Toeing the line at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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Did you hear the one about the Ryder Cup golf star and the 28-handicap hacker? No? Ok, let me begin…

Let’s give the Ryder Cup pro a name. Let’s call him Des.

Des shows the way with a perfect swing (above) and follow-through (below)

The golf star and the hacker have a mutual friend. He’s called Art. An anagram of Rat, which is his nickname. But not a description of his character. Because he’s about the nicest man on the planet.  Family name of Miller. Used to work for Revlon. Now handles Hawaiian Host in duty free. Art Miller? Yep, that’s the one.

So, Art is watching the hacker on the driving range before the concluding round of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. The latter’s shots are not so much going offline as into the next emirate. One three wood threatens to bring down an Etihad plane over Abu Dhabi.

That plane might just be in trouble

“Des,” calls out Art. “My friend needs help. A lot of help. Can you come over here?”

Des is a thoroughly decent chap, always willing to give to a good cause. He watches the hacker hit a few shots. All down the middle of the fairway. Except this is the driving range. The fairway is 150 metres to the right. This isn’t a good cause, he decides. It’s a lost one.

“Hit another one for me,” Des tells the hacker, positioning himself 15 metres behind for reasons of safety. The shot starts thrillingly, drillingly straight. But enough of the first 3 and a half feet. After that it curves severely to the right like a genetically modified banana. Houston (where the ball almost reaches) we have a problem, thinks Des. “Perhaps you should try a boomerang,” he muses. “At least they come back to you.”

(Above and below) Colm and Breeda McLoughlin were presented with this special framed print to mark 25 years of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup

But Des hasn’t got to become a 24-times winner on the pro tour and one of the all-time good guys on the circuit for no reason. This is a man who knows his stuff. He’s the master of the quick fix. He asks the hacker where his feet are.

“They’re at the end of my legs,” replies the hacker, surprised at such a naive question. “Where they always are.”

Des sighs the eternal, ageless sigh of the golfing pro faced with the sporting equivalent of an intellectual eejit. “No, I mean, look where they are pointing.”

The hacker looks down. His right foot is about nine inches back from his left and pointed towards Afghanistan, approximately 1,550 kilometres to the northeast. His shoulders are pointed in the same direction.

Des looks at the hacker with a mixture of incredulity and bewilderment. One moment it’s Sergio Garcia in the Ryder Cup, the next it’s a Ghastly Slicer in the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. Has my life come down to this, he wonders?

But Des is a nice chap. “If you aim 50 metres to the right, you’ll probably go 50 metres to the right,” he says kindly. “It’s all about alignment. Let me show you something. Set yourself up for your next shot.”

Des reaches for a slab of wood. Momentarily, but only momentarily, he thinks of alternative uses for it. Instead, he lines it up, dead straight, in front of the hacker’s feet. “Where are your toes?” he asks.

“Ah, now that’s an even easier one,” replies the hacker confidently. “They’re at the end of my feet!”

It’s the technically correct answer. But it’s the only thing that’s technically correct about the hacker’s stance. In fact, his right foot is so far behind his left that’s he’s almost able to kick his own butt (please don’t try this at home). While that, feasibly, could be good advice, in all his years on the professional tour Des has never seen anything like this.

“Let’s try pointing you towards the target,” he says. He puts his hand on the hacker’s shoulders and swivels him around like the head-spinning scene in The Exorcist. He is Father Lankester Merrin trying to exorcise a satanic slice.

“Ok, now swing… nice and easy,” says Des.

The hacker lines it up. His feet have been in the wrong position since a difficult breech birth 61 years earlier, so having them in the correct place feels strange. He hits the ball. Hit and ball in the same sentence for the hacker is already an achievement. But here’s the thing. He hits it long. And straight. It lands in Dubai. Another achievement.

Des mops his brow. He doesn’t know it yet, but today he is like Alexander Fleming inventing penicillin and saving millions of lives in future generations.

And so, to the denouement.

