The impressive Faldo Design Signature course in Multan made waves with a star-studded inaugural held recently. But it will need to tick all boxes in order to realise its immense potential
It's like an oasis in the desert. It's a 7500-yard, 18-hole course which is the crown jewel of a 9,000-acre community developed by the Defence Housing Authority of Multan. But far more importantly, for Pakistan golf, it could well be a game-changer.
The Rumanza Golf and Country Club, the latest Faldo Design Signature course, opened its doors last week following a star-studded inaugural on February 26 and 27 which was attended by some of the leading names in international golf. British golfing legend, Sir Nick Faldo, was there, so was US Open champion Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland. They were joined by Spanish Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera-Bello and LPGA star Charley Hull from England. Then there were top professionals and amateurs from Pakistan, who were part of the festivities that marked the opening of what is easily the best golfing facility in the country.
I'll come to the Rumanza inaugural later. First let's discuss the impact this club could have on the future of golf in Pakistan.
It's pretty clear that Rumanza has put Pakistan on the international golf map. With Faldo's patronage, it is expected to grow into a leading golfing destination of the region.
The 18-hole course, which also offers night golfing, is ready. Rumanza will also have a six-hole, par-three layout and a state-of-the-art golf academy with a double-ended driving range. By the end of this year, its multi-purpose clubhouse is slated to be ready.
The Rumanza management is already in talks to line up a series of international competitions at the club starting early next year.
A top Rumanza official told 'The News on Sunday' that there are concrete plans to bring the Asian Tour to Multan early next year. Pakistan last figured on the Asian Tour when the US$300,000 CNS Open was held at the Karachi Golf Club in 2018.
Rumanza is eyeing the richest ever Asian Tour event on Pakistani soil by hosting a tournament with a prize purse of half a million dollars. If this materialises, it would be great news for Pakistani players, who will get a chance to rub shoulders with the top Asian Tour pros and to have a shot at what would be the highest-ever prize purse ever offered in any sporting event in Pakistan.
Then there are plans to host the Faldo Series at Rumanza. That is going to be a natural alliance considering that six-time Major winner Sir Nick Faldo, Rumanza's designer, is also founder of the Faldo Series, which is regarded as the biggest junior golf tournament in international golf.
For me, even more important than the plans to bring international golf to Pakistan, is Rumanza's ambition to establish a state-of-the-art, high performance golf academy within its premises.
The idea is to have a full-fledged academy featuring world class coaches and the latest technology. According to Col Habib-ur-Rehman Awan, the Project Secretary, Rumanza is in talks with leading international academies in a bid to collaborate for its own academy. The plan is rope in highly qualified coaches, who can help establish the academy which will cater to both newcomers as well as the country's best golfers. These players are currently without any worthwhile coaching facilities. The academy will have everything which a top class international facility could offer. Top class coaching and training, gadgets including top-of-the-line simulators. There will also be a facility for customised club fitting, the first of its kind in Pakistan.
Of all its plans, I firmly believe that Rumanza should take this project most seriously. Such an academy could take Pakistan golf to the next level. In recent years, golf has made rapid progress with the emergence of several talented youngsters including the current Pakistan No.1 Omar Khalid, Yashal Shah, Saim Shazli, Damil Ataullah and Saad Habib to name a few. Among the girls we have Humna Amjad and the sisters Parkha and Rimsha Ijaz. All of them are young and talented players, who are in dire need of top class training and international exposure.
Rumanza can also provide a much-needed boost to the professional game in Pakistan. Professionally, too, the game has grown in the country with dozens of tournaments taking place carrying millions of rupees in prize money. But still it's a very small pond with big fish like Shabbir Iqbal, Pakistan's No.1 player for the last many years, earning the lion's share of the spoils. Regular Asian Tour events in Multan would not just enhance the prize purse but will also motivate other professionals to work harder and tempt talented amateurs to move up to the next level.
