DUBAI: desert delights
If you’re feeling a little gloomy as winter kicks in, then a golfing trip to Dubai, where the sun always shines on a hatful of championship courses, will put some spring back in your step, says Sarah Stirk
Having spent much of this year hopping on and off planes, it’s been really nice to spend some time at home in recent weeks. However, with the weather at its November dreariest, the prospect of jetting off for some winter sunshine is getting more appealing by the minute.
One thing golfing visitors to Dubai can be assured of is never having their game called off for rain. In fact quite the opposite, as in July and August temperatures regularly push past 50 degrees – which is too hot even for mad dogs and Englishmen to venture out with a sand wedge. But it is around this time of year, when daytime temperatures dip into the low 30s, that the Middle East really comes into its own.
Due to its location at the point where east meets west, Dubai has carved itself out a unique place in the golfing map of the world. It’s home to a growing number of tour pros who find it convenient for hopping to America, China and Europe, as well enjoying a superb winter climate for off-season practice. It is also home to three big tournaments – the Dubai Desert Classic, which has been a mainstay of the European Tour since it began 1989; the DP World Championship, which provides a glittering finale to the season, where the winner of the year-long Race to Dubai pockets the best part of £1 million; while the Ladies European Tour’s final event, the Dubai Ladies Masters, also takes place here, with a quality field to rank alongside the majors.
While popular with Tour players, Dubai is also a five-star playground for golfers of all skill levels looking to challenge themselves on truly world-class courses designed by some of the game’s leading architects. Throw in a collection of stunning luxury hotels, a ladle full of Michelin-starred restaurants, and tax-free shopping malls, and you have the recipe for a memorable, if undeniably expensive, golf holiday.
Here is my shortlist of places to play on a week-long trip…..
Emirates Golf Club
The prestigious Majlis course is one of two courses at the Emirates designed by Karl Litten, the first 18-hole all-grass golf course to open in the Middle East. The Majlis is a magnificent 7,300-yard par 72, which plays host to some of the finest golfers in the world during the annual Dubai Desert Classic. Known as the ‘Desert Miracle,’ you can expect immaculate landscaping and large, slick greens. The Bedouin tent clubhouse is an impressive backdrop to indulge in a post round beverage. The challenging 18-hole Faldo Course, meanwhile, is floodlit for night play.
Dubaigolf.com, Green Fees: Majlis £185, Faldo £120
Jumeirah Golf Estates
Jumeirah is home to two Greg Norman-designed courses, Fire and Earth, with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship held on the Earth, which features 102 bunkers and 20 lakes. The final four holes measure over a mile long, while the 651-yard 18th, whose fairway is split by a rock-lined stream, always provides a stunning climax to the tournament. The course boasts wide fairways and many teeing options, but it’s a tough walk, with distinct variations in gradient and some tricky lies. My sand wedge was my weapon of choice last time I played, and I was very grateful for the stepladders to help me out of several of the bunkers!
jumeirahgolfestates.com, Green Fees: Earth £120, Fire £100
A regular tournament venue on the Middle East and North Africa Tour, Al Badia offers a par 72 course designed with an oasis theme by Robert Trent Jones II. Water is present on 12 holes, with a series of large, interconnected lakes, soft flowing streams, and peaceful waterfalls. It offers a picturesque setting and a test that will suit holiday golfers better than some of the more grandiose venues.
Surrounded by some of Dubai’s most exclusive properties, The Montgomerie is a desert oasis featuring 14 lakes and 93 acres of landscaped gardens. Playing like a Scottish links, it’s a unique experience in this part of the world. The 13th green is the shape of the UAE and, at 58,000 square feet, is the largest single green in the world. Aside from the course, the practice facilities are first class, with a hi-tech swing analysis studio, a nine-hole academy course, and a floodlit driving range – meaning it really does offer the full Monty.
themontgomerie.com, Green Fees: £140
The Els Club
The first course designed by Ernie Els in the Middle East combines what the Big Easy believes to be the best attributes of all the great tracks he has played around the world. The course is designed as a ‘desert links’, with rolling undulations and strong elevation changes creating a fascinating course both visually and strategically. Extensive use of dunes, sandy waste areas, and native grasses, complete with a classic style of bunkering, all add to the links effect.
elsclubdubai.com, Green Fee £150
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
Situated in the heart of the city, the 6,857-yard Creek course has undergone a major redevelopment, with Thomas Bjorn redesigning the front nine to ramp up the challenge. The manicured fairways are lined with date and coconut palms, while attractive water hazards and shrubbery give it a distinctly tropical feel. The clubhouse – with its design mirroring the sails of a traditional Arab dhow – is one of most iconic images of Dubai.
dubaigolf.com, Green Fee £120