Twelve years ago, golf in Egypt was the preserve of a few families, mostly longtime members of the Gezirah and Alexandria sporting clubs. A few hundred expatriates also played the game, mostly at the Mena House where they could have a beer or two afterwards. Golf was virtually unknown.A few visionary developers – the Abou Taleb brothers and Mohamed Sabet, Ahmed Bahgat, Mounir Ghabbour, the Zaghloul brothers, Farid Saad, and Hussein Salem – reasoned that golf would enhance their real estate developments. Since then, there have been 15 new courses built and operating in Egypt, with another 15 in various stages of design and construction. Golf has boomed.
Not the sport; the use of the sport as an enhancement to developments. The smart, early buyers purchased villas built on golf courses for less than LE 1 million. A combination of the devaluation of the pound and the boom in real estate has increased the early prices by 10 times or more. A large villa on one course changed hands early this year for LE 20 million; it was a bargain. Prices have doubled for golf course property in the last six months.What makes golf courses such attractive places to live?
To really appreciate what a golf villa owner has, one needs to walk out to the golf course side of the property to get a view of the greenery, landscaping, lakes, and other beautiful properties unavailable to all but the super rich. Golf courses have made a lifestyle for the upper middle class Egyptians and expatriates available to hundreds of thousands of families.But what about the sport itself?
Let’s dispel a few myths.
#1 Golf is a game you play when you reach middle-age. Tiger Woods started golfing at age two. As with any sport, you will be a better player if you start young. It is true that, unlike many other sports, you can play golf all your life. This year a 103 year-old woman shot a hole-in-one – golf’s most difficult shot – at a course in California.
#2 Golf is a sport for rich people. Sure, many rich people play golf, but there are 800,000 golfers in Sweden, 10 percent of the population. Most countries where the game is popular have public courses and driving ranges where everyone plays. Until you get hooked on the game, you can rent clubs. Play in your sneakers, and wear casual clothes.
#3 It takes a long time to learn the game. It is difficult to become a very good player, but that’s true with any sport. There are now golf videos, golf tips on the internet, and plenty of books on golf. This year’s Pan Arab champion is a 21-year-old Saudi from a middle class family. Now he has a golf scholarship at a university in the United States. He intended to be a football player and would have made the Saudi national team, until his friends had him try golf. He taught himself the game mainly using the internet.
What is so great about the game?
It takes all of your attention; no worries, no anxiety.
You really get to know your playing partners after a four-hour golf round. If you want to check out a future business partner – or employer – play a round of golf. You will learn everything you need to know in those four hours, just from watching how they play the game.
More on that next time. For now, remember to keep your head down and swing away.