Finca Cortesin reveals 2017 golfing news at International Golf Travel Market

Top Spanish golf resort Finca Cortesin topped off a successful 2016 at the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Mallorca this month with their news for the season ahead.

Director of Golf, Francisco de Lancastre said: “IGTM was particularly busy for us this year and we had a full diary every day of the event. We have firm ambitions to be Europe’s top golfing experience and to this end have a lot of improvements going on that we wanted to share with partners old and new. IGTM was the perfect platform for this.”

Finca Cortesin has unveiled new and improved practice facilities at their Golf Club with new tee line and range furniture, following a substantial renovation. The Jack Nicklaus Academy has benefited from new flightscope technology and guests will also enjoy the arrival of a new club car fleet of buggies, all with premium seats and the latest GPS technology.

With on-going 2016 improvement plans already underway, the resort also plans to increase their gap in between tee times in March 2017 from 12 minutes to 15 minutes, making the experience more seamless for guests. The renovation of the entire golf course maintenance machinery with Toro Company will also be completed by Summer 2017.

Francisco de Lancastre continues: “Looking ahead to 2017 we also plan to renovate our greens from a cool season grass to a warm season grass. This will allow us to improve the quality of our greens throughout the year by adopting a Bermuda species which has important environmental benefits – something we feel very passionate about here at Finca Cortesin.”

Finca Cortesin is a five star boutique hotel in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia. Alongside its 6,802 meter Championship golf course and a Jack Nicklaus Golfing Academy, the hotel has Spain’s only snow cave and a Michelin starred restaurant Kabuki Raw. The hotel has developed a reputation as one of Spain’s top golfing destinations with impeccable facilities and wonderful service.

(External source)

About Finca Cortesin
Finca Cortesin is an independent luxury development located close to Sotogrande in Spain. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea to one side and the tranquil hills of Casares to the other, Finca Cortesin was designed in the style of a traditional Spanish ‘finca’ (rural estate). The Andalusian retreat features an elegant 67-suite hotel, an 18-hole golf course with a state of the art Jack Nicklaus Academy, a 6,000sqm beach club and a top spa featuring Spain’s only snow cave with bespoke treatments by French beauty brand Boilogique Recherche. The hotel offers four restaurants including El Jardin de Lutz serving authentic Spanish cuisine, and signature Japanese restaurant Kabuki Raw. The development also features exclusive villas available for purchase or rental.

Beachfront golf in Marbella: Real Club de Golf Guadalmina

Planning a golf trip to Marbella is rather difficult. Not because there is a lack of appropriate opportunities to swing a club, it’s rather the opposite! The Costa del Sol in the south of Spain offers not less than 70 golf courses along a coast line of roughly 300 kilometers. And especially the region in and around Marbella offers so many courses that it’s tricky to pick THE right one.

After our tour through Andalusia it was Marbella being the last stop on our itinerary. Sure thing we wanted to end the journey with a nice and memorizable round of golf in the sunshine.

There are so many great golf courses to be found in this region that it’s really difficult to find the one that’s just right for you. I investigated so much in preparation for the tour that I was seriously confused about where to play eventually. Long story short, I decided to play the Real Club de Golf Guadalmina. This club offers two courses whereas the south course stands out and offers nicer scenery and architecture, at least in theory. Also it was very close to our hotel and I got a good rate.

A word and a blow, instead of checking in the hotel I immeadiately drove to the club house which sits in the middle of a… well, dated residential area with a supermarket-like car park. Entering the club house, it was nobody there to greet or guide you, all lockers and bathrooms were locked and apparently reserved for members who know the numeric code to enter. The waiters in the downstairs bar weren’t really helpful either so I had to ask my way through the facilities. I’m not saying I was shocked, but I had hoped for another kind of start to this round.

Finally I found the person at the counter to pay my green fee, bought the obligatory club logo ball souvenir and left the building. It took me a while to understand that in order to get to the first tee of the south course you need to leave the premises, cross the car park, pass the weird shops and bars to the side of it and then walk for a couple of minutes on a public street through a residential area to then get to what was the first tee. Seriously, I haven’t expected this – in any shape or form. Again, not that I was shocked but this course received so many so positive reviews from all over the place… I was dissapointed, I guess that’s the word.

