Great golf day at The Address Montgomerie Dubai

So Dubai it was, our first golf-related holiday destination in 2015. We’ve been here before and back in the days I checked out the Faldo course at the Emirates Golf Club, a great venue, just a stone’s throw from our residence at the Dubai Marina. The course was fun and I immediately knew that with my next trip to Dubai I would schedule in more rounds of golf. A word and a blow, in preparation for the Dubai 2015 trip I did some research, wrote some emails and came up with a fairly fixed plan to play three great courses in Dubai.

I already played a Montgomerie course (in Belek, Turkey) and the most obvious attribute which stood out was the usage of fairly large wasteland areas—which by the way are rarely to find in Turkey and belongs more to a real desert course like in the UAE or places like Arizona, USA. But the course was interesting and I knew I couldn’t go wrong with that decision to play a round at the Montgomerie Dubai. Especially because the course is situated in one of the most affluent areas of Dubai, Emirates Hills, a good copy of Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills, at least when the size of the property or the number of servants is taken as a reference.

On a Tuesday I made my way to the course, friends dropped me off the front desk, my clubs were taken care of, all I had to do was to enter the impressive club house, go downstairs and pay the bill for a mid-week round: 825 AED (200 EUR). I knew this trip would be costly but every time the ladies swiped through the credit card during that week, I whined, very silently and only inside, but it hurt…

The locker room at The Address Montgomerie is excellent. It offers everything one could want from a room like this: comfy leather chairs and benches, plenty of lockers, showers, toilets, (…) and fully equipped toiletries: soap, creme, hair gel, deodorant, sun protection (50), after-sun, shaving creme, disposable razors (!) and some things more. I was impressed. And the round hasn’t even started.

I strolled along the clubhouse terrace, watched some people in the pool and decided to see the driving range for some warm-up. After I found my cart and was advised how to use it properly I went on to the academy building, another club house-styled building with yet another terrace right in front of the driving range. So I had spectators… tried to get used to that thought pretty quickly as it was winter in Europe and I haven’t swung a club for 5 months! Luckily all went fine, I immediately found my rhythm, smashed some nice drives along the impressive range with the Dubai Marina skyscrapers in the backdrop. It felt good and I was so happy about my performance during warm-up. Needless to say, I lost that rhythm again on the first tee…

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Speaking of first tee, right next to it they had sort of cart path road works, because of which all carts on their way to and from the training facilities had to cross the first hole. That was a bit annoying but hey, I was on holiday, just about to tee off at one of the most beautiful courses in the region and you can believe me, I wasn’t bothered at all.

I wasn’t even bothered when I met my playing partners for the round: a nice couple from Finland, probably 50 years of age. They weren’t talking much but as they had a cart for themselves and I was on my own, I had no problem with it.

By the way, the cart was loaded with tees, towels, ice cold water, repair sand, a scorecard and one of these fancy huge GPS systems. So you know where you are, you know how far to the next obstacle and you know what club to hit. I really like those!

And off we went. It’s February but around midday the sun is already really hot (28°C in the shade) so I had to stay in the cart for the most part not to risk a painful sunburn. In February I’m not that tanned yet you know…

The course layout is a very typical US or Florida-style golf estate course, it meanders along housing areas and you rarely find a place on the course where you only see golf holes instead of golf villas, huge properties and gardens. Frankly you don’t have this at all. But what do you expect from a course in the middle of a bustling city? It basically can’t be that remote like Scottish courses that come to your mind. So all golfers coming to Dubai to play a round of golf, get used to the fact that you will play along houses and especially in Dubai, you’ll have a construction site among them as well.

Fairways at The Address Montgomerie Dubai are undulated but fair in width. Monty obviously tried to create a links-style character paired with a fair resort-style course which suits the most players out there, offering chances to score low, but danger enough to score high also. The Dubai course features similar wasteland areas which I knew already from the other Montgomerie course in Turkey. It was just that here, even though you don’t see any desert here, I believed it belonged here more. Tough to describe but it felt very natural, even with all the houses to the side—which by the way are huge houses! Every villa looks different and jeez, they must cost a fortune! I was told the story that Monty got one of these villas as payoff for designing the course, and shortly after lost it to his ex-wife in the divorce. Ouch! Don’t know whether it’s true but at least it seems possible.

