Leading figures in sport, health and sustainability came together at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai recently to share their expertise and experiences at the Middle East Golf Leadership Forum hosted by The R&A.
Staged at the final event of the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai, key industry and non-industry stakeholders from the Middle East – including Dubai Golf, the DP World Tour and Emirates Golf Federation – met to discuss the collective drive golf is making globally and regionally to promote health, sustainability and inclusion.
Presentations and interactive sessions were moderated by Dr Andrew Murray, Chief Medical Officer at the DP World Tour and Medical Adviser for The R&A, Chris Gray, Head of Sustainability and Agronomy – Asia-Pacific at The R&A, and Tony Bennett, Head of Disability and Inclusion – IGF, President of EDGA and PGA Master Professional. They provided insights and updates on various initiatives aimed at enhancing the overall well-being of individuals through golf, sustainable best practice and what needs to be achieved to help make golf more inclusive.
Panels consisting of prominent leaders and experts from several organisations in the Middle East joined forces to share best practice and valuable learnings from their experiences to provide further insight into these important areas for sport and business.
Jackie Davidson, Director – Golf Development at The R&A, was among those to help organise the Forum. “It was wonderful to stage the Middle East Golf Leadership Forum and bring together leading figures across the sport during a significant week in the golf calendar,” she said.
“The Middle East is a key growth area for the sport and discussing health, sustainability and inclusion was important as we continue to drive participation in the sport among people of all ages, genders, abilities and backgrounds.”
General Abdulla Alhashimi, Vice Chairman of Emirates Golf Federation, added, “It was a great opportunity to host key figures from golf at the Forum in Dubai, offering the chance to interact across important areas in the sport. We intend to take the learnings forward to continue to grow the sport in the United Arab Emirates.”
Sustainable and inclusive
The Forum provided a platform for sharing valuable perspectives and strategies that ensure golf caters to the diverse needs of individuals while promoting a sustainable and inclusive approach.
Dr Andrew Murray said, “My main take away from the event was that we all know golf is fantastic for productivity, physical and mental health and longevity but what can we actually do to help more people play golf?
“Everyone has a contribution to make whether you are a golfer, work in the golf industry or in policy. It’s about getting people excited about golf, even coming to golf championships can help as walking the course has health benefits.”
Neal Graham, Development Manager – Middle East and India for The R&A, was also part of the ‘Golf and Health’ panel and added, “The R&A’s research into golf and health have shown that on average golfers live five years longer than non-golfers and that golf can help prevent and treat over 40 major chronic diseases. This is a message that we will share within the Middle East to encourage more people to start playing golf and make it more appealing.”
Collaborate and discuss
The Forum was also an opportunity for attendees to make connections, share ideas and discuss ways in which they can contribute to improving health, sustainability and inclusion in their respective organisations.
Sharing her thoughts on the ‘Sustainability in Golf’ panel, Maria Grandinetti-Milton, Head of Sustainability at the DP World Tour, said, “It’s hugely important for us to have events like this, alongside the golf tournaments, as the Middle East is a huge region in terms of some of our major events. It was a great opportunity for us to come together to collaborate and discuss things that are really topical.
“It’s a golden opportunity to really understand how we can all move forward together. Golf is such a well-rounded sport in terms of giving people opportunities to help people thrive not just survive and I think that’s something quite unique to golf.”
G4D Tour player Kurtis Barkley took a break from his preparation for the championship to be part of the ‘Inclusion in Golf’ discussions. “It’s very important to include everybody in the game of golf,” said the Canadian. “It was great to see everyone getting involved, whether with a disability or not, and it was a great experience overall.”
Alongside Kurtis on the panel was The R&A’s Diversity Ambassador, Zane Scotland, and he highlighted the event’s importance for sharing best practice.
He added, “These events are really important to bring the leaders in golf and from different parts of the industry together to share ideas and to find out what everyone is doing.
“Hearing from others and sharing your journey helps to get a real idea of what the golf landscape looks like. It was really interesting hearing some of the stories. These chats are important because this is where it starts to get everyone on board, given many people in attendance were from golf clubs who make the rules and pathways to everyone coming into golf.”