Next dissapointment was just around the corner: on the first tee there were like 20 people waiting to tee off! I had a tee time in ten minutes and all these folks were about to start their round just now. Apparently there was a double booking for some slots and so I had to wait until all 38 French golf tourists in their fourballs were ready to go and I had my turn finally. That was roughly one hour later.

I had a nice chat with the starter and it wasn’t really his fault but the whole situation was kind of stupid. Especially because I played on my own and was obviously stuck in huge traffic right from the start. As the North Course was closed that week for maintenance I had no chance but wait, play slow and be patient. I told everybody “I’m in no rush” which was true but I had no idea how horrible the next hours turned out to be.

When I finally teed off I decided to play two balls, an advice the starter gave me. It didn’t really help. When I finished hole 1, I realized that there were three groups on the next hole – a par 3!

So I couldn’t help it and had to wait. I practiced putting a good 10 minutes on the first hole until I finally teed off myself. It was quite a busy spot of the course with a busy street to the left and the highway behind the hole. I tried to forget all that once I putted for a par and tried to move on.

Next hole 3rd was a dogleg left with villas to both sides. I had to wait for some minutes before I absolutely bombed my drive to split the fairway. So I was standing there in the middle of the hole, waiting for the French to move on while the group behind me closed up and waited for me to clear the fairway. I wanted to scream that it’s not my fault but I had more chances to let them know later.

When I finished hole 3 I realized that the group in front of me not even had teed off the 4th yet. Oh boy, it got slower and slower, that was for sure. I went over and had a little chit-chat with the French folks and finally couldn’t do anything else than let them go play and wait.

That was the time when the Spanish couple arrived in their cart and realized that I was still waiting there. They were members of the club and seemed very nice, although pretty annoyed about the slow play too. We decided to play together and talked a lot. It turned out that they just months ago moved from Madrid to Marbella because the quality of life supposedly is so much better in Marbella. They said they literally live on the golf course and play here at least 4 times a week. They just take their golf cart from the underground parking and head to the course. Wow, what a lifestyle: Living in a nice house or apartment with sea views right next to a golf course which you get to play a couple of times per week. I was jealous. Pretty jealous.

The path between the 4th green and 5th tee box went under the big motor highway, the autovia. So to set the scene, imagine a nice golf course with a 6-way highway cutting right through it – that’s what you have there. Really a pity. Apart from that the course was rather nice.

We played the 5th, again with a lot of waiting, when we decided that all this absolutely doesn’t make sense at all and totally ruined our mood already. To avoid that we headed for the 15th as it seemed there wasn’t somebody playing the back nine at that time. With the 15, 16, 17 and 18 I finished nine holes in total (the not so pretty ones) in almost 4 hours!

What a pathetic round of golf!

I was disappointed with the area where the course was located, a little bit with the course facilities, with the noise, the slow play and that I just was able to see half of the course. Needless to say that it wasn’t possible to get a refund at the reception.

A golf day to forget.

The first Ballesteros Design I played: Real Novo Sancti Petri Golf Club

The prefix “Real” stands for “Royal” in Spanish. That’s the case for Real Madrid and also Real Golf de Valderrama. And also for Real Novo Sancti Petri Golf Club.

The latter surprises a little bit because there is very little royal flair in the Urbanization Novo Sancti Petri, south of Cadiz. It’s a rather nice holiday residential area with dozens of hotels and uncounted weekend and holiday apartments. The big asset of Sancti Petri is the beautiful stretch of beach, long, wide and white along the Costa de la Luz.

The coast in general is famous for travelers and sun seekers, but indeed this part of the region is beautiful and offers a lot to recreational or regular guests.

We stayed at one of the best hotels the coast has to offer and enjoyed some days by the pool, strolling the beach, enjoying the sun, the wine, the tapas and the southern Spanish lifestyle.

Of course golf was on the agenda too. As little as Novo Sancti Petri is, it offers quite a variety of golf courses. I decided to go for the most prestigious club, which alone offers two championship courses plus a short a pitch & putt course, and also went to play the apparent better course, the “Mar y Pinos” (Sea and Pines), or “A” as they call it themselves.

I paid a very reasonable green fee, ordered a cart (because I walked at least 12km every day during the week before) and off I went. The signage turned out to be somewhat improvable but eventually I managed to find everything I needed to.

