Land of fire, Land of dreams: An exotic new golf destination that surprises and impresses in equal measure
Dreamland Golf Club is one of Europe's most ambitious and spectacular new golf resorts. It is located on the edge of the historic city of Baku, which is the capital of exotic, mysterious Azerbaijan.
It opened in 2015, with a multi-faceted upscale community wrapped around a spectacular, Tour-length golf course. But before we talk about Dreamland, a word about the country it sits in. Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, remains a mystery for many. Situated on the furthest tip of Eastern Europe, at the crossroads with Asia and on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, Baku is as little as a six-hour flight from London.
In summer Baku enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean-like climate, and its nickname 'City of Winds' is well deserved, so the heat never feels oppressive. It offers a perfect warm-weather golf holiday, especially compared to hot Middle East destinations. Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union until gaining independence in 1991, and Baku is home to many oil and gas industry giants - which has led to its reputation as something of a party city.
Colin Montgomerie opened the course
The party city
Lonely Planet puts Baku in the world's Top 10 cities for urban nightlife, with scores of luxury brand outlets, lively bars, restaurants and clubs. It is a thrilling crossover city, with an entertaining mix of Muslim culture and Western decadence.
It is all set against one of the most stunning waterfront backdrops enjoyed by any capital city in the world. The Baku city lights shimmer fashionably on a gracefully- curving bay. A host of skyscrapers, many lit spectacularly at night, represent the new uber-luxury lifestyle generated by the petroleum reserves beneath the land.
Azerbaijan has hosted European athletics, F1 Grand Prix, and it is preparing venues for Euro 2020 football. And as Dreamland Golf Club is managed by IMG Golf, look for a Tour event of some sort.
Baku offers a beautiful climate from April to the end of November; get there for Grand Prix week (in April from 2018), and it is hard to imagine a more exciting golf holiday.
Book directly through Dreamland Golf Club so they can organise your accommodation, golf equipment and even your golf shoes, if you wish to travel light.
The resort will open its own re ned 42-suite hotel later this year, overlooking Dreamland's superb driving range and short- game area, and the club can also offer stay- and-play deals with several of Baku's five-star hotels – especially the much-photographed Fairmont Flame Towers, with spectacular views of the Bay of Baku and in close proximity to all the nightlife.
The Dreamland complex has 240 villas and 350 apartments, currently on sale to the discerning property investor, and a shopping mall filled with exotic luxury brand stores will shortly open within the community. Azerbaijan has plenty to explore, and Dreamland can help you with this too. Baku's historical core is the 12th- century Old City, an important UNESCO World Heritage site: the resort can organise a fascinating guided tour.
For the more adventurous, try a day trip to Azerbaijan's famous mud volcanoes. And yes, people do bathe in them. Nor should you miss the incredible Burning Mountain, Yanar Dag, just half an hour from Baku. This natural gas re blazes continuously on a hillside. See it at night: it is mesmerising. The 'Land of Fire', indeed. The club also arranges trips to the Amburan Beach Club, 30 minutes away – a magnet for Baku's sun worshippers. Dreamland offers a varied menu in its main Restaurant & Lounge and also at Café T at the Academy. The local Azeri cuisine – based on barbequed chicken, lamb and steak – is popular with westerners.
A Dye design
Dreamland's Cynthia Dye-designed course is the five-star golf venue this thrilling city deserves. It can be stretched to 7,478 yards, although you will more likely play from the Whites, which at 6,357 yards still offer a good test – especially when you factor in the almost constant refreshing Baku breezes.
Although Dreamland was carved out of the atlands east of the centre, you'll rarely hit from a level lie on its fairways.
"Dreamland's desert-like terrain meant we were cutting into solid Baku Stone – which makes Baku city so enchanting, but highly challenging if you are building a golf course," says Dye. "Nevertheless I think most golfers are very impressed by the undulating terrain they find at Dreamland."
Dreamland's opening three holes – all par fours – introduce you to Dye's nicely crumpled fairways, immaculately contour- mown and the many lakes that are found around the course. The par-5 4th is the first test for your long game playing to a well- guarded green complex.
Bravery is the essential 15th club when you're playing at Dreamland with the par-3 5th considered one of the most testing, often playing into the prevailing Baku breeze. With the front nine holes playing as a par 37, take time to enjoy the picturesque on- course café to fortify you after completing the scenic par-3 10th. The back nine continues the risk reward theme with a seven-hole stretch of water guarded holes to complete the inward par 35. The signature hole is the par-3 17th, which is seen in the main image on these pages. The 18th is a fantastic risk-reward short par 5 that finishes in front of the clubhouse terrace and adjacent shopping mall, alongside a lake filled with fountains.
Dreamland can also organise a Stay & Play trip to the highly luxurious Rixos Quba hotel in the Caucasus Mountains, which is adjacent to National Azerbaijan GC. The 48-hour trip gives you 18 holes, a night in the Quba hotel, and a drive into the mountains as a refreshing change of scenery. Azerbaijan is earning its spurs as a global golf destination, but when the course and facilities are as good as they are at Dreamland, and with a city as memorable as Baku as your base, a week here offers a genuinely exotic, one-off golf experience.
A HOLE YOU'D LOVE
The 17th is a at-out stunning lakeside par 3 , the classic 'water hole', just 144 yards from the White tees. A signature Cynthia Dye bunker sprawls almost the full length of the hole, stopping just short of a green which clings onto the side of the lake, guarded by bunkers either side. Viewed either from the tee or while looking back from the grassy mound behind the green, it is one of the most picturesque holes in Eastern Europe.
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