Five Iron Golf courts partners as it plans regional expansion of indoor simulated courses

The American company wants to bring the game of golf to the masses and sees a big untapped market in the Gulf

American indoor golf company Five Iron Golf is eyeing partnerships in the Gulf as it plans to open at least a half dozen locations across the UAE over the next several years. 

“We’re bullish on the region as a whole,” David Zabinsky, the firm’s UAE franchisee, told The Circuit.

Indeed, the Gulf is experiencing a golf boom. The sport is on the rise at both the pro and the weekend warrior levels. Elite events from the Asian Tour are now taking place in Oman and Qatar, Bahrain has joined the DP World Tour schedule and the Ladies European Tour has sanctioned Saudi’s Aramco Team Series. 

The regional push for tourism has also meant golf courses are becoming the crown jewels of some locales like Gidori, a golf community planned as part of Saudi Arabia’s Neom mega-project that sits at the northern tip of the Red Sea. The kingdom has invested at least $2 billion into its professional league, LIV Golf. 

Indoor golf is a different story in a region long dominated by shopping malls. These centers of city life offer more than retail: from the famous ski slope in Dubai to more run-of-the-mill offerings that drive footfall in these sprawling indoor meccas of modern life. Many Gulf malls have cinemas, indoor playgrounds for children, grocery stores, numerous restaurant options and practical offerings like nail salons, tailors and walk-in clinics. 

Only in recent years has indoor recreation become more of a priority amid a surging middle-class population. Escape rooms, trampoline parks, running clubs, rock climbing gyms and even a scuba tank have all popped up to help residents while away the hours – particularly in the summer when temperatures regularly climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Golf, one of the fastest-growing sports in the GCC, has so far not entered the fray.

Five Iron Golf is aiming to change that. 

First up is a flagship venue opening in August at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, a five-star hotel. The sprawling 32,038 square-foot flagship location will have 17 golf simulators that offer swing analysis as well as four bars, a nine-hole mini golf course and a members-only lounge. Guests can also access a private pool, an indoor putting green, work pods, a gym, a sauna and a locker gym.

By day, this is a luxurious-feeling members-oriented golf club, Zabinsky said. “But at night, the lights go down and the music goes up.” 

The versatility of the location makes it a good potential partner for hotels, master-plan communities or even traditional golf clubs looking to expand their offerings. Zabinsky, an American who has lived in Dubai for nine years, said he’s open to ideas on partnerships as the company looks to expand aggressively in the Gulf, building on 20 locations in the U.S., in cities like New York, Atlanta and Chicago, as well as franchises in India and Singapore. 

He does not see other locations in the Gulf being as big as the Dubai flagship. Zabinsky declined to comment on how much one costs to open and operate but he sees the potential to “build a considerable number” in the region. 

The game is growing, either way, Five Iron just wants to take a shot at capturing a piece. 

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