Meanwhile, Faldo believes his role in Rumanza is far from over. I was told by Col Habib, who himself featured in Saturday's Pro-Am match, that before heading back home after the Rumanza inaugural, Faldo promised that he would be returning to Multan during the mango season. "Sir Nick wants to experience the mango season and try out some of the 200 varieties we have in Multan," Col Habib said.
I'm sure that trying out the world famous Multani mangoes is just an excuse for Faldo, who is expected to return to Multan with a blueprint for Rumanza's future as an international golfing destination.
United States might still be the heartland of golf but Asia is by far the fastest growing region for the sport. The timing of Rumanza's inception couldn't have been better. It can prove to be a catalyst at a time when Pakistan golf is growing and is looking to move up to the next level.
It is time that Pakistan's players start to make their presence felt at the Asian as well as the international level. Ask players like Cabrera-Bello or McDowell, who played with Pakistan's rising star Ahmed Baig, and they will tell you that the country certainly has golfing talent. All it needs is to start grooming it. Facilities like Rumanza will certainly help.
I really hope that Rumanza manages to cause a domino effect in Pakistan. Our golf, which now has more than 20,000 active players with over 50 golf courses, needs more such facilities especially in larger cities like Karachi and Lahore. Rumanza, if it manages to tick all boxes as it plans to do, will set the bar high. Other leading clubs like the prestigious KGC in Karachi and Defence Raya in Lahore will also work to further improve their courses and other facilities. New courses planned for the future will also look to follow suit.
Reverting to the Rumanza inaugural, it was certainly an event to remember.
I was one of the hundreds of attendees who were treated to the sight of a delightful golf course which has three three distinct sections, characterised by desert, trees and water. A water storage lake is at the heart of the course.
“This is a landmark moment for Faldo Design and a landmark moment for golf in Pakistan. We are truly honoured to be creating our first Sir Nick Faldo Signature course in Pakistan and feel a great responsibility for taking full advantage of this parcel of land which, right from the outset, we knew had potential to become a great golf course," Faldo commented at the inaugural event.
“The existing site was flat agricultural land, featuring mango and orange trees, with cereal crops too. We were keen to retain an identity for the site, so we have preserved certain areas of fruit trees and using them as a feature for specific parts of the course. The site was also dotted with interesting farm dwellings and original earth walling, some of which have been retained as part of the course design to preserve the local character. We have also been careful to preserve the views of the desert, the woodlands and the wetlands to ensure that the course works in the harmony with the golf course.
”We hope that Rumanza, and its superb facilities, including the new Performance Academy, can serve as a source of inspiration for a new generation of golfers in Pakistan, helping to grow the game in what remains a relatively untapped market for the sport, as well as providing an incentive for golfers from all over the world to add Rumanza to their bucket list of courses to play. I will certainly be looking to stage some of my Faldo Series events here, and it surely won’t be too long before the Asian Tour and the DP World Tour see it as a potential future venue to host their tournaments."
Cabrera-Bello, who played two rounds at the Rumanza inaugural, was impressed with the course.
"It’s a great course and everyone was very impressed. It’s fairly forgiving off the tee, but makes you think a lot on the second shot. The greens have lots of movement. Some really deep links-style bunkers around the greens protect some hidden pins. Nick has always been a fantastic strategist and the beauty of this course is that he makes you think about every single shot you hit," he commented.
"I was hugely impressed with the vision to develop and nurture local talent, especially with the double ended driving range and a short-game practice area with putting greens, chipping greens, and eco bunkers. These state-of-the-art facilities are a first for golf in Pakistan."
Mcdowell, who won the 2010 US Open, sees a great future for Pakistan golf.
“One of things I’ve felt this week is the passion and the intensity for wanting success in Pakistan golf. What DHA Multan has done in creating the first world-class facility here in Pakistan is that it gives these players the opportunity to play on the type of course that they can expect to see on the Tours. Having had the chance to spend time with the young talent here in Pakistan, it’s only a matter of time until these guys move to the next level,” he said.
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News