Turfgrass at Dubai

I made a trip to Dubai in 2009 to see some golf courses and to learn more about turfgrass management there. There are many camels in the desert—these ones are just outside the Al Ruwaya golf course at The Tiger Woods Dubai, which I visited for two days. The course looks spectacular. Three holes are completely grassed now [as of June 2009), and the scale of the project is really mind-boggling. I was there in July of 2008 when rough shaping was just underway. What last year was just a vast expanse of sand now looks like a golf course, and one that will be a thrill to play. With huge grass nurseries, landscape materials being installed in abundance, an incredibly complex irrigation system being put together hole-by-hole, and the creation of such a beautiful course in the middle of the desert, this project is fascinating. The grow-in superintendent at Al Ruwaya is Cameron Thompson, who was previously at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand.

Most of the courses in Dubai use hybrid bermudagrass, as on the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club, site of the Dubai Desert Classic. But seashore paspalum can also be used at Dubai, as on the par 3 course at Emirates Golf Club shown above. Water is obviously an expensive resource in the desert, and golf courses use treated effluent water to irrigate the turfgrass, in some cases using a reverse osmosis plant to further purify the water before it is applied to the grass. Because of seashore paspalum’s high salinity tolerance, salt is sometimes used to control weeds in the turf, and that practice was being employed on the par 3 course at Emirates Golf Club. Application of granular salt at a rate of about 50 g m-2 can provide control of some grassy and broadleaf weeds without causing phytotoxicity to seashore paspalum.

The bermudagrass golf courses at Dubai are usually overseeded with perennial ryegrass during the winter months. This is The Els Club earlier in 2009 when the perennial ryegrass was the primary playing surface. Because of the heat during the summer months (temperatures above 40°C are common), little golf is played, but during the winters the weather is quite clement and golf courses at Dubai are busy. The bermudagrass grows slowly at Dubai during the winter, nearly reaching dormancy, and the perennial ryegrass surfaces then provide a playing surface that can tolerate the heavy traffic during the winter months.

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