The driving range features a lot of possibilities to warm up and is home to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy, just in case your swing needs some urgent adjusting.

On tee 1 I was grouped together with a German couple, both in their 50s, he played golf, she only took pictures and used the first nine as a nice walk. She didn’t really talk much but he was very nice and we chatted along quite nicely. Turned out that he’s coming for 20 years and just started to find back to his game.

The course was built in 1990, designed by nobody less that Severiano Ballesteros. I’m not a big expert on course design and definitely wouldn’t recognise Seve’s handwriting but I have to say that the overall layout and architectural course design was not more than ‘good’. Saying it was ‘mediocre’ wouldn’t do justice, but it’s clearly not the biggest asset this club has to offer – or reason to get awarded with the prefix “Real” to the club name.

Hole 1 is a very straight hole, an easy one for the start. With a good tee shot you can reach the green next to a small lake which forms a water hazard for a number of the following holes. For the second you have to drive the ball over water towards a normal-width fairway, surrounded by holiday villas to the left.

After 3 and 4, two rather unspectacular dogleg-left par-4s you get to the next par-4 dogleg-left. This time your second shot has to travel over water to a smaller green. Which didn’t work out in my first attempt I have to say.

Hole 6 is without a doubt one of the more spectacular ones. It’s an uphill tee shot with a second into the green which sits right on top of the beach with beautiful views along the coast. Very pretty indeed.

Hole 7 is a rather long over-water par-3 and is followed by an intersting par-5 and a dull par-3 to finish the first nine.

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Today's highlight: golf at Novo Sancti Petri

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I totally screwed up the 10th (God knows why) and really enjoyed playing the following holes; long par-5s, interesting par-4s and short par-3s. All in all I preferred the back nine, both in quality of the design, the absence of holiday homes right next to the fairway and water hazards and frankly because I played really good golf there. I think it’s just a mood issue. The more birdie chances you have (and eventually make) the better you like the holes.

So after all, I enjoyed playing this course. There are of course some things that didn’t go well: The staff was friendly but not very helpful with orientation, the caddie master wasn’t helpful at all, the carts were neither equipped with water, towels, tees nor with a GPS system and as I forgot my GPS watch at home, there was a lot of guess work involved.

Would I recommend the course to others? Yes if you are in the neighbourhood, no if you would need to travel just for this.

Golficiency Rating: 5/10

Spontaneous Andalusian Golf Break

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What to do when you realise you have so many holidays left for the year? No question, you find some great ideas where to spend them. As summer started to turn ugly in Central Europe we decided to head to South Spain, enjoy the sun, the culture, the history, the tapas, the vino, the flamenco, the hospitality, the picturesque ancient towns and the golf. And no doubt – they have plenty of all.

Starting from Malaga, we had on our itenerary penciled in for Nerja, Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, Jerez, Cadiz, Sancti Petri, Vejer de la Frontera, Gibraltar, Ronda and Marbella. Basically every single corner of Andalusia.

Everybody knows that golfing is easy in South Spain as they have plenty of courses, both at the Costa de la Luz or the Costa del Sol (aka Costa del Golf). The problem is even to decide which one to play as due to the sheer amount of possibilities you are seriously overwhelmed and need either expert advice or a lot of reading. I did both and had an initial list of courses to take into account.

Pretty early in the process I ruled out three courses, not because I changed my mind but because I figured I won’t spend that much money on golf. Don’t get me wrong, I’d absolutely love to play these but for somebody who has to work hard for his lifestyle, the requested green fees are totally out of this world:

  • Real Club Valderrama (Best course in Continental Europe since 1988), Robert Trent Jones design
  • Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, Robert Trent Jones design
  • Finca Cortesin Golf Resort, Cabell Robinson design

And also, as we planned a road trip through all of Andalusia we didn’t want to spend too much time in the Sotogrande region anyway – because there are much nicer places to see and visit.

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So we decided to change plans and put down these four courses as the ones to play:

  • Real Club de Golf Sevilla, José Maria Olazábal design
  • Montecastillo Golf Club, Jerez, Jack Nicklaus design
  • Novo Sancti Petri Golf, Severiano Ballesteros design
  • Real Club de Golf Guadalmina, Marbella, Javier Arana design

One thing I can tell you now as we already arrived back home, we didn’t fully make it through this list unfortunately. But the other thing I’d like to report; golfing in the south of Spain is pretty amazing! And the whole region of Andalusia is so rich in culture, history and lifestyle that golf became a fairly peripheral matter quickly.