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Back to the course, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by the quality or the condition of the fairways and tee boxes. The greens were fine but at least the fairways lacked some intense nursing and maintenance. Comparing this to other courses you could argue that’s rubbish, but paying EUR 200 for a not perfectly staged course is a bit on the high side I believe. I might not give enough justice to the course but I was expecting greener grass and fewer neglected tee boxes. I found exactly this one day later at another course, so I knew it’s possible to have the perfect grass quality, even in the desert at these temperatures. Some days later I read something on the internet that the course had some severe problems with the grass and had to transplant large areas of it. I don’t know if this was related to my experience at all but it seemed an appropriate reason.

Anyway, the course characteristics were fantastic. The course features undulating fairways, forced carries, multiple water hazards, split fairways, troubling bunkering, wasteland areas, tricky shots into the green, quick greens themselves. All in all a fairly challenging setup.

Hole-wise I liked the 4 with a split fairway and a dogleg left with bunkers on the left (short) side; the 6, a nice par 3 over water with a small-ish (or at least hard to find) green; the 9 dogleg left with a narrow fairway and water all the way to the left (I think that hole cost me three balls…) Another interesting hole is the par 3 13 featuring a tee box ring around a island green in the form and shape of the UAE. Missed a clear birdie there. A nice stretch of holes is the 17 and 18, 17 being a well-secured and crazy-bunkered par 3 and the 18 a true test to your golf par 5. Admittedly the fairway is rather wide, but it’s long and there is water to both sides, left and right, the fairway gets split at some point and another (pink!) water hazard waits in front of the narrow-ish green. There are enough obstacles to totally ruin a round of golf. Mine was already ruined 13 holes earlier, so nothing to worry about for me :)

If you come to Dubai and are after some good rounds of golf, I would definitely support you to come play the Montgomerie as it is an interesting setting, has a good character and challenges you as a golfer. You can’t beat that!

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After the round, after my clubs and shoes were cleaned and I refreshed myself, I went to the pro shop to buy the club logo ball and a shirt and only there I noticed that the old logo of the club looks a bit dull and the new, with The Address logo on it wasn’t available yet. So there it is, my reason to come back at some point! :)

Last comment, there was one downside to a great golfing day. That wasn’t related to the course, not even to my personal game, which was OK for the most part. It was because of these horrible people I played with. In general I don’t care when I get grouped together with other folks, even in my home club that’s usually the case. Sometimes you get along very well and quick, in some instances you don’t. Nothing to worry about, just happens, you try not to be dragged down by it, forget it and carry on with your life, but this Finnish couple I don’t believe I will ever forget them at all. Please read the next post on golf etiquette to understand why…

The Dubai 2015 trip: a short recap

els-banner8Just today, early morning I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany after a one week trip to Dubai. At 5:30 we touched ground in wet and cold central Europe. The days before I was fortunate enough to enjoy the sun, go for a swim in the pool, have a breakfast outside, go sight-seeing in the glittering city of Dubai and play some of the most magnificent golf courses in the world! All in all a great one week break! As planned (see here) I booked tee times at:

Over the next days I will publish more in-depth course analyses and descriptions. One thing I can reveal already is that all courses kept up with my requirements and offered outstanding service and great fun, on and off the course. One club however stood out, in a positive sense, and immediately made it onto the Golficiency Top 5 courses list! What didn’t work out was to see the Sunday action of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club to see Rory McIlroy lift the trophy in the end. But as the rest of the week turned out to be so superb, this was easy to get over with. In general I really recommend playing all the mentioned courses, although this is not a cheap endeavour at all. But Dubai really is worth a trip as it offers so many interesting things you can see and do—golf included.

Golf travel plans in 2015

The longer I think about travel plans with my wife in 2015, the more I keep golf in my mind. It’s not what she’d appreciate to hear, but for nearly every location we have on our list, I check whether there are sufficient possibilities to swing a club. If not, I’d find a better place to stay—which is not entirely true, but almost…

But it’s more the general travel bug combined with golf rather than pure golf trips I have on my list for 2015.

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First thing on my list is a one-week trip to Dubai in February. We’re meeting up with friends, staying at their house, playing with their new baby girl and on three consecutive days I will excuse myself for 6 hours respectively to play 3 awesome courses according to current plans. I’m currently checking rates for green fees and boy, these are quite expensive!

