The Challenge Tour has broken new ground across the world since its first season 25 years ago and as it celebrates its quarter of a century anniversary this year, the huge increase in tournaments down the years was encapsulated perfectly by a magical occasion in Muscat.
National Bank of Oman were the title sponsors this week and also promoted the event, putting their money where their mouth was by staging an event which on all fronts was of European Tour standard.
|The marvellous, overwhelming VIP terrace was the most eye-catching structural feature of the event as it towered over the 18th green to give special guests a world-class view of the action, while also giving the players coming down the last a few extra jitters!
But that was not the only marvel provided by ‘Wicked Tents’ at the event as VIPs could also relax in the indoor lounge and lunch area, giving it a real high-brow event feel.
The tented village, meanwhile, was teeming with families throughout the week as the kids played endlessly on the inflatable slides, the mini-putting greens and received balloons from local entertainers on site.
The parents could make their way to the nearby ninth or 18th holes and enjoy the golf, feasting on the fine food available in between while also monitoring the live leaderboard in the middle of the village.
|All in all, an atmosphere of splendour which was enjoyed by all.
If the Greg Norman-designed Almouj Golf, The Wave announced itself on the world stage at its unveiling last year, this week was a pivotal moment when it was unequivocally confirmed as a championship course to be recognised in the highest circles of the game globally.
|The design and lay-out of this coastal pearl in the Omani capital of Muscat has attracted some of the highest praise ever heard on the Challenge Tour.
The 7,342-yard par-72 course stretches across six kilometres of coastline flanking the pastel blue waters of the Gulf of Oman and is a wondrous beauty, but it is the design of the lay-out which has attracted the most praise.
|Some of the wide fairways give the impression of an easy driving course but it is certainly not thus, with the fairway bunkers heavily penalising any wayward shots off the tee while the several tight fairways on other holes will catch out anybody lured into a false sense of security.|
|The greens, meanwhile, have developed magnificently considering the course was opened just over a year ago and the paspalum seadwarf grass is giving the players a challenging balance of quick downhill putts and slower uphill putts.
Scotsman Duncan Stewart was effusive in his praise, comparing the course to one of the classic old links courses from his home country.
“Greg Norman has done a phenomenal job designing this course,” he said. “It actually feels like proper links golf, although technically
While Oman is a country which tasted a professional golf tournament for the first time last week and a nation very new to the game, there has been a huge enthusiasm both with ex-pats and nationals as they watched some of Europe and the world’s top young players battle it out on their own turf.
The VIP veranda certainly added a degree of theatre to action on the final green,
|but it was the people inside and around the magnificent structure which made it such a thrilling finish and created an atmosphere worthy of the occasion.
“It’s a really nice set up this week,” said Denmark’s young star Lucas Bjerregaard. “It’s a great course and it seems like the people are really interested in what’s going on here.”
The team led by Sean Shanor of National Bank of Oman did a truly incredible job putting together such a superb event and it would not have happened without the hard work of every on-site volunteer.
From ball-spotters, to those updating the leaderboards and the many volunteers helping with the smooth running of the event away from the golf tournament, it was a magnificent effort.
|Those efforts have reaped huge rewards as the players, staff and fans reflect on what has been one of the great events on the 2013 Challenge Tour schedule.|