Abu dhabi golf club - 16 POINTS
This is a perfectly nice golf course. It's not too tight, not too penal and (as all the courses seem to be in this part of the world) was presented in great fashion. It is dominated by the iconic clubhouse which both 9 and 18 play towards and it makes for a spectacular end to both 9s.
The course is managed by Troon Golf who seemed to do a pretty good thing keeping things going. There was a fog delay on the morning of the day we played which had backed things up but they managed the situation well. The practice facilities were good - hitting off grass and the green was a good reflection of what was to come on the course. The group in front of us weren't really golfers (one player failed to make contact with the ball on the 1st tee) but the marshals moved them along when needed.
Water is very much a feature on the course - coming into play on 9 holes but don't worry too much about that. There weren't a huge number of long carries from the 6,700 yard tees and while it made you think we didn't find the water on too many occasions. It is the water that gives many holes definition as the trees are set well back from the fairways and when we played the rough was manageable. Having said that, for the HSBC Championship a couple of weeks before the rough had been much thicker which made the course play harder.
As for notable holes, the par 3 12th is a great hole over the water to a wall defended by bunkers on the other 3 sides. The 18th makes for a great finish - a long par 5 with a green which is probably 5 clubs difference front to back - well worth paying attention to the pin position.
The course is absolutely fine and would not disgrace any golf trip. From an architectural point of view it is fairly unremarkable though and you won't come away talking about too many of the features you've encountered for too long. Apart from that clubhouse, it is something pretty special!
BOOKING THE COURSE
Everything was bookable online here. After registering it is possible to book tee times several months out (despite the message which says only 12 days is possible). There is also a dynamic pricing system in place which means that some tee times are available at significant discounts so do have a good look on the site at different options before booking. Tee times in the winter months range from from a peak 945 Dirham (£185) to 330 Dirham (£65) depending on the time of day. The former is not great value to be honest but you will get a course in fantastic condition and good service.
Unlike other tours tips this is a bit more of a travelogue for our trip. I've only been there once so apologies for lack of options but here is what we got up to. The content is the same on the pages for all four courses we played.
We decided that a trip to these parts to play was likely to be a fairly rare event and so we played the best courses in the area - 2 in Dubai (Emirates and Earth) and 2 in Abu Dhabi (Yas Links and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club). This was the only course of the 4 which we played which is not on the European Tour but was probably the best. They do play a pro-am every year while the 'Desert Swing' is on and I dread to think how much someone pays to assemble what is an amazing field of the best in European golf.
We decided to go and play around the time of the European Tour being in the area. The logic being that a) the courses would be in great condition b) we could watch a bit of professional golf and c) it was a good time to get out of the U.K.
We flew in from London on the Friday night of the Dubai Desert Classic and arrived late into the airport. It was relatively easy to get through and then into our hotel. We stayed at the Marriott Harbour Suites hotel which was a great find. You can book 2 or 3 bedroom apartments for the price of a hotel room which was really well situated for the golf as well as next to the Palm and several great restaurants.
On the Saturday we watched the Classic. This will be the subject of a blog at sometime which I will link here but it was a great day. You get very close to the players, there is no problem getting around the course to watch every shot (no Chambers Bay problems here!!) and the atmosphere was great - almost like an exhibition. Anyway, more of that later.
After the golf we went down to Abu Dhabi. It's about an hour in a taxi and costs around £40. One tip is to rent an official taxi - not a hotel car which will cost you twice as much or a random car off the street as we did (which is hard to trace when you leave your passports inside. This is not a forgiving country when it comes to passport loss.....).
We cashed in a bunch of Marriott points and stayed at the Ritz Carlton which was stupidly grandiose - a real folly. It was huge, and empty. Don't get me wrong, the design was incredible but there was no-one there and I can't imagine it ever having any sense of soul whatsoever. Suited our purposes fine though!