  • The Els Club Dubai
  • The Address Montgomerie Dubai
  • Jumeirah Golf Estates Dubai

Next on the agenda so far would be a one-week hiking trip to Kitzbühel, Austria in June. Together with my parents we’ll stay in the Wilder Kaiser region to climb some mountains. As “Kitz” offers a variety of courses (which is not common in Austria) and beautiful country side alike, it was the perfect match for joint hiking and golfing endeavours. The courses I have on my list are these:

  • Golf Eichenheim, Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Kitzbühel
  • Golfclub Schwarzsee, Kitzbühel-Reith

Some time in summer, when the weather is nice in Germany too, I’ll go and see my cousin who recently moved to a new place outside of Hamburg, Germany. I grew up in the north and I do have quite some friends living in Hamburg but I never managed to play a round of golf there. This is about to change this year. As my cousin lives south of Hamburg, I figured I’ll start with the “South of Hamburg Courses” first (and attempt the others such as Gut Kaden, Falkenstein, Wendlohe, etc. in 2016 maybe):

  • Hittfeld
  • St. Dionys
  • Green Eagle
  • Schloss Lüdersburg

After a short romantic break in Venice in September, during which I (guess what) won’t play any golf at all, we might end up in South Africa for a long Cape Town and safari vacation later this year. This has been on our list for quite a while but we did postpone it again and again as we decided to go to Mauritius for honeymoon instead. Now it’s back in our heads but yet not fully confirmed. Especially the golf is not set in stone at all but of course I think about Fancourt, Pinnacle Point, Leopard Creek and others. In case you have a great idea or even a travel itinerary which combines sight-seeing, safari and golf, I’d be really grateful to receive good advice. I’ve never been there but I’m sure it’s a beautiful country with loads to see, to do and many magnificent courses to play.

Sounds like a plan? The next 12 months will tell whether we managed to get all this golf scheduled into our other commitments. Fingers crossed we all stay healthy to execute everything as envisaged. We’re always very thankful that we are as blessed to have the opportunity to travel that much as this is not taken for granted at all.

Next stop: Golf in Dubai

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I’m restless, especially during winter when there’s not much going on. In those situations I think about trips to make, places to go and courses to play, keeping my bucket list by my side and trying to tick some boxes.

The next awesome trip will be again to Dubai in February. Yesterday I booked the flights and my boss today signed the days off: 8 days in the UAE, mainly Dubai but possibly Abu Dhabi as well, the nitty-gritty details are still to be decided.

What’s pretty much set in stone on the other hand is 3 or 4 rounds of golf. I’ve been to the UAE before and was fortunate to play the Faldo Course at the Emirates Golf Club and Tower Links in RAK, but there are plenty of other treasures to lift in that region.

Desert golf may not be everybody’s cup of tea and I assume some will say “what the heck does he want there?” but truth be told, golfing in the Emirates is a unique experience and this put together with unparalleled service and amenities, it’s just a very fine thing to do. And you will agree the moment I put some pictures on the website.

Looking at my bucket list, there are some interesting courses which want to be discovered. I’m still in a very early planning process, but given that Abu Dhabi is probably out of scope due to other commitments in Dubai, this is what’s currently on my list:

If I could even fit in another round I’m not sure whether I’d go for the second course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates or try another one. That could possibly be either the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club or the Dubai Creek Yacht & Golf Club, both fantastic courses I’m sure. And even Robert Trent’s Al Badia Golf Club or Jack Nicklaus’ Arabian Ranches are far from being shabby dunes courses, they are absolute stunning highlights—everyone in its own way.

But time is precious and playing golf in UAE is expensive, therefore I go for 3 or 4 rounds max I reckon.

Please leave a comment in case you have some advice. I would be very thankful for further insight and ways how to decide what courses to play.

Montgomerie Maxx Royal

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Belek, Turkey 2013 day 4/5 of my little trip, after one day of relaxation and battery re-charging on the beach and at the pool. I felt much better and was looking forward to the next big course that waited for me. This time it was the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, formerly known as the Papillon Golf Club and the venue of this year’s Turkish Open in November as a regular European Tour event. Maxx Royal, the premium luxury hotel accross the street took over the course once they completed the hotel in mid-2011. The golf property was already built and opedend in 2008.

As the name says Colin Montgomerie was responsible for designing this course and since I didn’t manage to play the Montgomerie in Dubai last year I was happy playing this one during my little Turkey trip.

As you can imagine the entrance, the driveway and the clubhouse itself were once again very impressive! So obviously with all Belek golf clubs you get that kind of wow-factor before you even touched ground at the first tee.

