The rising popularity of golf in the Middle East is evident to all, with the opening of The Dunes - the 18 hole Dubai Sports City course designed by Ernie Els - imminent, the grand final of the European Tour set to take place on the four courses of the yet unfinished Jumeirah Golf Estates in 2009 and 15 new courses due to be built in the UAE over the next five years.
BW Indoor Golf managing director Kurt Bukovski believes that Middle Eastern hotels can capitalise on this sporting craze by introducing indoor golf simulators to their properties.
We have to convince hotels in the Middle East that their customers need entertainment directly in the hotel and that they can create more revenue from this and the resulting food and beverage sales”
"Many business travellers may have only four or five hours to relax, and if they're a golfer they have no time to play a full round outside. They can spend half an hour or an hour on the simulator. It's the perfect way to relax and fit in a game of golf as well," he argues.
Bukovski's company has been providing simulators to European hotels for five years - his product is now in use in 40 properties, and he is currently in the Middle East offering hoteliers the opportunity to test out the GolfBlaster 3 simulator.
"The product is not yet used in any hotels in the Middle East, but we've been here three months and received a very positive response," he says.
"We have to convince hotels in the Middle East that their customers need entertainment directly in the hotel and that they can create more revenue from this and the resulting food and beverage sales."
One Middle East hotel has realised the potential of golf simulators though. Crowne Plaza Hotel Dubai installed the Full Swing Golf Simulator on June 15, with the idea of making golf a signature of the hotel, according to the property's golf supervisor Denver Rozier, who used to work at the academy of the former Nad Al Sheba Golf Club, Dubai.
"It's very popular, not just with hotel guests but with all travellers, and the company wants to be a
[golf] holiday destination, so people staying at the Crowne Plaza could get decent deals on golf courses and if they're just there for one night then they could use the simulator," he explains.
Rozier says he's been surprised by how popular the simulator has been, but says the price and the time taken to play a round are key factors.
"It's just an hour to play 18 holes as opposed to four and a half hours on a golf course. So, a lot of corporate groups come down here and have team building exercises. It does get very busy," he says.
"We get plenty of serious golfers who also play regularly on a course as well. If you are planning to play in a big tournament or something and you want to figure out how you're hitting with your irons or something, then the feedback you get from the simulator is immaculate."
Bukovski believes that the key concern for serious golfers may be the accuracy of the simulator, but the GolfBlaster 3 uses LS Golf 3 software to overcome this problem.
"Our main goal is accuracy. The product has two different measurement systems, measuring both
the club and the ball separately. It is the only simulator to do this," he explains.
Rozier agrees that Crowne Plaza's Full Swing simulator is almost as good as the real thing.
"I play on a real golf course as well at least once a week and this machine is 90% accurate," he says.
"I have to be honest, you're going to hit off a very cultured surface on a simulator and you're not going to have grass restrictions or a different variety of lays as you would on a golf course. You'll probably hit your shots 10 to 15 yards further than you usually would on a golf course."
Bukovski points out that playing inside guests are able to have a few drinks and talk, making the whole experience more sociable, and Rozier agrees that the controlled temperature, privacy and constant access to a bar are appealing to guests.
"I keep getting calls from all the hotels asking about the simulator so everyone's interested now; they all want a piece of the cake as well," he concludes.
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