By Mathieu Wood
This year represents the 34th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, which since last year forms part of the Rolex Series and has long been a highly anticipated week on the DP World Tour’s calendar since the event’s launch in 1989.
The world-famous Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club is the home of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and boasts one of the most visually striking holes on the DP World Tour.
Opened in 1988 and designed by Florida-based architect Karl Litten, the Majlis – the first grass course in the Middle East – has become a firm favourite among professionals.
The signature par-four eighth, measuring 459 yards, features a stunning city backdrop and a Cape-style tee shot played across the desert and to a fairway that rises to the right.
Two-time Rolex Series winner Tommy Fleetwood is making his 12th appearance at the event this week and says the thrill at hitting the tee shot has never diminished.
“I'm of an age where I got to watch the tournament for a few years and, even then, it was an iconic tee shot,” he said.
“As it was getting built around into that iconic setting, I got to watch it on TV and then eventually play it.
“Still, the impressiveness never, ever goes away. You always look forward to standing on that tee and hitting that tee shot.
“I'd like to hit that fairway more, but overall, it's a nice setting to stand up and hit a tee shot from.”
In the early years there was nothing to aim at from the tee box whereas now there are a plethora of skyscrapers to choose from in the City of Gold’s famous, towering skyline.
“There was nothing there when I teed it up first,” said three-time Major Champion Pádraig Harrington, who made his debut at this event in 1991 and has finished in the top ten in his last two appearances.
“The only thing on the horizon was the Hard Rock Cafe. That was it.
“The hole wasn't as difficult. We played the tee further forward, and you could carry the right side and there weren't as many bushes up there. It's now turned into the most iconic hole.”
The second shot plays sharply uphill to a green which slopes from back to front and is protected all around the back by bunkers.
Victor Perez first played in this event in 2019 and the Frenchman says its challenge is made even greater because it forms part of a difficult run of holes at the end of the front nine.
“I think it's even more impressive when you see the pre/post pictures and how Dubai has developed in only 30 years and how this hole has changed from a visual perspective,” said Perez.
“It is a little intimidating, I'm not going to lie. It's a big hole. Its part of that stretch, 7, 8, 9, where they are not easy holes, and you want to try to make four pars.”
It is a little intimidating, I'm not going to lie. - Victor Perez
World Number One and two-time winner Rory McIlroy, Major Champion Shane Lowry and four-time Rolex Series winner Tyrrell Hatton are among the high-profile players in this week’s field.
Such is the view from the tee box on the eighth hole at the Majlis, players and caddies alike are always keen to have their photos taken in front of the Dubai city skyline.
Asked for his first impressions of the hole, PGA TOUR winner and Ryder Cup hopeful Sepp Straka suggested it had lived up to its reputation.
“It was great,” he said. “I thought you could draw the ball more than you actually can. So, I have to take more of a conservative line. I look forward to playing it in competition.”
Ahead of this week’s edition, we got the thoughts of Matthew Perry, Emirates Golf Club Course Superintendent, on what has become an iconic hole in world golf.
“You just can’t help but be drawn towards the hole and want to take a picture, even myself having worked here for several years,” he said.
“The green on the eighth at the Majlis is the highest point on the course and you are looking up towards that from the tee box.
“Over the last few years, with the introduction of Toptracer, people are seeing where they need to start their ball to get into the best position off the tee on that hole.
“That has made a massive difference. You can really see how much the pros might be cutting off instead of seeing the ball just land in the fairway.
“The tournament often comes down to the 18th and a lot of moments have happened down the years but the eighth is definitely one that people look forward to not only watch but also seeing how it is played.”