With perfectly manicured fairways and hours of guaranteed sunshine, it’s little wonder that increasing numbers of golfers are heading to the United Arab Emirates
In just over half a century, the federation of seven emirates that constitute the UAE and ribbon the northern coast of the Arabian Peninsula has redefined the word ‘metamorphosis’.
From the world’s tallest tower and a mosque with no less than 82 marble domes to man-made isles in the shape of palm fronds, it has captured our collective imagination, all the while morphing from a backwater of loosely organized Trucial Sheikhdoms, once nothing more than dhow-speckled pearling and fishing villages, to slick, anything-can-be-achieved metropolises.
And so too in the realm of golf, where sandy expanses of desert have given way to lush, green fairways, many designed by golf-world luminaries.
And though one can easily find perfectly challenging courses to play in Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, for the serious amateur, the UAE’s 22 venues hold the true draw, offering plenty of challenge and variety to keep golfers of all abilities satiated.
Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai
Inspired by the four natural elements of fire, earth, water and wind, the pair of thus-far completed courses at Jumeirah Golf Estates make a powerful presence on Dubai’s crowded golfing stage. Designed by Greg Norman, the Earth and Fire courses are both monumental tests, measuring a hefty 7,675 yards and 7,433 yards respectively. While the latter is more of a links-style layout ideal for the higher-handicapper, the former is a parkland-style brute that hosts the top 60 golfers on the European Tour at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship each November. As a result, Earth demands accurate ball striking and forced-carries but both courses feature cavernous sculpted bunkers, rolling fairways and large green complexes that demand a focused brains-not-brawn game plan.
Book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, and enjoy the incredible views from the resort’s elegant sea-facing rooms and suites.
Distance from Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah: 40 minutes by cab.
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
With its iconic whitewashed, sail-shaped clubhouse, the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club has been a siren song for golfers since it opened in 1993, when Middle-East golf was very much in its chrysalis phase. Since then, of course, Dubai has welcomed many newer tracks, but this 6,967-yard urban-meets-creekside course continues to inveigle the avid amateur, and even hosted the Dubai Desert Classic in 1999 and 2000. Situated on the so-named saltwater inlet, which comes into play on at least four holes—including the sixth where the dramatic island tee box was once an embarkation pier for boats—the course is a well-maintained beauty studded with palms and routed around a half-dozen artificial lakes, with the buzz of the cityscape always in the background.
Stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah and indulge yourself after a day’s golfing activities at any of the hotel’s six restaurants and lounges.
Distance from Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah: 50 minutes by cab.
Having designed such iconic new courses as Kingsbarns in Scotland, The Grove in England and the pair of tracks at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily, American architect Kyle Phillips has put his unique stamp on the Middle East with what one critic simply called a “game-changer”. Others, such as Golf Magazine, have enshrined this brawny 7,450-yard par-72 test among the ‘Top 10 New International Golf Courses’. It’s easy to see why. Stretching along a 1.8-mile long coastline on the Arabian Gulf with no fewer than nine holes fronting its azure waters, this layout features a bevy of memorable holes, including a pair of waterside par-threes on the back nine, as well as more than 100 bunkers and endless links-style panoramas to boot.
Book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah and rest, relax and unwind after a day out on the fairways at the resort’s award-winning spa.
Distance from Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah: 1 hour 15 minutes by cab.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Home to the season-opening Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, held each January, the 7,440-yard Abu Dhabi Golf Club course was designed by Peter Harradine and is ranked by Golf Digest as the fourth best course in the UAE. Winding its manicured way around seven sizable (and penal) saltwater lakes, no fewer than 90 strategically placed shallow catch-bunkers and through undulating pockets speckled with palms, ornamental trees, flowering bushes and shrubbery and the occasional stone wall, the course rounds out at the monumental 18th, anchored by the iconic falcon-shaped clubhouse. This building is an ode to the national bird of UAE, which is a symbol of force and courage, both of which are needed to tame this beast of a course.
Book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah and keep the family entertained during a day’s golf at the resort’s Coco Kids’ Club.
Distance from Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah: 1 hour 20 minutes by cab.
Ras Al Khaimah
Necklaced around four interconnected open-water lagoons, the Peter-Harradine-designed Al Hamra Golf Club was a sleeper, known only to 36-a-day types. That changed in 2013 when the Waldorf Astoria resort debuted, just a few hundred yards from the first tee, putting this 7,325-yard course in the shadow of the Hajar Mountains in focus for the golfing cognoscenti. With no fewer than nine holes playing adjacent to water hazards, this par-72 championship course was fashioned from some five million cubic meters of sand, which were shifted and sculpted to create a gently rolling coastal brute with elevation changes for variety and views, but playable for both leisure golfers and the more adept. As such, the course features multiple tee boxes for players of all abilities, including on the par-five 18th—a 576-yard stunner with water down the right-hand side and, like the other holes at Al Hamra, well-positioned bunkers protecting the tightly cropped green complexes. The course also features an expansive practice facility, a par-three Al Hamra Golf Academy course and, for those who cannot get enough, a nine-hole flood-lit composite course for when the crepuscular light dawns.
Book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah and open up a world of outdoor activities including horseback riding, deep sea fishing and sailing.
Distance from Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah: 5 minutes by cab.