Written by Staff Writer
Emily Pedersen of Norway is the top-ranked alpine professional in the Arabian Gulf Region and has been on the pro tour since 2009. (Watch the full segment below.)
In the past two years, this golf-loving island has been struck by a devastating snowfall and deadliest wildfires in a century. Now, Saudi Arabia has again showcased its state of utmost cleanliness.
Golfing royalty Emily Pedersen now plays the Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am
This time, it’s women golfers strutting their stuff on the par-72 course at Yanbu’s $80 million Bedouin Golf and Resorts course.
Emily Pedersen of Norway, the top-ranked female pro in the Arabian Gulf region and a 2016 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee, is now on the tour in Saudi Arabia, where men can still enter the country’s U.S. Open-style events provided they employ an accompanying proxy.
Saudi Arabia’s first official Ladies Professional Golf Tour, featuring nine local players, plays 36 holes during the annual November 11-14 season opener.
The event was organized by Jassim Al Dammam’s Polo Foundation and is funded by the “Millions of Dollars” Foundation and the Grand Sporting Club. The Saudi Arabian Golf Federation is also involved.
With an average age of 34 and all but three of the players registered as amateurs, the tour could be considered the first step in the process of promoting female golf across the country.
Despite this sporting milestone, the plan for women’s golf is not without its challenges.
The Bedouin course includes several women-only lakes and is also exclusive to male golfers. A swing course is in development to add a new amenity.
But, it also remains the third oldest course in Saudi Arabia and draws around 6,000 players annually. It was the world’s fastest growing golf destination from 2000 to 2010 with 70% growth in players.
Another 10 courses are scheduled to open in the next few years but, as one female golfer told CNN, women are currently targeted as part of an overall golf strategy.
Membership in the Kingdom’s Driving Schools has also opened to all genders in 2015 and golf is still played with a men-only handicap. It is not clear how golf courses will comply with local gender codes following the introduction of women’s driving, as the sport remains male-dominated in the country.