The first day we played at Abu Dhabi Golf Club - the one with the eagle behind the 18th green - which was a great first round. We then went out to a fantastic meal in Zuma before playing Yas the second day. Something we had not totally appreciated (but became quickly obvious) was that there is no culture, no centre, nothing really at all to either Abu Dhabi or Dubai. They are merely hotels and shopping centres connected by highways. Our taxi drivers were almost all awful. In Abu Dhabi the guy taking us to Zuma had only just arrived from Nepal and without our Google Maps we would never have got there. You would never go there for a cultural trip clearly but fortunately we were there for golf.
Following Yas we went back to the Harbour Hotel for the last two rounds in Dubai and had a night out in the Barasti Beach. This had a) the advantage of being right outside our hotel and b) the advantage of being somewhere you could just go to and buy some drinks without having to order a crazy expensive meal. There are many areas where you can hang out with the expats and have a Guinness or Heineken for around £8 a pint as well as some random Irish guy singing hackneyed songs. Not bad at all in the great scheme of things......
The third round was at The Earth course (via many, many, many lost passport stops) which had a lot going for it for me (29 points took the money by some chalk) but frankly won't live in the memories forever.
There will be many who tell you that a golf trip to the UAE will be relatively calm and you won't be able to drink too much. Well we did more than well on the drink front, stayed out late and basically had a perfectly fine time. Just don't be stupid in public seems to be the sensible advice. So having done all that we just went to a 'normal' restaurant this night, it wasn't really normal as the pavement outside appeared to be literally paved with gold and the service was impeccable but as it was not part of a hotel it didn't serve alcohol and the food was a fraction of the cost of other places we had been to - we ate like kings for less than £20 a head. Therefore, my advice would be if you are not a drinker then leave the hotel and go to a restaurant instead - you will be much better off!
We returned to the Majlis, scene of the last round of the Dubai Desert Classic, for our last round. Playing it only 72 hours after the last round of the event was an amazing experience. The course was set up phenomenally and to play a course in such a condition was something well worth doing.
The last night was a trip to Nobu in the Atlantis Hotel at the end of the Palm. It was something of a luxury but if your budget stretches to it then I would suggest you try it. There was a nightclub there which kept us going for a while before a couple of hours kip and off to the airport and home.
As I say, that is more of a travelogue than normal but if you are looking to replicate the itinerary then here is how it went -
Day 1 - Fly from UK to Dubai AM. Arrive late
Day 2 - Watch Dubai Desert Classic. To Abu Dhabi (1 hour)
Day 3 - Play Abu Dhabi Golf Club (16)
Day 4 - Play Yas Links (18). Drive to Dubai (1 hour)
Day 5 - Play Earth Course (16)
Day 6 - Play Emirate Majlis
Day 7 - Fly home AM (arrive UK lunchtime)
Clearly you could truncate this by taking off the day watching the golf. The weather was great, no need for rain gear and early-mid 20s, the mornings and evenings weren't even cold and it was perfect golf weather.
The flights to Dubai (or Abu Dhabi) cost about £310 and we went in early February. The green fees for these course was £800. We didn't have to pay for hotels as we did them on point but you could stay in comfortable 4 star hotels for £400 each for the week. Drink was very expensive and food not cheap so I reckon you would need to budget £60 a day at least (the sky is the limit). All in all then it would not be unreasonable to expect it to be £2,000 for a week's trip all in.
That makes some of the tour operator's trips look quite appealing. For example, golfbreaks.com has some interesting looking deals and had we not been sorted before for accomodation it may have been one of those occasions when going with an operator was worth considering.
Would I recommend a trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi then? The golf was fantastic quality. Yas and the Emirates were fantastic and while Abu Dhabi National and The Earth didn't quite it their heights they were were still great and there are other options too. For winter golf, I doubt there is much better anywhere in the world. Just save up before you go......
Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Sas Al Nakhl
Umm Al NAR
United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 2 558 8990