I am more likely to find myself on a dancefloor than I am to make use of a practice ground but, aided by some sweet sounds, I begin my day in the most unlikely of ways Saadiyat Beach. This is not what I had expected of Abu Dhabi, which is a strange thing to say as I knew next to nothing of my destination ahead of my brief sabbatical.
I knew bits and bobs about Dubai and all its glamour but my extensive knowledge of its neighbour, the largest by far of the seven Emirates and the capital of the UAE, was that it now has a Grand Prix, Martin Kaymer tends to do well here and you won’t have to pay much for your petrol. For your interest it should set you back about £10 to fill up though, if you like a drink, and nobody is judging here, can I suggest a taxi.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the facilities, which are genuinely ridiculous. Were there anything amiss from my short game there are two chipping greens to work on, a putting green and a vast practice ground where, as opposed to my local facility at which an oversized bell (no idea) provides the highlight, there are various bunkered and sculpted greens with a backdrop of an ever-changing skyline. It is like being on the European Tour and part of the reason why so many – Matteo Manassero was here the week before his win in Singapore so I’m already expecting great things in the January Bogey – tend to their game here.
Ten years ago this aspect would have looked very different but things are very quickly changing. But we’re not here to practise, even though the music has moved into the ‘easy listening’ bracket and I’m very much at home.
looking offspring though is surely the 5th, Dolphin View, where our aquatic friends are regularly out in force in the mornings of the cooler months While I very rarely pay close attention to the course planner, and often find myself at least four holes adrift, this one is impressive with clear and concise instructions and a world away (a common theme in Abu Dhabi) from ‘Drive down the middle and look to find the middle of the green’. Quite.
The names of the holes are taken from notes made by Gary Player when designing the course and he said it was akin to having 18 little children so was unable to single out one hole. His best looking offspring though is surely the 5th, Dolphin View, where our aquatic friends are regularly out in force in the mornings of the cooler months. Here there are three bunkers to avoid and, as I found to my cost an expanse of water down the left, before an approach towards the Persian Gulf. It is almost as picturesque as golf can get and, as the Emirates’ first beachfront course, has a charm of its own.
There are 67 bunkers, spread over an incredible 10 hectares, with one at the 10th running the entire length of its 350 yards. And if you feel a bit sorry for yourself when you have to pick up the rake yet again spare a thought for the man, one of 48 who work solely on the course, whose job it is to keep these areas pristine – though his piece of machinery did appear to have more poke than my car.
We should also mention the 15th, Double Trouble, where water comes into play on both the tee shot and approach. Or for my playing partner four times, though Quadruple Trouble doesn’t really have the same ring to it. This begins a run for home which is exquisite, including the 17th, Arabian Oasis, the shortest hole. This is director of golf Paul Booth’s favourite though he has to say that as he got married there last year. The finish, Gulf Reflections, is where only the foolish try and bite off more than they can chew. More Double Trouble – though this time your foolhardy correspondent’s.
Time difference: GMT +4
Climate: Year-round sunshine with the cooler and most pleasant months being November to April when the temperatures are in the mid to high 20s
Language: Arabic is the official language although English is widely spoken
Transfers: Saadiyat is just 20 minutes from the airport