H E Sheikh Saad al Saadi, the Minister of Sports Affairs, on Sunday issued a decision to form the Oman Golf Association (OGA).
The setting up of OGA was first reported by Muscat Daily in February. In an interview with Muscat Daily, H E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhi, Minister of Oil and Gas, and the man behind the development of golf in the sultanate, had said that the existing Oman Golf Committee (OGC) set up in January 2009, also branded as Golf Oman, will soon be made an association.
Ten months since H E Dr Rumhi’s interview, golf in Oman received a boost with the announcement that will spur the growth of the game.
Growth of golf
The formation of OGA underscores the growth of the game that has been played since the seventies. Much has changed in the sultanate with the dusty brown sand courses now turned into lush green and championship courses. Be it the Al Mouj Golf, Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club, Ghala Golf Club (all three 18-hole courses), Ras al Hamra or Jebel Sifah (both nine-hole courses), all of them are green courses with Ras al Hamra having floodlit facilities.
There is still a brown course at the Jabel Park Golf Club in Al Ansab, primarily for armed forces members.
Hosting of global tournaments
Al Mouj, Muscat Hills and Ghala have been successfully hosting international events over the past few years. Oman is host to the prestigious European Tour event – Oman Open – at Al Mouj and also plays host to MENA Tour events at Ghala and Muscat Hills besides holding GCC golf championships.
The hosting of Oman Open has also given a boost to sports tourism in the country. With golf playing a major role in promoting Oman as a sports tourism destination, the Ministry of Sports Affairs is keen to push the sport across the country. The formation of OGA is expected to help Oman attract more international events in the future.
Tournaments like Oman Open, an European Tour event, reaches out to worldwide TV audience of more than 200mn and the coverage mixes action on the course and showcasing the beauty of Oman’s natural landscape. According to a report from the European Tour, the economic impact of the Oman Open was around US$26mn.
Mundhir al Barwani, the president of OGC, and the interim chief of the newly-formed OGA, said, “It is a great news and we express our thanks and gratitude to H E Sheikh Saad al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs, for accepting our wishes to constitute the Oman Golf Association. The decision will serve as an impetus to the growth and we are sure to benefit a lot in the time to come.”
Oman’s No 1-ranked golfer Azzan al Rumhi welcomed the decision and hoped that the sport will gain popularity among locals after the formation of OGA. “It will also act as a catalyst for the growth of sports tourism in Oman,” he said. Elsewhere, Oman is now gearing up to host the GCC U18 and U15 championships at the Ghala Golf Club from December 27-31. The championships will also see the introduction of the U13 event at the regional meet.