Green heaven on earth at The Els Club Dubai

Golf day 2 in Dubai. On day 1 I was playing The Address Montgomerie and in order to keep me excited I figured The Els Club Dubai would do the trick. So I made my way to the Dubai Sports City, a district in south Dubai in which you find football and rugby stadiums, hockey clubs and tennis courts. A complete part of the city dedicated to sports. It offers some residential areas also and in the middle of it, exactly, you have a golf course.

To be honest, when you drive to The Els Club, and I’m still not sure whether we took the correct route, you don’t see much at all. It’s like leaving the city for the desert and you see sand wherever you look. This part of Dubai is under construction big time. And then suddenly you’ll find the entrance to the property, the gated community Victory Heights, lush green, trimmed and manicured gardens present themselves. You drive along a driveway and suddenly you reach the impressive club house, which is even more impressive than The Address.

The staff is very friendly and charming, taking care of your tee time, your bag and your belongings. There was not one single person of staff in bad mood the whole day. Very impressive. So I entered the open terrace of the club house and I started to realise and visualise how this course was basically set out. Standing on the back of the clubhouse, overlooking the putting green and greens no 9 and 18, you’ll immediately see that there are perfectly maintained and treasured fairways bending between lines of houses. A view you wouldn’t expect from the outside of the estate.

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Before I headed outside, I went in again to change in the locker room. Again, very thoughtfully decorated, offering full service, from toiletries to fresh fruit drinks, jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms. Basically everything you would wish for was to find here. A locker room paradise, with a reading corner and some flat TVs with golf coverage. I started to love this place.

But then it was about time to hit the course, or better the driving range before that. So I took the cart to the training facilities area, just to realise that this place is home to the Butch Harmon Golf School and later I was told that Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Ernie Els himself been there two weeks earlier to work on their game in preparation for the desert swing on the European Tour. And now it was me, hitting white balls down the range… quite a feeling.

The course itself is run by Troon Golf, but in contrast to day 1 at The Address the grass looked so much greener, just more taken care of. The starter was overwhelmingly nice and friendly and we had a good chat before I teed off. The course seemed not to be busy and tee 1 was very empty. I was told I’d play on my own, the 2-ball in front of me was already on hole 3 and that day they measured a green speed of a 10 on the stimpmeter. Ehm, excuse me, did you say “ten”? He did say ten, so I knew what I could expect—freaking quick greens!

After he took some pictures of me pretending taking a shot off the tee, I packed away my driver (which I got out just for the photo) and grabbed my beloved 2-iron. Topped the first ball and lost it in the wasteland area. “Mulligan” the starter screamed with a huge grin from behind. The second shot (well third with the penalty) was a real stunner, easily 200 metres down the middle of the fairway. Much better. I was pumped, jumped on the cart and off I went.

The cart was, quite similar to the Montgomerie course, equipped with tees, towels, ice cold water and a scorecard. Plus it had one of these on-board GPS systems, and this time even the really good one, with which you can contact the Marshal, the front desk or the halfway house for refreshments.

I loved this course the minute I stepped out of the car and these holes gave it the rest: an immaculate course condition, beautiful, lush, dark green fairways and greens, perfect bunkers and interesting wasteland areas.

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There were many (and I mean many) green staff on-site, taking care of golfers and the course. So many people working hard to create a green masterpiece within a desert environment. Strange obviously, but well executed! All the maintenance people were very friendly and secretly acted without disturbance. And you felt they tried everything to make this place look like in a calendar. I even saw one guy with a very long flexible stick sweeping away foot prints on a green! Can you imagine? A person removing sand on a green because it doesn’t look good enough! I was even more impressed!

The course is a long 18 hole, par 72 layout and has a mix of a links style design combined with a desert style setting. You will see large sand waste areas, undulating fairways and greens and massive bunkering. All this set on undulating slopes of native desert vegetation. And when I say desert, I mean desert. This course offers proper sand areas, much more than others in the region I suppose. Fairways are narrower than normal and it features quite impressive elevation changes. Some bunkers are probably 3 metres deep, so you might want to leave it short…

It is said that all holes constitute Els’ favourite characteristics from around the world: bunkering from Royal Melbourne, greens resembling Pinehurst No. 2 and wide, rolling fairways. A true masterpiece in golf course design. And although the location is in a fairly remote part of the city (compared to areas such as Dubai Marina or Downtown) the course at the Els Club is a pure treasure in the golf world map–and made it to my favourite Top 5 immediately.

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Where do I start describing the course? There are so many fantastic holes that it’s really tough to go for some favourites. The first holes are quite easy to play, nothing too fancy, not too difficult. The 4 is a nice par 3, playing down into a small valley. And you start to realise what a 10 on a stimpmeter is when you constantly putt towards the flag and the ball keeps rolling and rolling and ends up the bunker on the other side of the green. Then you realise what tour players have to putt on…

The next hole 5, a dogleg left with quite a vast wasteland area to carry. The par 4 7 with its carry over water and a lake all the way to the left was a first very interesting hole featuring water. Hole no 8, the next one is a par 4 with an interrupted fairway by huge wasteland again. And then there is the 9, a fantastic hole, elevated tees, huge wasteland to carry, a tree right in the middle of the fairway and a difficult second shot. The green is beautifully set in front of the club house terrace. What a great hole! I was in love with the course and had just seen half of it, which made me smile.

The 11 is a lovely long par 3 and no 12 is a dogleg right with well-guarded green behind a sand dune. Two holes later you find yourself at the same lake which was in play on the 7, but now you play along the other side of it. I was brave, tried the Tiger-line and lost two balls… That was the last time I acted brave that day I guess.

Notable holes number 17 and 18: The 17 being a par 3 towards a huge sand dune. All you see is sand, but the green you try to land the ball on is tricky, quick and unforgiving. The 18 is a long par 5 with a forced carry over wasteland from an elevated tee box. I hit the ball 2 metres next to the pin with my third, putted for yet another birdie—and three-putted.

What a round! It was hot and I was exhausted but if I could, I would have started over again, 1-18. Definitely a great course in a great setting. Just like the Montgomerie course the day before, you won’t find a place with free vista, just dunes or fairway. That’s just not possible because the houses along the course are so close and the holes really meander through these multi-millionaires’ backyards.

When you are around and after a good round of golf, you have to come and play The Els Club. It’s definitely worth the effort. It’s quite an expensive undertaking though: 895 AED (215 EUR) for a midweek round is very expensive if you ask me. So bring some cash and enjoy one heck of a golfing destination.

I bought one sleeve of Titleist logo balls and couldn’t leave without a Els Club polo shirt. I was in golfer’s heaven.

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…

Ball Showcase: Souvenirs from Dubai

B9WBCehIUAESgQI.jpg-largeWhat do you bring home when you play three courses on a short trip? Correct, three golf balls for the showcase: Jumeirah Golf Estates, The Els Club and The Address Montgomerie Dubai. For my collection this makes it four Dubai balls in total, taking into account the Emirates Golf Course ball which I already bought in 2012.

I have to say that I also bought two golf polo shirts. One from the Els Club, one from the Jumeirah Golf Estates. I looked for one at the Montgomerie as well but they still featured the old logo (like in the ball above) rather than the new one with The Address hotel group logo. Would prefer that one. No problem, won’t be the last time that I play golf in Dubai!

Continue reading Ball Showcase: Souvenirs from Dubai

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.