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Oman


ON THE RISE


Vince Wegman takes a look at just how Oman is making its mark on the golf scene


T ESSENTIALS


WHEN TO GO: November to March is best for golf. GREEN FEES: £60-£120 FLIGHT TIME: 7h30m VISA REQUIREMENTS Visa on arrival, for 5 rials (£10) for up to 10 days; 20 rials (£40) for a month. GETTING AROUND: Hire a car or contact a local agency such as elitetourism.com or dubaidesertgate.com for golf transfers and guided excursions. CONTACT: omantourism.gov.om


he Sultanate of Oman is a conservative place that has tiptoed cautiously


into the tourism marketplace. Yet the pace has picked up of late, into something approaching a boom fuelled by instability among competitors. Many new visitors become


regulars, seduced by a warm welcome based on a long tradition of friendship with the UK. Access is easy with direct flights to Muscat from London. There are six outstanding


luxury hotels on the coast by Muscat, and a varied raſt of cultural and historic atractions as well as the mountains, desert and wildlife. On a sporting trip there is


plenty on offer on both land and sea — diving, water sports and, not least, golf. Although it's a small part of Oman’s offering, the golf here is splendid, with three distinct courses close to the capital. And demand here is


not yet such that tee times need booking months in advance. Deciding where to stay may


be a tricky decision, with no golf resort hotels yet in place. This situation is set to change in the next year with the opening of a Kempinski hotel at The Wave, the marina- centric ‘lifestyle community’ at Almouj, near the airport. The InterContinental


hotel on-site at Muscat Hills golf resort is also under construction, and scheduled to open next year. Of the other options,


The Chedi has coveted international brand glamour, the Al-Bustan a more traditionally Arabian palatial grandeur and a beautiful beach; the Shangri-La is a versatile self-contained resort on three levels of expense and exclusivity; and the Grand Hyat is an excellent all- rounder in a central location.


WHERE TO PLAY


Almouj Designed by Greg Norman, this world-class championship course is one of the best in the Middle East. It boasts spectacular visuals, with holes along the shoreline, and is technically exacting to boot. Green fee: £60-£120. almoujgolf.com


Muscat Hills This picturesque course is


already mature, with a wadi cuting through it — and it is more forgiving than Almouj. Green fee: £60-£120. muscathillsgolf.com


Ghala Valley Set in a canyon with rock


walls, sand hills and gusty winds, there is no shortage of challenges on this lush course. Green fee: £60-£120. ghalagolf.com


countrybycountry.com 145


IMAGE: ALMOUJ


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