UAE: Why Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai offer a five-star golf holiday in every sense.
In just over two decades, the United Arab Emirates has gone from a curiosity to a destination you simply must consider for your next golf holiday. And it is quite easy to sum up what is on offer in the three 'golfing' emirates; luxury, sun, opulence and world-class golf. It is, in summary, five-star golf, five-star hotels and five-star weather. It is downtown excitement, dazzling nightlife and uncommon glamour. And it is nowhere near as daunting an experience as you might fear it might be.
If you've never been, America is quite a good comparison; everything here is big: the motorways, the hotels, the offices (patently), the golf courses and the clubhouses. Gleaming marble and glass panels dominate anything that might be considered quaint or characterful in these parts. But while all three emirates share factors such as these in common, they also offer something slightly different from each other.
Emirates Golf Club was the first grass championship course in the region and its Majlis is ranked in Golf World's Top 100 Courses of the World.
It has been a fabulous annual host for the Dubai Desert Classic. It is backed up by the acclaimed Faldo, whose attractions are enhanced by the fact it offers unique 'Night Golf '. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is in the heart of the city and this creekside venue offers a variety of views – over the creek, towards high-rise buildings or to downtown Dubai.
Jumeirah Estates boasts the high-end Earth and Fire courses by Greg Norman while another superstar designer, Ernie Els, laid out Dubai Sports City with a links look of fairways lined by wispy rough and sand. Jebel Ali resort's nine holes are great fun while the newest addition, Trump Dubai by Gil Hanse, might just be the best of the whole lot...
Yas Links is a Kyle Phillips design that has the look of a very authentic links, not only because of its rumpled, all-sand base fairways, but also thanks to the Paspalum grass that runs through tees, fairways and greens. Eight holes run right along the shore and this lays claim to being the nest course in the whole of the Middle East.
Both Yas and Saadiyat Beach are located on spits of land that arc round the top of the city and are linked by a deserted motorway... so you get to them from downtown in no time. Saadiyat Beach is set on a stretch of environmentally-protected beach on Saadiyat Island and was laid out by Gary Player. The extensive bunkering dominates the start to the course a la Chart Hills in Kent but then there are gorgeous seaside holes to end the front nine and also on the back nine. A very impressive course.
Abu Dhabi GC is the host of the European Tour event here and has impressed since becoming a regular stop for the likes of Rory et al. This 27-hole championship course – there is a nine-hole loop that is a great warm-up – weaves through undulating terrain punctuated by stands of palms, ornamental trees and shrubs. Another iconic clubhouse completes the picture.
Ras Al Khaimah
There are two courses in this lesser-known Emirate, Tower Links and Al Hamra. Tower Links is routed through a mangrove and with Ras not having as many skyscrapers as Dubai,
Tower Links has a very different, more open look. While fairways are often narrow, they are lined by sandy waste areas and low-lying trees rather than anything more claustrophobic. On a clear day you also get a view of the truly awesome Hajar mountains that sit on the border with Oman.
Tower Links (which gets its name from the distinctively-shaped clubhouse) mixes stout par 4s with sporty affairs such as at 11 and 15. The climax sees a pretty par 3 over bushes followed by a risk-reward dog- leg par 4 and then a super par 5 that swings right to left with a moat guarding the green.
In contrast, Al Hamra is part of a large, appealing resort. The lush, velvety fairways wind between water, bunkers and mature trees with less sandy waste areas than at Tower and a larger number of desirable houses lining the property. It was built by charismatic designer Peter Harradine, with the second wave of holes that were built – and now form the middle of the back nine – the more exacting.
The climate: Outstanding, in a word. May to September, though, is blisteringly hot. Basically forget about any rain year round.
When to go: October to April inclusive is warm but lovely – and what a wonderful contrast to our temperatures.
How to get there: Dubai is very well served by Emirates from Manchester and Heathrow, and you won't get a better service. Etihad y from Heathrow, Edinburgh and Manchester to Abu Dhabi while Qatar Airways y from Edinburgh and Heathrow.
Time: GMT +4