Hardy CIG Students Defy Dubai Deluge

Many roads were flooded when freak weather struck Dubai last week. Picture by PK Ong.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Displaying dedication and devotion to the cause, turf professionals went above and beyond the call of duty to defy freak weather conditions and complete their latest Certificate in Greenkeeping (CIG) course.

During the week of the Progression Course (April 15-19), the United Arab Emirates was struck by its heaviest rainfall in 75 years. Widespread chaos ensued, but resourceful delegates attending the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) gathering refused to be beaten.

Richard Walne, Chairman of the AGIF’s CIG committee, said: “We’ve had to overcome plenty of hazards and obstacles with the CIG over the years – but nothing quite on this scale.

“All 16 students who were present at the Emirates Golf Club (EGC) went to extraordinary lengths to ensure they were able to participate.”

At the start of the week, Matthew Perry, Golf Course Superintendent at the EGC in Dubai, had warned that heavy rain was on the way. But nobody could have predicted the extent of the deluge with some areas recording more than 250 mm (around 10 inches) of precipitation in less than 24 hours.

According to reports, the rainfall, which flooded streets, uprooted palm trees and shattered building facades, had never been seen in the Middle Eastern nation since records began in 1949.

Such was the impact that flights were cancelled, traffic came to a halt and schools were closed. But for the hardy CIG students it was a case of ‘The Show Must Go On’.

En route to the EGC on the morning of day two of the five-day Progression Course, some students abandoned their cars and took the metro.

Two major thunderstorms followed that afternoon. With the metro service shut down and roads under water, students had little option but to walk back to their flats or dorms. Two of the students took 3½ hours to complete an 11-kilometre trek back to their flat, while another took seven hours to drive to his Ajman home.

The AGIF’s PK Ong and Tara McLeod and Dave Howard from the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute (NZSTI) took close to two hours for a four-kilometre hike back to their hotel, wading through higher than knee-length deep water in the streets and sheltering along the way to avoid hailstorms. 

Ong said: “When it became clear that all public transport had shut down, we knew we had no choice but to walk back to the hotel from Al Khail metro station. Little did we know less than one minute into our walk, the hailstorms came!

“I screamed as I was blown to my right when I was trying to run to take shelter at the nearest building. The security guards were nice and told us that we are safe in their building and even allowed me to charge my phone while we waited an hour for the storm to slow down as we needed GPS to help navigate back to our hotel.

“When the storm slowed down, by then the roads were full of water and at one road junction we had to wade through waters more than knee high, worrying what were under those waters.”     

Following a red alert issued by United Arab Emirates National Centre for Meteorology recommending against travel, the decision was made to carry out the day three CIG lessons online.

Walne said: “At short notice, we reformulated the curriculum for distance learning to ensure that we didn’t take away the practical value and importance of face-to-face learning, an important aspect of this CIG programme.”

With widespread transport disruptions preventing students from reaching the venue, lessons had to be conducted online.

All the students responded by logging in for the online lessons and were set independent learning tasks to be delivered the following day.

Despite continued challenges travelling to the EGC, face-to-face learning resumed on day four with students willingly agreeing to extend the class by three hours on day five to make up for lost time.

“The dedication and commitment of the students to learning was astonishing. Thanks also to the mentors for their support in allowing their staff to attend the CIG when they could have pulled them back to work on their golf courses that were suffering in the aftermath of the storms,” said Walne.

In partnership with The R&A and delivery from the NZSTI, the CIG was launched in 2018 with the specific aim of improving the professional knowledge of greenkeeping staff and providing an educational framework for the golf greenkeeping industry in the region.

As well as the UAE, the CIG programme has already made its mark in India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The total number of students who have enrolled in the programme has broken through the 165-barrier with individuals from clubs in 12 countries – Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UAE and Vietnam.

The CIG is supported by The R&A and Education Partners Jacobsen, Jebsen & Jessen, John Deere, Syngenta and Toro.

*For enquiries about the CIG, please contact PK Ong at or visit

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