JEDDAH: Golf — one of the world’s oldest sports — believes Saudi Arabia will become one of its newest and most lucrative markets following Future Investment Initiative (FII) talks in Riyadh.
Investment forum discussions on golf’s global future highlighted plans to turn the Kingdom into a dynamic new frontier for the sport.
The FII, which brought together decision makers, leading investors and global experts to explore economic trends and opportunities, turned its attention to the golf industry with a series of events.
An expert panel led by Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, discussed the future of golf, and its role in leisure, tourism, sport and urban development, both internationally and in the Kingdom.
“This has been a great few days for golf in Saudi,” said Al-Sorour. “By putting the game on the agenda at a high-profile business event such as this, we have again demonstrated our commitment. Having so many leading lights attend from around the world — both players and industry professionals — is a real statement of intent and a valuable exercise.
“We look forward to driving the game forward not only here but also around the world.”
The panel on Thursday included four-time major champion and former world No. 1 Ernie Els, European Tour boss Keith Pelley, and women’s European Tour winner Camilla Lennarth.
“The Middle East has always been an important part of our schedule,” said Pelley, who joined the European Tour in 2015.
“The climate here is terrific, the amenities are first-rate and the golf courses are exceptional,” he said.
“Golf Saudi wants to use the game to transform the country and there is no question that Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of helping us to develop the game. Our game is so much about inclusivity and it is fantastic that the Saudi Golf Federation shares that vision.”
Panellists were joined by well-known professional golfers and leading industry figures for reception in the heart of Riyadh — a chance to relax before heading out on the course the following day.
A “Golf Means Business” pro-am at Nofa Golf Resort outside Riyadh on Friday was hosted by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The event featured Els along with Thomas Bjorn and Catriona Matthew, Europe’s respective successful Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup captains; Jose Maria Olazabal, a two-time Masters Tournament champion; and women’s European Tour stars, including Carly Booth, Isabella Deilert, Annabel Dimmock, Victoria Fricot, Maha Haddioui, Camilla Lennarth and Frida Spang.
The pro-am rounded off the investment forum’s three-day program of events.
The Saudi Golf Federation is responsible for the sport’s development and for delivering national tournaments in the Kingdom. Based in Riyadh, the federation is a full member of the Council of National Golf Unions.