This year’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship drew a new generation of fans.
Golf’s Rolex Series made a triumphant return to the UAE in January, with organisers of the 2022 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship leveraging complimentary general admission tickets for all tournament days in a bid to engage a new generation of golf fans.
Staged at the Yas Links Abu Dhabi for the first time in its 17-year run, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship delivered an action-packed final day. Thomas Pieters claimed his first Rolex Series title with a one-shot victory, taking down a fierce line-up that included Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and returning champion Tyrrell Hatton.
The change of venue also marked an important chapter for the event. The idyllic Yas Links is the first true links style course in the Middle East and is currently ranked in the top 50 of Golf Digest’s Top 100 golf courses in the world.
In December, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and DP World Tour announced the plan to offer complimentary general admission tickets to the opening event of the Rolex Series giving fans the opportunity to enjoy world-class golf at a world-class venue for free. With big names such as 4-time major winner McIlroy and the current DP World Champion Collin Morikawa already confirmed for tournament play, it was a gesture that proved appealing for many.
In a statement released at the time of the announcement, Tom Phillips, Head of Middle East for the DP World Tour said, “We are delighted the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will take centre stage in the UAE at the stunning Yas Links on Yas Island to kickstart back-to-back Rolex Series events.”
He added, “We’ve been working alongside the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and tournament partner HSBC for a number of years to deliver this prestigious tournament and with a great field shaping up, plus free entry for all golf fans on tournament days, we look forward to another successful staging of this world class event.”
Jason English, the CEO of Al Laith, an events construction company that was contracted to build temporary structures for the tournament by both the Arena Group and IMG Tour Productions, highlights the importance of this move:
“An event like this positions Abu Dhabi as one of the world’s most popular golf in the sun destinations, while making the sport accessible to a new generation of fans,” says English.
Part of the CG Tech Group, Al Laith has a solid reputation as a go-to supplier for events in the region. Their latest contracts have included building two mega stages for the EXPO 2020 Dubai as well as the temporary stadium for the Emirates Dubai Rugby 7s and the temporary structures for the UAE 50th National Day. The company’s unique approach to design and delivery utilises the latest in technology backed by a dedicated team and speaks directly to what the Tour is trying to achieve.
The newly branded DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) is pulling out all the stops in their quest to grow the game globally. When the European Tour group announced their new long-term partnership with DP World back in November, the emphasis on elevating the Tour for both players and fans was at the forefront.
“The launch of the DP World Tour in 2022, coinciding with both of our 50th anniversaries, will herald a new era in global golf and crucially it will benefit everybody involved – all our players, caddies, fans and partners – as well as making an important contribution to wider society,” Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour group said at the time.
He added, “The entire ecosystem of our Tour will be strengthened because of this hugely significant deal, and that was essential to us and to DP World, who have been an incredible supporter of our Tour as well as golf more widely, from grassroots through to the elite professional game.”
It’s a philosophy Jason English and the CG Tech group also subscribe to. Utilising disruptive technologies to serve, solve and uplift not only their own ecosystem, but also the community around them. Nick McLaughlan, Al Laith’s current Site Manager who represented the company at Yas Links is young and energetic, a perfect representation of the future the sport and Al Laith are working towards achieving.
“Whether it’s virtual reality, 3D animations or IOT, we’re always looking at how to use cutting edge technology to improve our own capabilities and upskill the communities around us” says English.
As golf emerges to embrace technology to appeal to a new audience, the industries that make it happen are going through their own transformations. Companies, such as Al Laith, are proving to be integral partners to businesses looking to achieve a sustainable future.
The DP World Tour is banking on a new era for the game and hoping initiatives like free general admission tickets to one of their biggest events will help to secure a bold future for golf.