Home to the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters since its inception in 1998, the Championship Course at Doha Golf Club is renowned as a testing, long and windswept layout, and is playing this week at 7,400 yards to a par of 72.
Unveiled in 1997, the layout was the brainchild of celebrated golf architect Peter Harradine, who has designed over 160 courses around the world, and features eight strategically positioned lakes, 65 giant cacti and a number of striking limestone rock formations that contrast with the verdant fairways and pale desert beyond.
Ahead of the start tomorrow, europeantour.com spoke to Sweden’s Peter Hanson, who finished in a tie for second in 2012, four shots behind a rampant Paul Lawrie, to hear his assessment of the unique challenges at Doha Golf Club, a course the Ryder Cup star believes suits his game.
After a tied ninth place in Abu Dhabi last week, Hanson thinks his form is starting to find its feet after finishing the first instalment of the annual Desert Swing with rounds of 66 and 69 and believes he has a realistic chance of going one better in the 2013 Qatar Masters.
He said: “I was a little bit rusty heading into Abu Dhabi, a little bit behind in my practice, but got some good work done and was very happy with the way I played over the weekend to go from just making the cut to finishing in the top ten so very much looking forward to the week.”
“It’s a brilliant, solid golf course,” said Hanson. “It’s reasonably long at 7,400 yards so it’s always been a ball-striker’s course. If you look at all the players that have done well or won here they have mostly been good wind players and with it excellent strikers of the ball.
“Obviously it’s the same course designer as last week in Abu Dhabi so there are some similar traits in the way it plays. It all comes down to the wind, though; if it gets up like it can do then the course will play very tough, but if we get lucky and it doesn’t blow as much then we’re going to see some really low scores.”
“It feels like they have narrowed the fairways a little this year, I’ve just played five or six holes and although some of the fairways are a little smaller the rough is very fair: it’s even and the same height all the way out into the sand. It’s not as bad as it has been in previous years so you can probably still get a seven or eight iron out of the rough which makes it a pretty fair test.”
“The greens are always a little grainy but they actually roll a lot better than they maybe look on TV. But if you look at the fairways here and the rough is very lush and green whereas the greens have a slightly browner, more links-type colour but they roll very well. They’ve done some work last summer trying to get some of that grain anyway and I think they’ve succeeded with that so it should be a great week.”
16th, 307-yard par four
“The 16th is obviously a fantastic hole, perhaps the signature hole of the course with that big rock in the middle of it. A reachable par four towards the end and always offers the chance for some very spectacular play that can sometimes be important in the fate of the tournament.”
12th, 429-yard par four
“The 12th, dogleg right, is a great hole. Normally on the Sunday they put the pin front left and you have that massive hollow of rocks and trouble just short of the pin and there’s always someone going down there which makes for an interesting finish.”
Ninth, 639-yard par five and 18th, 589-yard par five
“The par fives can be very important. Nine and 18 both play up towards the clubhouse; nine is a tough, long hole while 18 – with the right wind – you can get up in two. They’ve made a little bit of a change with the bunker being extended in front of the 18th green which has made the entrance to the green a little narrower so you have to fly the ball further to get at the front of the green.”
How it played last year
In the wind-curtailed 54-hole edition of the Qatar Masters in 2012, Lawrie set the winning total at 15 under par, largely thanks to a stunning seven under par 65 in the final round.
The par four sixth hole – at 488 yards – ranked the hardest in last year’s event at 4.37 with only 18 birdies conceded over the three rounds, while players laboured to 83 bogeys and 11 double bogeys or worse.
At the other end of the spectrum, the iconic 16th hole, as identified by Hanson as the trademark hole at Doha Golf Club, was taken advantage of by last year’s field and averaged 3.43, yielding 11 eagles and 179 birdies in the 15th edition of the tournament.