YAS LINKS - 17 POINTS
It sounds ludicrous before you arrive, the idea that someone could have created an authentic links experience in the middle of the utter nonsense that is Abu Dhabi. Because, let's face it that's what Abu Dhabi is. 50 years ago fewer than 100,000 lived there. It is a land of immigrants, many of those from the West are looking for a fast buck and a good life while those from the east toil to build it. Well, something like that.
There is nothing remotely classy about Abu Dhabi from what we saw on a very short tour. Maybe we just didn't see the good bits. There are massive signs of wealth and huge grandiose statements of power but it is all pretty vulgar for sure. And then there is Yas Links.
Kyle Philips is the architect and that is pretty obvious for anyone who has played another of his courses before you have finished even the first hole. It is wide open, with some clever sculpting and the lines into the hole are more important than an unerring accuracy of the tee. Fans of The Grove and Kingsbarns will not be disappointed, more than anything it actually reminded me of Castle Stuart, another fun design with plenty of space off the tee.
What is truly remarkable about this course is that is plays like a fantasy links golf course. The fairways run fast, the greens are hard but true and fair and it is perfectly possible to play bump and runs, or putt from a mile around the green. The only part of the set-up I would say doesn't play like a real links course are the bunkers - the sand in them was far from a North Berwick or Gullane consistency and it seemed hard to really get under the ball. That irony of complaining about the sand in the desert was not lost on us!
This is links golf really on steroids. All but one of the par 3s are on the water - 8 holes in total and there is no links course in the world which would command such a topography so consistently. I cannot imagine how much earth was moved a couple to sculpt this course out from the desert and then to maintain it with such a feel to it.
Of course, the whole thing is contrived and unfortunately the surroundings do remind you of that. When we played there was a massive construction taking place behind the first green and then you have a host of 5 star hotels next to the course on the back 9 before facing Ferrari World as you play in. You never therefore get any sense of being away from it all, from every hole you can see some man-made architecture or some gratuitous show of wealth being built.
Yet, the course itself is wonderfully playable. I had something of a mare out there but even I could appreciate that the fairways were wide, the carries were never crazy (playing off the right tees) but often breathtakingly picturesque. I would say that this course has had more 'must take a photo' moments than almost any other I have played. So much so that I would say it is almost impossible to pick out a signature hole.
If I had one criticism it would be that the 18th is just a ridiculous hole. It's 569 yards off the middle tees, playing with the water hard along our left all the way before a thin strip of lands leads to an isolated green. It is beyond most mere mortals to score a par on it which seemed a shame for a finishing hole.
When it came to rating this course this was definitely a very high 17 and with time may yet become an 18 - this really deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart and I rate it above such luminaries as Loch Lomond and Les Bordes. What great company to keep though and definitely the pick of the UAE courses we saw.
The club itself seemed like a really nice one to be associated with. The service in the clubhouse was great, the atmosphere really nice and there were lots of deals around to bring along guests and enjoy what was a truly remarkable course.
BOOKING THE COURSE
This was the best course we played in the UAE and was the cheapest and was good value I thought given the incredible experience we had. We paid 650 Dirham (about £125) which included the cart which we didn't use. We didn't ask for a discount for walking the course - I think it is unlikely the answer would have been a yes!
Like many courses in the area the prices change dramatically depending on when you want to play so if you have a little flexibility then do check out different options - the cheapest tee time available is around £50 which is incredible value
You can book online now here, previously you could only book within 5 days of the desired day but that nonsense has all gone now.
Check out my blog article here and review of the Majlis course in Dubai here if you are looking for some tour tips to the area. There are plenty of hotels around Yas Island (we stayed at the Raddisson which was fine) from resonable prices and it is a good location if you are combining your visit with a trip north to Dubai as you are the right side of town.
When it comes to other courses Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach are the obvious options in this area. Do try and find time to play at the Yas Links floodlit 9 hole course in the evening. It's a real novelty and well worth experiencing at least once!
Yas Links Abu Dhabi
P.O. Box 128008
United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 (0)2 810 7710