Do yourself a favour, book a trip and find out for yourself what an amazing piece of land this is.

Keep checking back at golficiency.com for the course reviews of the Andalusia trip.

Photo credits: Westin La Quinta Resort, Marbella

Kingsbarns Golf Links soars to chart success

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Photo: linksgolfstandrews.com

Kingsbarns Golf Links has recorded an unprecedented leap in one of golf’s most respected course rankings. The significant move, which resulted in the renowned European Tour venue jumping 10 places and entering Golf World’s top 10, firmly establishes the North East Fife course as one of the UK’s must-play golfing venues.

Continue reading Kingsbarns Golf Links soars to chart success

Sandy golf at Saadiyat Beach

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.

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This is why it's called Saadiyat Beach! #GolfUAE16

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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.

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Difficult to concentrate on golf! Great views.

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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

Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club – a nice course in the heart of Dubai

If you’ve read my last post, you might have realised that I started to struggle to find good and affordable courses in Dubai for our trip in April. This is mainly because of four things:

  1. Dubai courses are in general a bit more expensive than everything you know from back home. That’s possibly explainable by the quality and luxury you usually find at these clubs.
  2. Dubai courses are artificial areas in an environment which doesn’t actually fit. Purely from a biological and agricultural perspective, so much green grass does not belong in the desert, and maintaining it to the highest standards is difficult and expensive.
  3. The Euro/Dirham FX rate has been plummeting in recent months. No good news for European travellers!
  4. I have to admit I only checked the expensive courses because those are still missing on my list! In other words, when you are trying to play the Majlis, the Earth and Abu Dhabi, you can’t complain about cost, because it’s basically the creme de la creme of UAE courses which comes at a price. 

Looking around Dubai and Abu Dhabi there are certainly nice other alternatives to play, one of which is definitely the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. This course is located a bit more away from all the others but in contrast to them, more or less in the heart of the old part of Dubai. This has some pros and cons which I will discuss in a minute.

What attracted me was a couple of things: it’s quite famous because it’s one of the first ones ever opened here, it has an iconic club house and features one of the most famous tee boxes in golf world-wide!

But one thing after the other. I got a taxi to the course, checked in and was quite happy that my booking via Golfscape the night before, worked quite nicely. And I got it at a price which the official website did not offer – which was a bonus.

In mid-day heat I started to hit some balls on the range, which was indeed necessary as I haven’t had touched a golf club for a couple of months; this was my first round in 2016! After two pyramids of golf balls and some first thoughts around how to cope with and stay out of the sun, I started my round.

I got my own cart and played on my own. Not much traffic at all. The two-ball in front of me I had overtaken at the second hole already. From that point onwards I had nobody in front and behind me until maybe the third last hole. So one could say the course was pretty empty!

The course quality I would rate with a ‘good’. There were some yellow-ish and brown areas here and there but after all you can see that those people are trying to keep it in the best possible shape. This is apparently tricky around April as someone told me later, because this is the time when the winter-grass disappears and makes room for the summer-grass. That was supposed to be the reasoning behind the various grass colours on the course.

But I didn’t bother too much and tried to get the nicest round possible in the books, i.e. scorecard. I wasn’t doing that badly, lost some balls but at the same time hammered some nice tee shots (…unusual…) and played some great pars and even a birdie. Not bad for the first round of the year, however in 35°C much more likely than with the common winter golf attire you need in Central Europe in that season.

Some comments on the setting of the course: as mentioned earlier, it’s a city course. Which is good for the accessibility of the property but at the same time comes with all negative side effects. Some holes are routed along congested highways and the metro. Unfortunately this is not only the case for one or two but for several holes.

The course has four faces I would say: the highway, the residences, the inner course and the creek side. The highway is bad, that’s pretty obvious. The residential area is very common in the UAE as the golf holes meander through town houses and villas, so that’s a normal thing to experience. The inner course is a part of the course where multiple holes are next to each other without any structures or obstacles in between. This area was very nice and was followed by some holes along the creek shore line.

The latter is indeed nice to look at, you see boats, seaplanes and the Dubai skyline in the background.

