Roderick Easdale takes a tour of the six golf clubs now available to the travelling golfer in the bustling Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Golf In Abu Dhabi: Drama In The Desert
It has long been puzzling to me why so many courses have a picture of the clubhouse on the scorecard.
Who plays a course because of what the outside of its clubhouse looks like? Well, one club that might have an excuse to resort to just such a picture is Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Its clubhouse is a glorious design statement crafted to look like a falcon taking wing as if about to fly over the 9th and 18th greens. This dominates the golf course, and its interior has been designed to provide, in the words of the club, “an atmosphere of relaxed elegance”.
This 27-hole club is 15 minutes from the city centre and ten from Abu Dhabi International Airport. The 1st hole of the par-72, 7,334-yard Championship course gives you a good idea of what is to come.
It is a dogleg to the right with huge expanses of sand (there are 90 bunkers on the course, some sprawling away to massiveness), and a water hazard (the course weaves around seven saltwater lakes) on the inside of the dogleg. A quirk of the layout is that the doglegs normally turn right.
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The 3,299-yard, nine-hole Garden course offers a less severe challenge. It also offers more green fee availability as it is floodlit, so play can continue when it has long since been abandoned for the day on the Championship course due to nightfall. The last tee time on the Garden course is 9pm.
The practice facilities include a fairway practice bunker, six target greens, a 160-yard long and 45-yard deep grassed teeing ground, and a short-game area to practise those approach shots from inside 75 yards.
The V1 pro-swing analysis training system, a state-of-the-art fitting system and an Explanar training aid will help you hone your equipment to perfection. The club has six specialist club fitters.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which is managed by Troon Golf, has hosted the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour every January since 2006. This year, eight Major champions and 88 European Tour winners teed it up in the tournament.
Rickie Fowler won it, with Rory McIlroy finishing tied third. For McIlroy, this event has been a case of so near yet so far… he has played on eight occasions and been runner-up four times.
McIlroy has had more success at Saadiyat Beach where his team won the inaugural Saadiyat Beach Classic at the grand opening of the club in January 2010. Another Troon- managed course, this is the handiwork of Gary Player. It was named last year as the best golf course in the UAE at the World Golf Awards.
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Player is a big fan of his design and its setting, a 317-acre coastal site with three lakes and 67 bunkers: “The course delivers a real sense of drama by contrasting natural features with bold design statements.
Saadiyat Island is truly breathtaking and the sensory elements of the landscape along with the sweeping Arabian coastline and deep green fairways give the course a real edge.
“It is a gift to nature. Even after designing so many courses around the world, there’s something unique about this one which excites me.”
When you get to the 6th hole, a message pops up on the GPS screen in your cart: “Beautiful view, please keep on cart path.”
This is a par 3, played from anywhere between 114 and 236 yards depending on which of five teeing options you choose. The view on this hole, which is played over sand dunes to a sloping green, encompasses the sea and beach and, if you are very lucky, dolphins.
Saadiyat Beach can be played from the tips at 7,806 yards. The middle of the five teeing options reduces the course to 6,733 yards; the nearest tees to 5,290 yards.
Yas Links is another course with some glorious coastal stretches – eight of its holes hug the coastline, including three of the par 3s.
As with that other great Kyle Phillips links design at Kingsbarns in Fife, a heck of lot of earth moving has gone into creating a natural-looking links course out of land which was not linksland.
In this instance, the course took three years to build, and nearly two million cubic metres of dredged sand went into constructing it. Many people will say that it was well worth the effort.
The par-3 13th requires a precise tee shot as four bunkers arc around the green on the left, with water to the right. The par-3 17th, in the middle of a trio of fine finishing holes, requires a carry over water to a green surrounded by half a dozen bunkers.
The 18th is then a risk-reward hole, a mirror image S-shape with water on the left.
As well as the 18-hole course, Yas also has a nine-hole academy course and floodlit practice facilities.
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Floodlit golf is also on offer at Al Ain, as in 2012 floodlights were installed on the back nine of the 18-hole Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club. Al Ain is known as the Garden City due to its greenery, and is the second largest city in Abu Dhabi.
The golf course was opened in 2007 as a nine-holer, giving the Garden City its first grass golf layout. It was extended to 18 in 2009, with water hazards coming into play on 11 holes. At the same time a separate a nine-hole par-3 course was built, and this is also floodlit.
Abu Dhabi City Golf Club began life as the Abu Dhabi Golf & Equestrian Club – an 18-hole sand course – in 1976. But in 1998, it was transformed into Abu Dhabi’s very first all-grass course, a nine-holer with one par 5 and two par 3s.
Water comes into play on most of the holes on this flat course, which had to be flat to accommodate spectator sightlines on the racecourse, inside which it is laid out. In the heart of the city, the course is floodlit with tee times available from 6am until 9pm.
To play sand golf in Abu Dhabi you must now head to Al Ghazal, which features browns rather than greens, as the putting surfaces are compacted sand with oil rolled into them. The greens are contoured – some two-tiered – and play very true.
Golfers take a mat round to play from the fairway. The 6,711-yard course has water on seven holes.
WHERE TO PLAY
ABU DHABI CITY
AL AIN EQUESTRIAN SHOOTING & GOLF CLUB