The hacker plays with two golfers of considerably greater ability, a wonderful though nutty Aussie and a Brit named after the renowned Sicilian pasta brand, Cappellini. The hacker also plays with, in fact shares a buggy with, a third golfer, an Aer Rianta International executive whose name cannot be revealed but who goes under the carefully disguised pseudonym of Peckles. And, almost unbelievably, the hacker hits the ball straight as an arrow for the first 9 holes. He scores 21 stableford points in half a round of golf. 6 more than he scored in the entire round the previous day. This is title-winning form and he’s not done yet.

Except he is. The hacker comes to the par-3 hole where Des is patiently offering professional advice to the day’s players. “Des, you are the messiah!” says the hacker, trying a fist bump but missing badly to the right. “I’ve got 21 points and am playing out of my skin.”

“Well done!” replies Des uneasily, clearly used to dealing with the delusional. “So, keep it going. A nice and easy swing now.”

Full of surprises? It will be for Dan ‘Cappellini’ when he discovers who he’s playing with.

The hacker remembers everything he has been taught. Feet? Yep, still connected to his legs. Toes. Tick, they’re still at the end of his feet. Things are looking good. This has got birdie written all over it, he thinks.


It’s a birdie, alright, but the wrong kind. The ball flies like a pheasant over a Devon valley. One crowded, that is, with the world’s best game shooters. Up and then straight down. Stricken, mortally wounded, the round white peasant plummets to earth. About 23 metres from the tee. Not right, in the direction of Afghanistan, it must be said, but left towards Germany. But not very far towards Germany. “It’s the pressure of playing in front of the teacher,” says Des generously.

The tussock into which the hacker’s ball has plummeted is unforgiving. The hacker looks in vain for his ball somewhere short of the ladies’ tee but considerably to its left. The ball, clearly in shame, remains in hiding. The hacker is forced to return to the tee. To play three. On a par three. Only now, he has an audience. Not just Des but the next foursome.


This time the ball goes further. About a metre further. Again, towards Germany but this time stopping at the Czech Republic. “Sorry Des,” says the hacker, rushing on.

The wheels have come off. The engine, bodywork and chassis aren’t looking too good either. Like a killer whale liberated from an aquarium, the hacker has returned to his natural habitat.

Except, he hasn’t. With his toes relocating themselves to the right place at the end of his feet, the hacker recovers. While his back 9 is not the miracle that the front 9 was, it’s not half bad. Well, actually, it is. But half bad is half good, right? He breaks 30 points for the first time in 20 years of coming to the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, the equivalent of a rocking horse winning the Grand National. As he walks off the final hole, the hacker looks at his feet. They’re perfectly aligned. Both of them. At the end of his legs. Des, full name Des Smyth, is the messiah. And all because he told a hapless hacker called Martin Moodie to toe the line in Dubai.

*Desclaimer: No golf pro was hurt in the making of this Blog. Well, maybe just a little.


Is this the best event in the travel retail calendar? By the distance of a Des Smyth drive it sure is.
Round 1 begins. There will be many more.
Winner Clark Francis accepts the trophy from Dubai Duty Free boss Colm Mcloughlin (above) and below celebrates with a former winner, Dermot Divot

Unofficial late-night entertainment at the Irish Village was provided by Canadian/Aussie duo, The Singing Tablecloths
Two golfers whose games were clearly pants
Indian tee-planter Sunil Tuli (centre), whose company Yamseng is handling Royal Dragon vodka in selective duty free markets, stands behind the sponsor’s banner with Welsh dragon Kevin Walsh and Andrew Webster, both of Premier Portfolio.
Blending in with the local environment at the superb Dubai Duty Free-run Jumeirah Creekside Hotel
Four! Jonathan Holland, Martin Moodie, Sunil Tuli and Neel Chatterjee getting ready for the second day’s play, Neel clearly the most under-dressed.


This year’s theme was ‘Black Tie’. I will let the pictures tell the story. If I told it in words no-one would believe me.

Dan Cappell as you’ve never seen him (probably thankfully)
Millers’ crossing: Nancy and Art get all tied up
Take a bow Jeannie Archer and Martyn Westbury
Waiter, there’s a tie in my soup: Fearsome foursome Mrtyn Westbury, Garry Maxwell, Rodger Craig and Kevin Walsh prepare for battle
Kevin Walsh and Catherine Bonelli not only lit up the fairway but the clubhouse too.



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