After I bought a logo ball and a yardage book (the latter still showing the Papillon logo, obviously a remainder since 2011) I was heading to the driving range for some last-minute shots. 10 balls later I made my way to the starter and met my group partner for today, Heinz, a German guy from Cologne. And really the most typical guy from Cologne you can imagine: everything was classic; handshake, dialect, swearing, beer-thirst and outspokenness. We got along very well and it was a very funny round in the end at which scoring was not important anymore after, I guess, hole 4!

But back to the course itself! It has a similar feeling to the Gloria New for my liking, comparing the setup, the tree lines and hazards. The only thing that’s different is the numerous huge waste areas Monty has put here and there to make the golfer play out of sand more often than usual (in case you missed the fairway occasionally). You’ll find these waste areas on most of these holes at Maxx Royal and they create a complete new sort of hazard in front of greens, left or right of the fairway in driving landing zones etc. In the end the fairways get tighter and tighter and the golfer has either to adapt his play immensly (re-clubbing) or has to be quite sure he’s able to strike the ball straight as an arrow. If you do neither of that, like me, you end up in trouble, which I did…

First big downside of that club to me is the proximity to streets, commercial areas and water fun park facilities of several hotel complexes, so there is a constant noise level around the golfer. It could be such a perfect course would it be detached from all that fuzz and a bit more remote. But it’s not and everybody has to deal with it. Heinz wasn’t distracted at all. He played the course the third time this week and was used to it, he was more looking for the service cart for ordering a new round of beer.

We were playing from the yellow tees, which I thought were the men’ tees and which I did the whole week, but here at the Montgomerie it seemed to be the ladies tournament tees, they only have 4 not 5 tee boxes. I noticed that not before we were half way through our round and there was no sense in changing that thereafter.

The course was jam-packed with people! We were stuck in the middle of 4 foursomes, so no way to speed up a little. Hence we chatted along and had good fun anyhow. It really surprised me that is was so busy. The Cornelia was so empty two days before and the Monty course I think is the most expensive course in Belek currently (up to 150€ plus cart etc.). That was, next to my lousy golf, the only thing that annoyed me, it’s expensive but still so busy that you can’t play at your own pace. Most of the time there were 3 groups of players on each par 4 hole and we had situations in which we joined the 2 groups in front of us at a tee box waiting. That was a bit annoying I have to say. But it was warm, we had drinks, we had a comfortable cart and stayed in good mood most of the time.

The course has five par 5s and five par 3s. Some of the par 5s are probably reachable in two, others are not at all. There’s water coming into play at a decent amount of holes and bunkering and waste areas add up to tricky shots as already explained. The overall course character is again comparable to the Gloria New, pine trees all over the place but you will find most of your balls that end up in the rough.

It was very windy during the round which caused us a bit of trouble with water hazards. So if you wanna go diving over there you most likely will find some Golficiency logo balls and some Penfold Black Hearts.
Most memorable for me in terms of holes is the 16th I guess: a short par 3 with a huge waste area in front of the green. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the third hole at Pine Valley.

So overall this course is best for those golfers who strike the ball very well, can probably shape the ball a bit and are pretty accurate in direction and distance as the landing areas are pretty small. For all the others: learn playing from the sand, the dropping zones or out of the trees! It will happen!

If you’d ask me whether I would play here again, yes I would, but please under other circumstances. The course itself is very nice and deserves international attention for sure, even though it’s not the best course in Belek for me.

Use the tag Belek 2013 to read all course reviews of that trip.

Follow this link for more information: www.montgomeriemaxxroyal.com

Excited about 7 days pure golf in Turkey

Today I finalised the booking of my golf trip in May. I’m very excited about 7 days of pure golf in the Turkish sun, staying in a great hotel with all amenities you could imagine. Definitely golf is priority number one here, but I guess I get some leisure time at the pool as well.

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These are the courses that I decided to play:

Remember, there are more than 15 championship courses near the small city of Belek at the Turkish Riviera. Some of them are unknown treasures, some are host to international pro tournaments, like the Sultan for the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final or the Montgomerie Maxx Royal for the Turkish Open, a European Tour event later this year.

This is the hotel I’ll be staying at: Rixos Premium Belek and I booked all that through yourgolftravel, a UK-based golf travel agency with a massive range of offered trips and golf breaks.