But let me go back a bit. Hole 6 stands out, no doubt about it. As shown above, the tee box is a concrete island structure which you reach via a small bridge. So you walk onto the little grassy island, tee up your ball and play back to the mainland. I’m not sure about some official rankings but for me this belongs to the Top 5 tee boxes world-wide.

After the round I relaxed on the sun terrace of the iconic club house (which resembles the sails of an Arab dhow) and made plans for the next round.

Holes that really stood out:

  • 2: Par 4, over water, unfortunately next to the highway
  • 6: Impressive tee box, water and a great setting
  • 8: Par 3 over water
  • 10: Par 5 along water
  • 13: Par 5 with an island green
  • 16: Nice par 3 towards the Dubai Creek
  • 17,18: Beautiful home stretch along the creek, over water on the 18th, towards the club house

Golficiency Rating: 6/10

The cape, the wine, the golf: Pearl Valley Golf and Country Estate

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So far this journey had been fantastic throughout! We experienced wild animals, beautiful landscapes, amazing beaches and great golf. And this was before we even went to Stellenbosch and Cape Town.

And taking Stellenbosch as an example, for those of you who have been there and love wine, we know that this place is pretty awesome. It’s a picturesque place of earth, peaceful, relaxed and full of rich history of wine making. You basically can’t drive for one minute without passing another astonishingly beautiful vineyard, or wine estates as they tend to call it.

Putting the difficult history of the country aside, there were many settlers coming from Germany, France and the Netherlands, staying and producing one bottle of finest Pinotage, Chardonnay or Shiraz after the other. What’s left is a huge industry, world-renowned wine from across the winelands in and around Stellenbosch and with it absolute mind-blowing wine and country estates, beautifully restored and kept in good shape.

So in short, you can have a pretty good time in Stellenbosch, no doubt about it.

But one thing we had in mind as well was golf – as you do, naturally. One treat you might think about is get a good night’s sleep, play 18 holes of golf, get a shower, relax on the clubhouse terrace, eat some great food and then head off to a wine farm for a tasting or a normal dinner with a bottle of red, or two. Done. Perfect day!

There are actually several choices in terms of great courses in and around Stellenbosch: Erinvale, De Zalze, Devonvale and the one we were going for, Pearl Valley.

Pearl Valley is situated in a valley not far from the city of Paarl, which forms the wine triangle Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl. The posh estate features another Jack Nicklaus course (the third we saw on our journey) and is venue to several tour events and national championship tournaments.

The course has quite a usual resort or estate feeling with beautiful holes meandering through areas with huge villas along the fairways and around greens. The contour of the course is rather flat but not boring at all. Contrary, Nicklaus again managed to come up with very interesting holes.

We actually played with a Frankfurt-based golf buddy of mine, who chose to spend some months in the Cape Town region. As you do. But seriously, if you can, money and time is available and you happen to love golf, in that case the Garden Route and everything west of it is golfer’s dream. We met in the car park, entered the lobby, paid the (quite expensive, for South Africa standards) green fee and headed to the driving range. That was actually the first time during our trip we were able to spend more than 2 minutes on the practice grounds to be honest.

One thing that I most likely will never forget, there was a guy standing in the middle of the driving range, I’d say 160 metres from our position to water the lawn. He hardly moved and just tried not to miss a spot of the ground. First I thought, when is this guy done and leaves. It turns out it takes some time to water the drinving range by hand, so he stayed. Then I figured, wow, that’s dangerous, I should use a club with which I can’t reach the distance where he was working, but apparently all the others around me were pretty relaxed about the situation. Apart from the guy next to me who at some point whispered “shit” just after a shot. He must have felt that his shot pretty much was dead straight towards the 160 metres mark. I looked up, saw the ball coming down 2 metres next to the suicidal lawn waterer, who couldn’t care less. No reaction whatsoever!

But anyway, after we got some practice shots and putts in, we went to the first tee and started our round. The starter was nice and friendly, although he didn’t want my buddy play from the championship tees. He wasn’t very convincing though. There are five tee boxes available and I went for the middle ones – it turned out it was a good choice because although the course doesn’t look overly complicated and demanding, it has its specialities and I was relieved that at least distance was no issue.

