It is the most unusual golfing destination in the region. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat is a natural island that is currently being developed as a cultural hub for the Middle East. Designed by the most successful international golfer in history, Gary Player, the championship course opened in January of this year. It lies on the island’s pristine beachfront overlooking the Arabian Gulf, and embodies many unique and eco-conscious features.
“The design has taken much from the organic shape of the area, so that ideally, golfers do not have to play the same hole twice,” Gary Player explained when the concept launched in 2007. “This course truly brings golf to nature. I strongly believe it will prove to be one of the most dramatic and challenging in the Middle East, if not the world.”
Configured in a classic figure of eight, more than one-third of the course overlooks the sea. Some lucky golfers are treated to a glimpse of the schools of dolphins that swim off the coast, while other early morning players may spot a native gazelle, or even one of the rare Hawksbill turtles that nest on the nearby beach. All the species and their natural habitat are actively protected by the position and development of the course. This includes the grassy sand dunes that act as a natural barrier between the course and the beach.
Every element of the course was carefully chosen to fit into this set of guiding eco-principles, down to the drought-resistant Bermuda and Bahai grasses that cover the fairways. The effect is dramatic. Alongside the natural honey-colour sands are deep red bunkers of sand imported from Saudi Arabia. In addition, there are the lakes; two freshwater and lagoon-blue, while a third saltwater lake is populated by a shoal of colourful fish.
Playing the course, each golfer will experience the distinct personality of every hole. Most are designed to be challenging, especially those exposed to the strong prevailing winds from the sea: others are pleasantly diverting and picturesque. It is pitched as the perfect destination for people of all levels of experience, starting at 5,290 yards for beginners through to 7,784 yards for the world’s leading players.
For those needing some skilled assistance to improve their game, the Golf Institute operated by Troon Golf is a private facility that allows learners to work on their game using the most effective technology available. The 120-yard instruction area replicates the course naturally; with a putting green, full size pitching green and a complex set of bunkers, allowing you to test your abilities and rate your progress with help from a team of highly skilled professional teachers.
Home of the Saadiyat Beach Classic, a new and highly popular fixture on the tour circuit, you may catch a famous player hitting a few practice balls on the fairway, otherwise the course is open to all on a pay-to-play basis, so no membership is required. Currently, the elegant Golfing Academy building is the acting clubhouse where you can book lessons, visit the shop, or refuel at the Hawksbill Restaurant. By 2012, a spectacular new clubhouse will have taken its place, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry. Set to be the most contemporary and exciting building in its class, it will undoubtedly become a landmark for the international golfing community.
The 2009 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
The Art of Tourism
UAE Fall 2010