An ex-professional golfer, Edwards assumed his role as General Manager of Troon Golf’s two Abu Dhabi properties, Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, in December 2016. With a vast array of international experience in managing and establishing high end golf resorts throughout the world, Ed came to Abu Dhabi from Qatar, where he was General Manager of Qatar International Golf Club. Other past experiences include spells in Dubai, Portugal, Ireland, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
THE EDWARDS STORY
Sport in general has been a constant throughout Ed’s life. The son of expat parents, he went to boarding school in the UK. While at Millfield, golf was never top of his priorities. Edwards played tennis and hockey to a high standard, before finally discovering the game properly, having left school and all but given up on the other sports.
He first encountered golf as a late teenager playing with his father and his friends, while living in Oman. He started playing on sand courses, which at the time were the norm in these parts, and having learnt the basics, his handicap began to fall rapidly.
Edwards ended up receiving a golf scholarship to Methodist University in North Carolina, where he grew to love the game even more. Having graduated, he began a career at Marriot Golf International, joining as a Faldo Certified Instructor at the Faldo Golf Institute in Orlando before moving to the 36-hole resort of Stone Mountain Golf Club outside of Atlanta in Georgia. Since then, his career has taken himto all corners of the globe, again — a reflection of his expat childhood and a constant excitement at immersing himself in new cultures.
You wake up in the morning – what’s the driving passion moving you forward?
Whilst every member of our two great teams here brings with them a different area of expertise, we all share one common goal, and that’s wanting to provide the best possible experience for anybody that comes to visit either facility. It’s this constant drive to be the best that gets me out of bed in the morning.
What’s the biggest challenge today in leading the efforts at any major golf facility?
Golf clubs have changed significantly over the past decade. To succeed today you must be constantly innovating, by tracking market trends, knowing your existing and potential client base, and making sure you cater to their needs. Having a well maintained golf course, trained and motivated staff and a great food & beverage offering are all obligatory when it comes to keeping up with the competition. The challenge lies in being the best in the field, and to succeed, it’s imperative that customers are wowed, new clients and opportunities are pursued, and the local community engaged.
You’re the point person at both Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. What makes each facility unique?
I think first of all, they’re both very different golf clubs from the look and feel of the courses to the clientele that uses them.
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, a Gary Player design was the first oceanfront course in the UAE and is known as an ‘island escape’, and for a unique feel and ambiance, with its rolling landscape, natural undulation, as well as its stunning sea views and extensive wildlife. Abu Dhabi Golf Club was the first course to be built in the capital. As well as the 27 holes of golf, comprising of the 18-hole National Course, and the 9-hole floodlit Garden Course, we have an extended leisure offering, as well as significant event space which enables us to cater to the corporate client effectively.
How much of an impact financially does the hosting of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA generate?
The global profile the event offers the club has a huge value. Our course, coupled with our iconic clubhouse becomes an instantly recognizable golf facility, and with it a ‘must visit’, not just if you’re coming to Abu Dhabi, but the Middle East in general. Such exposure also allows us to talk to prospective sponsors and corporate members, who are instantly attracted given the reputation we have built for ourselves.
Is golf securing a toehold in the Arabic world or is the game simply one for resort guests coming to Abu Dhabi and Dubai?
With both Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Beach, host venues to events on the European Tour and Ladies European Tour respectively, we have a duty to try and grow the game in the local community. Our Women-On-Course campaign at the Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Open, and Future Falcons campaigns at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, have led to increased participation in the game amongst local females and juniors, as have those initiatives adopted by other clubs in the UAE, and the Emirates Golf Federation who do a huge amount for encouraging participation amongst Emiratis.
All golfers have a bucket list. What’s yours and when do you hope to accomplish it?
I’ve been very fortunate that through my career I’ve been able to play some phenomenal golf courses. However, I’ve always had two on my bucket list, and they won’t come as a huge surprise; Pine Valley and Augusta. I was lucky enough to get to play Pine Valley last March, and I can’t quite put into words what an experience it was. Augusta on the other hand, still alludes me but I still hope in my heart of hearts that one day, I’ll be lucky enough to do it.
You’ve got one mulligan – what thing from your past would you do differently, and why?
I think it’s worth saying that I’m very content and consider myself lucky to have forged a career doing something that I love and have an amazing family who support everything I do. But, I guess if I could change one thing, I would have taken the game up at an earlier age. I wish I’d had a passion for it when I was really young, and been able to make a real charge at becoming a serious professional, because, let’s face it, I was never going to make it as a tennis player!
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally – what would it be and why?
Slow play, because there are no excuses for it. We live in a world where time is becoming more and more precious, and people don’t have 5 hours to give up from their day-to-day lives. Initiatives such as Troon Golf’s ‘Troon Values Your Time’ makes a pre-emptive action to reduce slow play on the course. The more approaches like this, the better for our game.
The major golf organizations – USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, European Tour are all seeking ways to attract people to the game, namely juniors, millennials, women and minorities. If you were counselling them, what would you recommend be done?
The new laws introduced this year, as well as initiatives such as the European Tour’s GolfSixes all point to a bright future for the game. This week, for the first time, we’ll have TopGolf on the range at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. Troon Golf are running a similar concept with 4ORE! in Texas. The sport is modernizing, and it needs to continue to do so.
Best advice you’ve ever received? What was it, and who was it from?
An old mentor of mine taught me that, while we might look out there at a phenomenal golf course, an experience can be dented by two stones in a bunker, or a chip in the pro-shop counter, and I carry this attention to detail with me every day. Strive for perfection.