Inside Abu Dhabi: Just three courses... but one extremely attractive year-round golf holiday destination
Dubai began the UAE golf adventure, but Abu Dhabi has caught up quickly. Not in terms of numbers, for it has only three courses we're focusing on, but in terms of calibre. And at the top of its high-class list is undoubtedly Yas Links.
This Kyle Phillips design, host to the star-studded Abu Dhabi Invitational earlier this year, is a spectacular gulf-side track where drama is matched by strategy. Even feted designer Gil Hanse, the man who designed the aforementioned new course, Trump Dubai, was impressed when he visited: "We did take some field trips to courses in Dubai, when we were building the Trump course and also did a trip to Yas Links – which I thought was terrific!"
The 'Links' part of its name is a little misleading because while it looks like one and is next to the sea, it's not what we'd expect on our coastlines. Nevertheless, it is high class; if it was in Continental Europe, say, it'd be in the top 20 of any ranking.
It is located on Yas Island, 30 minutes'drive along (almost certainly deserted) motorways from downtown Abu Dhabi. It is visually majestic, whether from views across sparkling water or down rolling terrain lined by rough-edged bunkers.
If F1 is your thing, you'll enjoy playing towards and alongside holes that have the Yas F1 circuit in view. Ferrari World, Waterworld and Yas Mall also remind one of the off-course attractions in this smaller (compared to Dubai) but still lively emirate.
Oh, and Yas Links and the nearby Viceroy hotel now offer packages that make a trip here affordable to more pockets. A short drive from Yas along the E12 motorway that links the islands dotted around downtown Abu Dhabi is Saadiyat Beach.
It has similar coastal views and was designed by Gary Player; a good second option with a hotel on site, where players often stay during the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship at Abu Dhabi GC – which is the final course here.
Unlike the other two, it is close to the heart of Abu Dhabi, just a short drive from the airport. Rather than sea view, it is more of the sky-high skylines more often seen in Dubai. It's a strong Peter Harradine design around seven salt water hazards punctuated by palm trees, shrubs, 90 bunkers and drystone retaining walls.
UAE Travel Essentials
The climate: Their winter is our winter... but expect sun and 22 ̊ rather than snow and ice.
When to go: We like February to April.
Where to stay: Yas and the Viceroy hotel now o er good-value play-and-stay deals. Getting there: A seven-hour flight.
Time: GMT +4
Currency: UAE dirham