and given a style overhaul including a new open central atrium area, open plan space providing more light, shaded boardwalk viewing points, and live cooking stations.

All changes are based on recommendations from The European Tour, from Championship organisers Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and IMG, and from Andrew Whittaker’s own team. Peter Harradine, the original course designer, has also been consulted on the course upgrade.

“We’ve been working on the course plan all year,” said Whittaker. “Our goal is to make each Championship just that little bit harder for the players, giving them the unexpected, while retaining our reputation for having the best spectator sightlines.”

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and runs at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Tickets and packages are available via the event’s official website - www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com - and Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.ae), and Dhs50 for a daily pass and Dhs150 for a four-day pass. Guests staying at any Abu Dhabi hotel over the Championship period enter free, as do Emirates Golf Federation members.