When you can incorporate the Pyramids into a course, it's a good start. Chris Bertram explains why NewGiza in Cairo is one of the best golf courses in Egypt

You have to think there is some bunching up of groups around the 4th hole of NewGiza in Cairo, but it is an occasion that for once no-one is too bothered about the pace of play.

It’s hard to imagine anyone playing this par 3 and resisting the temptation to get their phone out for a picture – and you barely need me to explain why that is, because the reason is staring you in the face.

As backdrops go, one of the Wonders of the World is a pretty impressive one.

And I think we can all be excused for taking a bit longer than we really should to play the 4th by reaching for our phones to capture the moment.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

Getting the best angle will also take a bit of time (FWIW, I suggest a tee higher than the one your playing partner is hitting from, and from over their right shoulder) so, all in all, it’s not a hole likely to be played quickly… and neither should it be.

Why rush a hole that has, as you can see, the awesome sight of the Pyramids sitting to your left as you fire downhill to a striking green.

While the 4th is obviously the course’s most memorable moment, you could make a case for as many as six other holes being at least as good.

On its own, it’s a fine hole, requiring judgement and finesse to produce the correct line and length in order to find a green in the shape of a figure 8 placed on its side, with a ridge across the middle.

Add in the Pyramids as well as the rest of the background – a limestone-coloured quarry that contrasts pleasingly with the velvet green of the course – and you have one of the finest short holes you’re ever likely to have the pleasure of playing.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

Finding the best way to incorporate the Pyramids – which are five miles away but such is their remarkable stature they look closer – into NewGiza was clearly a key part of the thinking during the routing of the course by Tim Lobb, who led the Thomson, Perrett & Lobb team in this project in Egypt’s capital.

“It was the key to the whole project to be honest. I had to get the shot of the Pyramids just right,” Lobb tells NCG.

It is the final design of TPL – comprising the late Peter Thomson, the five-time Open champion, and architects Ross Perrett and Lobb – and opened after the death of the legendary Australian player because the project actually began back in 2005.

While the setting is clearly an enormous advantage and lends the whole course a tangible atmosphere, the quarry site also made the process much longer and more difficult than on standard projects.

“It has been an incredible journey from complex design work, challenging construction conditions to seeing the course mature into a grown-up golf experience,” says Lobb, who formed Lobb + Partners in 2016 after Thomson’s retirement.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

“We knew we had the potential to do a unique course in this setting,” adds his fellow Australian Perrett. “We planned a course that would explore a lot of the site, including views of the Pyramids and give a context to the local cultural landscape.”

It is not difficult to conclude that TPL succeeded in their aim. While the 4th is a hole you will remember forever, NewGiza is much more than just one outstanding moment.

In fact while the 4th is obviously the course’s most memorable moment, you could make a case for as many as six other holes being at least as good.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

Some might not even think it is NewGiza’s best par 3, because TPL have created a fabulous collection of short holes here.

On the front nine, the 6th is a gorgeous hole from an elevated tee to a green set between a rock cliff and sandy waste. It’s only 169 yards off the tips, but the crumpled green has subtle movement in it.

Then coming home, the robust 11th plays over water yet it is the mound in front of the green that is your biggest obstacle, and two holes later the 13th is another lovely downhill one-shotter over water to a green that is so large and undulating it looks and plays like three greens in one.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

Or finally there is the exacting 224-yard 16th, which feels like a sporty par 4 and has Chart Hills-esque bunkers to the right of the tiered green.

From these descriptions of the par 3s alone, you will have likely noticed the greens at NewGiza are full of interest.

It overshadows any Spanish resort course I’ve played and compares favourably with almost every course in the Algarve.

In fact Lobb insists “it’s all about the greens!” and while it is obvious what he means by that once you’ve been here, it definitely shouldn’t underplay the rest of NewGiza’s appeal.

Nevertheless it is certainly true that on this championship-length course, which is characterised by often dramatic changes in elevation, there is room off the tee and even if you miss the fairway you will find your ball in a sandy waste area unless you find water.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

So instead of a laborious examination of your long game NewGiza gives you a chance to enjoy each hole and is principally defined by the action on and around huge greens which are a constant challenge as a result of significant movement in every surface.

The challenge here is indubitably moved up a notched or three. These are funky greens, make no mistake. Some might deem a couple of the most eccentric a little too excessive, but those people are most likely to be Tour pros playing for their living or amateur golfers who are tediously keeping a scorecard on a golf holiday. In short, total bores.

For the rest of us, they are simply tremendously entertaining, and one of the reasons NewGiza is in my view instantly one of the finest courses in the Middle East and North Africa just months after opening.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

It overshadows any Spanish resort course I’ve played and compares favourably with almost every course in the Algarve – I’d put it close to somewhere like Monte Rei, which the majority seem to think is in the top 20 at the very least in continental Europe.

