In 2019 Saudi hosted their inaugural golf competition as the Kingdom was added on to the European Tour’s schedule. Saudi Arabia was the third and final destination on my Middle Eastern tour at the beginning of 2020.
I was invited to attend the second annual Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, with the exciting task of producing behind the scenes footage of the event. Furthermore, I was invited to take part in the Saudi International Pro-Am which is also hosted at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, located in King Abdullah Economic City, just north of Jeddah. Jeddah is on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.
I arrived at Royal Greens on the morning of the Pro-Am bright and early, at 7am, to find that my team’s professional was the wonderful Lee Westwood. Lee was awesome to play with, and he seemed in high spirits about his previous win at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. During our round I had bizarrely lost all ability to get out of bunkers. Fortunately, Lee gave me the secret tip and from then on I managed to up & down every other shot. Regrettably, I have since forgotten the magic recipe for perfect bunker play so will need to get in touch with Lee ASAP (sorry Lee!).
Thankfully, Lee got the memo about wearing team colours.
The golf course was stunning and a joy to play, it boasts panoramic views of the Red Sea and the stand out hole is definitely the par-3 16th hole which hugs the coastline.
The word must’ve gotten out about my incredible bunker play as after my round in the Pro-Am I was invited to play again later that evening. Royal Greens has the facilities for nightgolf, which is something I had never tried before, so I was really looking forward to this. Amongst the 6-ball that I teed off with, was Sergio Garcia and 2 LET stars – Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert. The evening was amazing and it was surreal teeing off under the night sky. Thanks go to Sergio Garcia who successfully tweaked my grip to stop my ferocious slice!
The whole day was pretty awesome and sits number one on my best golfing experiences.
Watching the Saudi International was a fantastic experience; I was able to get quite close to the players whilst following them round and this significantly added to the excitement of the event. The tournament not only offered world class players but also had a special focus on families, community and junior development, which I thought was a fantastic credit to Saudi Golf and their efforts to grow the game in the Kingdom.
Golf is not yet widely played in Saudi and it was great to see that the tournament was able to involve the local community so people new to golf could experience the tournament as well. Swing clinics were hosted throughout the event for local school children and there was huge support for Saudi’s rising young golf stars.
There was an entertainment zone at the event which had a family atmosphere; Lucy Robson and I had good fun exploring here. As well as this there were concerts organised in the evenings, with headliners such as DJs Zedd, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, and Bryan Adams.
Later on in the week I was fortunate enough to play a round with Patrick Reed, Camilla Lennarth and Amy Boulden. Patrick is a truly lovely man, and I enjoyed our game together!
Golf is a relatively young sport in the Kingdom and it is fantastic to see the way in which the Saudis have embraced the game and are creating and growing opportunities for all golfers, from world leading golf professionals to beginners, to play in their country.
I’m looking forward to travelling back to Saudi in October 2020 for the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International event.