I struck the ball well, had some good, some very good and clearly some very poor shots. After a couple of holes we were joined by another player, an English bloke who was on sabbatical too and coincidently worked in London in an office building right next to the one I was working in. So we must have met before, at least in a queue waiting for the Wasabi sushi lunch one day.

Some words on the course: it’s an interesting setting, has large bunkers and although some holes look pretty standard from a course architecture perspective, you won’t get bored to play the course at all.

Most impressive holes:

  • 2: Dogleg par-4 right with water all the way to the right
  • 4: Split par-5 fairway with a creek meandering through. You have to cross it three times.
  • 5: Two-level fairway
  • 7: Straight hole with water to the right just before the green
  • 8: Par-4 gain water all the way to the right, but this also in front of the green, creating sort of an island green
  • 13: Par-3 with (take a guess) water all the way to the right.

The course in general is well maintained, although from time to time I thought the greens could have been in a better shape. Which is strange because on no course on earth I experienced so many ground workers and green keepers (ok maybe in Mauritius) at the same time. Most of them weren’t working all the time, but when they did, they were standing in the middle of the fairway in driving distance or mowing the green.

The setting of the estate in the valley between all these beautiful mountains is somewhat special. You don’t have a spectacular view like at Pinnacle Point but you sense that this place has its own unique feeling. At least I mesmerised on every hole that Jack Nicklaus designed this course, that he had something in mind which really works and is a great course in between a posh residential country estate.

One last thing to service and equipment. The service, the friendliness and hospitality was very good, best example as always: you go inside for the halfway snack, come out, the carts are parked in front in the right order and your clubs have been cleaned—ready to go for the back nine. It’s always the little things that matter and which stay as positive memory. One thing that I definitely kept as a fairly negative memory is the quality of the carts and the on-board GPS systems. It’s a first world problem, I do see that, but they don’t have touch screen devices, so there is no measuring possible to possible obstacles such as bunkers, trees, water, etc. You have the information how far you have to hit for the green, that’s all you got.

All in all a great round, playing with friends and nice people in sunshine in mid December. What else can you ask for?

Golficiency Rating: 7/10

Golf Travel 2016: The United Arab Emirates (again)

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When people asked me what new year’s resolutions I had for 2016, I tell them “play more golf”. Of course I have quite some ambition for my handicap this year too, but playing more and more regular golf is something everybody can understand and relate to—even non-golfers.

Although the new year is just three weeks old, we are already working on some plans for a fantastic golf trip to the United Arab Emirates in March or April. This time we are looking to spend 10 days in the UAE and split it up between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

As this will be the first time for us to travel to Abu Dhabi, we will most definitely squeeze in some sightseeing as well, but golf should play a substantial part of the trip. Looking at the Golficiency Bucket List, there are some really big names in golf, which we want to tackle this time:

Dubai

  • Emirates Golf Club, Majlis Course
  • Jumeirah Golf Estates, Earth Course

Abu Dhabi

  • Saadiyat Beach Golf Club
  • Yas Island Golf Club

Every one of these courses stands out in a very unique way. The Majlis as being one of the first courses in the UAE, hosting numerous professional events such as the Omega Dubai Desert Classic; Greg Norman’s Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf forms the famous season finale to the European Tour with the DP World Tour Championship; Gary Player’s Saadiyat Beach course situated right by the sea featuring a combination of desert and links golf at the same time; and finally Kyle Phillips’ Yas Island Golf Club, part of the multi-billion Yas Island complex with the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit, the Ferrari World theme park and the golf course just adjacent to it.

Although we are quite experienced with desert golf and courses in Dubai in particular, we cannot wait for this trip and these fantastic courses we have on our agenda.

If for whatever reason we’re not able to play two rounds of golf in Abu Dhabi, we might consider playing the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club instead. That beauty is still missing on the Dubai map, too.

Pinnacle Point publishes Golficiency article

My round at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay, South Africa has been an absolute delight. The course played itself into my heart and most definitely into my current Top 5 list.

This breathtaking experience led to a Golficiency course review in which the club earned 9 ouf of 10 points—and rightly so. It’s just an amazing golf venue and I cannot express how jealous I am of those who are members at the club or even live on the property. Of course I wouldn’t play the course every day if I could, but having the chance to play it more often than once a year, already is a treat.

Obviously Pinnacle Point appreciates the positive comments and posted the Golficiency article on Facebook. And I’d love to be back one day!