In many ways Yas Island epitomises modern day Abu Dhabi thanks to lavish hotels and a multi-billion dollar development that includes the Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the Ferrari Word theme park. The Island, a short drive from the centre of Abu Dhabi, is dominated by these two impressive designs but running alongside them is a golf course that would fit right in amongst Scotland’s classic seaside courses.
Gallery: Yas Links
Yas Links began life as a flat piece of desert land that looked a million miles away from an undulating links golf course. There was surely no better man to turn this area into a world-class links than the architect behind Kingsbarns. Kyle Phillips transformed Kingsbarns from uninspiring farmland into one of the most enjoyable links layouts in the world. The American took on an even bigger challenge in Abu Dhabi with the design of Yas Links.
Some might argue that building a golf course completely from scratch is easier than using natural contours to shape a layout, but the imagination and skill required to start with a blank canvas and create a great golf course must be applauded. Philips and his team dredged 1.8 million cubic metres of material from the sea to sculpt an entirely new coastline as well as the mammoth dunes that help create an authentic links feel.
Of course, creating your own coastline has major advantages and the waterside holes at Yas Links are breathtaking. They also work well from a golfing point of view. From the tee at the 3rd, 9th, 16th and 18th you are rewarded for taking on the narrow part of the fairway, which runs alongside the water, but can bail out to the wider side and leave yourself a harder approach. The waterside short holes will live long in the memory with the 8th, 13th and 17th requiring iron shots of varying lengths to hit the protected greens and avoid the wet.
Since it opened in 2010 the course has bedded in amazingly well. The greens roll beautifully and are firm to hit into, much like a trational links course. As the fairways continue to firm up the course will become even more like a Scottish links and the clever run off areas will play even more of a roll.
The contouring of the greens and the views over the water give the feeling of a links that would fit in anywhere in the world, but a look over the road gives an impressive reminder that you are in a world of luxury. Farrari Word and the Yas Marina Circuit act as constant reminder of what a fascinating place Abu Dhabi has become. Yas Links is already a thrilling golf course and another Kyle Philips masterpiece. As it matures it could genuinely become one of the finest in the world.