At the beginning of 2020 I escaped the gloomy British winter and embarked on my first international golfing adventure! The first stop on my Middle Eastern excursion was Abu Dhabi, and I was joined by my good friend Lucy Robson. Having never played golf in the United Arab Emirates before I was extremely excited to see what their golf courses had to offer and to explore their rich culture.
Abu Dhabi is home to some fantastic golf courses; top rated Yas Island Links, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Abu Dhabi National, all of which I managed to play during my visit.
Having arrived late in the evening Lucy and I went straight to the Park Hyatt Hotel on Saadiyat Island and got a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next day’s explorations. In the morning it was so wonderful to wake up to warm sunshine in January, a real treat, and made it even more of a pleasure to head off to play at Yas Links Golf Club. Lucy and I were extremely rusty, as neither of us had played much over the winter months, but nevertheless we were extremely excited to tee it up.
The highly acclaimed Kyle Phillips designed course, Yas Links, is ranked #44 in the world and it’s easy to see why with its challenging and exciting design – we enjoyed a high quality experience from start to finish!
The last three holes all involve water hazards and add an exciting crescendo finish to the course. The 17th is a fantastic 200yd par-3 which involves a carry over the Arabian Sea to reach an undulating green surrounded by bunkers. This is then followed by the par-5 18th which is the longest and arguably the most difficult hole on the course, particularly as this hole is usually played into wind. The second shot requires a powerful wood if attempting to hit the green in two as the approach plays towards a huge gully which drops down to the water. Fortunately, Lucy and I had successfully defrosted our golfing talent by this stage, so we played safe in laying up and finished with pars. The clubhouse at Yas Links has a lovely terrace overlooking the 18th green. Lucy and I enjoyed a well deserved post-round drink whilst watching the sun set. We enjoyed this course so much that we came back for more punishment the following day.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was played later that week. Lucy and I were invited to play in the pro-am at Abu Dhabi National Golf Course. This was my favourite round of the week. The course had beautiful lush fairways and strategically placed bunkers, and definitely wins a prize for “funkiest Clubhouse” with its large eagle design.
The golf course was immaculate and on various holes we were offered different food cuisines to taste throughout the course. However, due to our 7:30 am shotgun start, it was a new experience having prawn dumplings for an early morning snack!
Our pro was the fantastic Mike Lorenzo-Vera who was great fun and exuded a happy golfer attitude which really added to the experience.
I won the Longest Drive competition and was rewarded with an Odyssey Putter – which was a delightful added bonus to an already great day. In the evening we attended the PGA Stars Dinner hosted by HSBC at the Shangri-La Hotel where we were treated to a glorious buffet with everything you could possibly want to eat.
Between our rounds of golf Lucy and I tried to see as much of Abu Dhabi as we could. A popular tourist place to visit is the Sheikh Mohammad Zayed Mosque. This cultural and architectural behemoth was absolutely breathtaking!
One afternoon Lucy and I went on a boat trip to visit Nurai Island, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch with fresh seafood and local dishes. The sun set was absolutely beautiful on the journey back and it was an experience I will treasure forever.
We took a short break from watching the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship so we could play some more golf ourselves. This time we went for a round at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. The course was designed by Gary Player, it is very spacious with some beautiful sea views and lots of cute wildlife!
I can safely say I filled my bunker quota for the whole of 2020 after playing this course. Many of the holes are flanked with sand along the fairway instead of rough. My bunker play definitely improved after my round here!
My favourite hole at Saadiyat Beach was the 13th a dog leg left where you hit out towards a crystal blue sea.
Our Sunday was spent at Abu Dhabi National Golf course to see the final day of the HSBC Championship. The HSBC suite overlooked the 18th green. It was great to watch fellow Brit, Lee Westwood, tap-in a putt for the win. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Lee and play a round with him later in the month, you can read more about this here.
Abu Dhabi is a relaxed neighbor to Dubai and has a family friendly atmosphere. I felt safe during my visit and thought that all the courses I played were great fun. They were all elegant, professional, modern golf courses and definitely worth the visit. The experiences I had at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi National and Saadiyat Beach, were nothing short of first class.
With the guaranteed sunshine and great golf courses – I will most definitely be returning soon.