We know Dubai quite well, been there multiple times, played various courses and figured we should see Abu Dhabi as well. It’s just one hour from Dubai and worth a visit.
Abu Dhabi is definitely not as spectacular as Dubai but that’s mainly on purpose. They don’t feel the need to put their country into that stress of becoming world’s best, biggest, tallest, etc. The largest of the seven Emirates by landmass however offers some interesting tourist attractions itself: the mosque, the Emirates Palace, the Corniche, various architectural highlights, some big malls, the F1 circuit, the Ferrari World, just to name a few.
We decided to stay for three days and spoiled ourselves with two nights at the magnificent St. Regis Saadiyat Island. The island is situated north of downtown Abu Dhabi but not more than a 10 minutes drive from the Corniche. So it was close enough to easily discover the city and remote enough to enjoy the beautiful beach and tranquility of the hotel compound.
The St. Regis is a fantastic hotel and there is another feature I was interested in: the Gary Player beach-side championship golf course.
Abu Dhabi offers at least three great golf courses, Abu Dhabi GC, Yas Links GC and Saadiyat Beach GC. We all know Abu Dhabi GC from the famous European Tour event. It’s a fantastic course which without a doubt is on my bucket list for quite some time. The same is true for Yas and Saadiyat. So I had the choice but as we were staying at the St. Regis, it was pretty obvious we would go for the home course, not only because I was offered a special rate as hotel guest and Starwood Friend.
Through the booking process and some additional points on golf, I was introduced to a young man named Clinton, acting as the Abu Dhabi Starwood Sales Manager for golf. Coincidentally he had planned to play a round with his dad the very same day, so we played alongside in one group and enjoyed the course, the weather and the company.
What’s needed at Saadiyat Beach is pure target golf. It’s not always the driver you should choose for your tee shot, it’s more a spot you need to decide to put your ball and then make the club selection accordingly. Sometimes it’s a mid or long iron which brings you closer to a par at this course than the big stick.
The course offers lots of sand (who would have thought…), numerous water hazards, interesting architectural features, a very good condition in general and many endemic gazelles. What I didn’t know was that ‘Abu Dhabi’ actually means ‘Father of the Gazelle’ and hence there is a long heritage for this animal in the region.
As a course in the UAE you can imagine, the one resource they have plenty is sand. And yes there are a lot of bunkers on this course. All bunkers are slightly bigger than normal, fairway bunkers seemed all in play and there are some green side bunkers you really want to avoid. Also, the sand itself was very hard so it was a bit tricky to operate out of the bunkers.
Most impressive holes:
- 2: Split fairways with the choice to either go left or right
- 5: Par 4 with water to the left, playing towards the beach
- 6: Par 3, literally ‘on’ the beach with the hole by the St. Regis beach/pool area
- 14: Interrupted fairway
- 15: Again an interrupted fairway, with an approach over water
- 16: Beautiful par 4 towards the beach
- 17: Picturesque par 3 on the beach
- 18: Worthy finishing hole, dogleg right with water all the way on the right
The reason why I can’t rate the course with an eight or better, is mainly because of the construction work next to it going on right now. There are some hotels and villas being put up and that’s a bit annoying. Nothing too bad, and gone in mid-term but a factor why I only rate the course: 7/10