Building up bunker potential

David Spencer, CEO, Jumeirah Golf Estates, tells Christopher Sell why Dubai needs more fairway-based communities.

Spencer says that Dubai is currently ?under golfed? and has capacity to grow by around 50%
Spencer says that Dubai is currently ?under golfed? and has capacity to grow by around 50%

David Spencer, CEO, Jumeirah Golf Estates, tells Christopher Sell why Dubai needs more fairway-based communities.

Can you summarize the concept of Jumeirah Golf Estates?

There are four golf courses - earth, wind, fire and water. And we developed that concept on the basis that this will become an eco-signature project, incorporating these elements.

What is the building schedule?

Phase A is the earth and fire golf courses and approximately 1,100 residential units. Phase B is the water golf course by Vijay Singh and Phase C is the wind golf course by Pete Dye, Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman together. Phase D is the Arabian Canal. Our phasing of the projects - A,B,C,D isn't necessarily the way it will roll out; A and B will be together but we are looking to accelerate the canal project.

How exactly does the Arabian Canal tie in to your project?

It bisects A, B and C, and D runs through the middle. But an important point is that we have always, since we started this project, master planned to have this canal.

What actual building work has taken place?

The first two golf courses are shaped, and the lakes have been dug out. We are sand capping the fairways, and are laying the grass. And construction of the first villas has commenced, with the infrastructure fully underway. We intend to open the first courses early next year.

So what are the specific challenges for this project?

It's 1,117ha; it is without question the largest golf urban community in the world. It has tremendous advantages for Dubai, which is very 'under golfed' as a city. We have 270,000 rounds of golf being played a year. The current demand is 420,000. So there are about 150,000 rounds of golf that cannot be played. And we see that the pent up demand is still growing. One of the great things about the golf development community in this city is that we are quite closely knit. We are obviously very competitive, but we don't work in isolation of each other. I understand the Dubai Sports City (DSC) project, and they understand what we are doing and we have slightly different take on it. But at the end of the day, apart from being a residential developer, our goal is to create world-class leisure amenities for Dubai, for the burgeoning hotel and tourist market. Sports and leisure related tourism is a US $1.2 trillion industry worldwide. Out of this, the highest growth sector and the highest demographic is the golf sector.

So is that the reason why you often see golf and residential dwellings combined?

There is a strong residential uplift with houses - we are looking at 20-50% on the residential price as opposed to a house that is non-golf frontage. And the history of golf residential development comes from green space corridors, which is a concept that produces income, so makes a lot of sense for a city. Thirdly, from a tourism point of view, if the city is creating more leisure amenities - because generally with golf comes tennis, cycling and equestrianism, which also help underpin the tourism growth of a city like Dubai. It ensures the master developer is profitable and creates positive income streams, and serves the city as being a backbone of building tourism on a global scale.

So there is clearly a demand for this project...

I think like in any business, you should watch the demand closely, but I don't think golf has any demand issues in Dubai at the moment. We have strong golf potential in this region and while Dubai will never have the biggest golf developments - Scottsdale, Arizona has 300 golf courses with residential communities - we have the opportunity to be the best.

Are you going to role out this concept abroad?

We have just bought Pearl Valley in South Africa. That is the first expansion of the Jumeirah Golf Estates brand. One of the really cool things from our point of view is that in the high-end luxury golf-residential community development market, we are a world-leader and Dubai-based. So for Dubai to take its expertise and export it to somewhere like South Africa is really exciting for us. We have further expansion plans in the next six months - we are looking at Croatia, Italy and Greece.

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