The 1st ever European Tour event to be held in Saudi Arabia

By: January 29, 2019

You know I usually do not write about golf tournament unless there is something extraordinary or anything about fan engagement and event promotion best practices.

I could not resist sharing with you the news about the inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA.

This will be the first-ever European Tour event to be held in Saudi Arabia when play begins on Thursday 31 January

World's Best Put Saudi Arabia on Global Golfing Map

It will be held at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club (designed by European Golf Design) in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) that was opened a year ago.

The organizers were able to attract such key tour players like:

  • World No.1 Justin Rose,
  • World No.2 Brooks Koepka,
  • World No. 3 Dustin Johnson,
  • World No.5 Bryson DeChambeau;
  • European Ryder Cup stars, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Thorbjorn Olesen, Lee Westwood, and Thomas Bjorn;
  • The reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed.

The King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is the largest privately-funded new city in the world.

Situated on the west coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KAEC covers an area of 181 square kilometers of land, approximately the size of Washington DC.

KAEC comprises:

  • King Abdullah Port,
  • the Coastal Communities residential districts,
  • the Haramain Railway district and
  • the Industrial Valley.

Saudi Arabia – golf business opportunities

In the last couple of years, we can see a significant investment of Saudi Arabia in non-oil activities.

In 2017, the share of non-oil GDP was 55.7% where the share of wholesale, retail, hotels, and restaurants was 16.1%.

The Kingdom is planning to invest in non-oil activities cca. SR1 trillion-plus. Kuwait Times says billions have been pledged on housing, tourism, transportation, power and education projects.

In 2018, the real estate and financial services were also positive contributors to the non-oil GDP: rising by 4.2% y/y.

What can be worrisome is the inflation pressure in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia will be able to finance more easily its investment in non-oil related industry as long as there is a higher oil price.

royal greens golf and country club in saudi arabia

The local labor market‘s composition is changing. The share of females was 19.6% in Q2 2018 (vs 17.4 percent in Q2 2017).

The total number of foreigners in the Saudi labor market has declined by around 1.1 million since the start of 2017, with 312 thousand left the market during Q2 2018.

The construction industry lost the most foreign workers. We can find almost 800,000 unemployed Saudis.

The unemployment rate in 2018 was around 12.9%. The government’s Vision 2030 reform wants to achieve a 7% unemployment rate.

What I tried to highlight above, is that it will be hard to grow the game in Saudi Arabia when its economy is not so stable.

Furthermore, I see security concerns (vs Yemen, Iran, domestic issues etc.) as well.

I hope the Saudis will be able to develop such a promising initiative that we can see in Qatar at the Education City Golf Club.

At this moment the Troon-managed Royal Greens Golf & Country Club has more a future of a private golf club than a public golf course.

Credit: Getty Images, All Square Golf