The courses of Belek in southern Turkey are another good barometer. These are routinely well designed and well constructed modern courses but I would suggest NewGiza surpasses anything there, with the possible exception of Carya, which also happens to be a TPL design.

You might finish five minutes longer than you really ought to as a result of the outstanding 4th, but I’m pretty sure every second you are playing NewGiza you will think it is time well spent.

I’ve played every course in Marrakesh, all over Cairo and the best of the coastal Egyptian resort of Hurghada, and NewGiza is better than them all, by virtue of the variety of holes and consistent entertainment.

Even early in its life, it is also immaculately conditioned.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

The course, which is part of a huge 680 hectare development at NewGiza in the south-west of the city that includes upscale housing, sports arena, hotels, schools, universities and a vibrant community hub, manages to be bursting with variety and contrast while also having an enviable rhythm.

So while it begins with a solid two-shotter at 376 yards off the yellow tees albeit with a downhill tee shot, the next is an inviting risk-reward par 4 over a creek that spans only 323 yards. “Give them enough rope to hang themselves,” grins Lobb.

The par 5s on the front nine also offer contrast, the reachable 3rd at 495 yards off the yellow tees – with the knuckle in the middle of the green the biggest test – being followed by the uphill 9th, whose 557 yards play every inch that they measure.

I also liked the 5th, which turns right to left through the quarry and ends on a funky amphitheatre green, and the 7th, a punchy par 4 that ends on a rippling green.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

The contrasts continue in the back nine, the 655-yard 14th – which features one of the numerous downhill drives here, a tight lay-up along the undulating fairway and then a huge green that’s like a skate park – being followed by a sporty two-shot hole.

At just 308 yards off the yellows, it’s modelled on the 13th at Woking. Rather than get too close to the green with your drive, it’s actually better to leave yourself 90 yards or so in to this corrugated green that is sectioned off into segments.

The climax is epic. The stringent short 16th is followed by the nine’s second and third hardest holes in the shape of the long, straight 17th with water to the right and the tumbling, twisting, well-bunkered 18th, where a blind shot is possible after modest drives and a four is a great score to finish.

You might finish five minutes longer than you really ought to as a result of the outstanding 4th, but I’m pretty sure every second you are playing NewGiza you will think it is time well spent.

NewGiza in Cairo by Tim Lobb

Golf courses in Egypt: Add another 18

There is a decent course at Mirage City but the best other course in the south west of Cairo is Allegria, a Greg Norman design of expansive fairways and large undulating greens.

It was the undisputed number one in Cairo until NewGiza was born.

Katameya Dunes is in the east of Cairo but is worth the journey over there, a really good all-round that impresses on and off the course.

The same can definitely be applied to JW Marriott Mirage City, whose course is on the up and whose hotel is already superb.

Golf courses in Egypt: Where to stay

We stayed on both sides of the city and found the east’s hotels to be the best.

JW Marriott is a large, grand hotel with well-appointed rooms, excellent food and a feeling of being somewhere special.

The breakfasts are sumptuous affairs and the Italian restaurant won’t disappoint. The rooms are like small flats!

Katameya Dunes is a very slick hotel with a more modern feel; a great place to relax for a few days in between your golf.

Golf Khan Ell Khalini market

Golf courses in Egypt: Other things to do

This is one of the easier section to fill in the history of travel writing; Cairo is packed with things to do.

The Pyramids are your starting point and my advice is to go after lunch when it is quieter, hire a local ad hoc guide for about £9 to show you the best angles for pictures and a bit of history, and don’t bother going inside them.

You’ll also want to lose a couple of hours in the Egyptian Museum, which is a total education. A boat trip on the Nile is recommended, so is a trip to Khan el-Khalili market (above) and also dining at night overlooking it is too.

I also hopped down to Luxor for a day – to the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepshut Palace (below) and Karnak Temple – and it is all amazing so I couldn’t recommend doing that highly enough.

Hatshepshut

Golf courses in Egypt: Travel and climate

Cairo is not quite as well serviced by airlines from Britain as you might expect; BA and Egypt Air fly from Heathrow direct but otherwise you are looking at a connection from a regional airport.

Once in Cairo, don’t hire a car. I drive all over the world but Cairo was the most testing and I don’t think many would relish it.

Instead, hire Uber taxis to get around – they are ridiculously cheap and really fun if you get into the spirit of a 1989 Datsun with 500,000 miles on the clock and barely a panel that isn’t dented and scraped.

Cairo has a lovely climate just a bit better than the Mediterranean, so mild winters and from April to September it is lovely, with hot summers in the middle of that period.

Visit the NewGiza website for more. Ever played golf in Egypt? Share your experience in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.