- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2008

At first thought, you’d expect Donald Ross to turn over in his grave. But when you recall that even the “master” did a lot of his work from afar in the early days of American course design, he’d probably just smile.

Brian Ault of Ault, Clark and Associates is working on a new course for a petroleum company in Doha, Qatar. How did he stumble onto a project in the Middle East? Well, by the Internet, of course.

“They hit on our Web site many years ago,” says Mr. Ault. “We are under contract to an engineering consultant firm. As the project developed for them, they came back to us and solicited a proposal for services. So it all happened over the Web. I went over there in December of 2006, made introductions and started the whole process.”

Mr. Ault is taking an existing 18-hole course that is nothing but sand and dirt and building a 21-hole (with three practice holes) facility twice the size on top of it.

“The course will be reminiscent of one of our desert golf courses in Arizona or California or wherever the amount of irrigated grass is limited, and you’ll go from a very manicured grass into a desert situation,” says Mr.Ault.

What’s there now certainly won’t be missed.

“They’ve been periodically spreading oil over it for years to stop it from blowing away,” says Mr. Ault, who knows of only one other course in the country, Doha Country Club. “To show how antiquated the course is, before you putt, you take a squeegee and smooth your line out. Also, they outline the fairways with a stake about every 25 meters and if your ball is within the limits, you get a little welcome mat to hit off. Otherwise, you are hitting off desert rock and sand. They always save one club to take the beating. The whole site is absolutely flat, and it’s not like walking on the beach. It’s like walking on crusted junk.”

Since the existing ground is contaminated with oil, Mr. Ault says they are going to have to haul in 750,000 cubic yards of dune sand and literally build a new course about one to two meters above the existing ground. They will use a salt-tolerant grass called paspalum. Water to irrigate shouldn’t be a problem.

The huge refinery already brings water in from the Persian Gulf and takes the salt out by a desalination process. They use the water in the oil processing.

“We’ll use that water too,” says Mr. Ault. “It’s what they call ‘gray’ water. It’s usable, just not potable. We had it tested and it’s fine. Fortunately, we have all the water we want.”

The layout’s main strategic features will include waste bunkers, sand bunkers and five ponds. A five-meter high berm will serve as a noise barrier for nearby auto traffic and will provide privacy. The course will be only for the executives of the oil company.

Since not many people in the country currently play golf, Mr. Ault included three practice holes (a par 3, 4 and 5) on which they can learn the game. There will also be a huge practice academy. If you are wondering how the locals will stand the heat, all 21 holes on the 300-acre tract will be fully lighted. So far, the project has been mostly an “electronic” one, sending plans back and forth. Soon it will begin to take actual shape.

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