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saadiyat

Is this the ultimate winter getaway?

Combine this Gary Player design on the edge of the Gulf with a stay on breathtaking Zaya Nurai island
 

We might just have found the ultimate luxury winter getaway. Saadiyat Beach is one of the Middle East’s most breathtaking courses (as you can see for yourself) and while there are lots of hotels close to the course, we’ve stumbled onto something a bit more special.

Just a short speedboat ride away from the course is the epic Zaya Nurai island. Prepare yourself to be captivated by an idyllic winter golf break that is way more affordable than the opulence suggests…

The backstory

This Gary Player design opened in 2010 and lies on high-end Saadiyat Island, which is 15 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and 10 minutes from Yas Links.

Its beachside location meant it was designed with sympathy to existing natural environment and in compliance with environmental guidelines and Saadiyat’s success in that regard is demonstrated by it being awarded Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status by Audubon International.

Its beachside location also means it is one of the few courses in the Middle East to enjoy views of the gulf.

Along with Abu Dhabi GC and also now Yas Links, it is part of Troon Golf and the trio working closely together make them a terrific three-course golf holiday.

The course

Saadiyat is a mixture of technically strong, prolifically bunkered holes that often wind residences and breathtaking holes alongside the gulf.

The front nine has several stand-out holes with sea views and on the back nine there is a splendid gulf-side stretch including one of the top par 3s in the Middle East.

Its environmental sensitivity means the course is teaming with native wildlife and birds, with mountain gazelles wandering in the rough, dolphins leaping in the sea and the protected hawksbill turtles roaming the sand.

Saadiyat

The details

The weather is perfect from October to March, with day after day of sunshine and temperatures always topping 20C. In between those months it gets seriously hot and you’d only enjoy playing at the start or end of the day.

Getting there is easier than you imagine with lots of flights from Manchester and London. It is ‘just’ seven hours and if you book ahead (Etihad/BA) you can get it for under £300, and if closer to the time for £350.

Where to stay

This is the bit that really sets this golf break apart.

Zaya Nurai island is as if a piece of the most idyllic corner of the Indian Ocean has been picked up and dropped in the Middle East.

zaya nurai

This boutique resort is the essence of carefree, barefoot luxury, where the only things on wheels are the bikes you can hire to explore the island.

It is a rare antidote to life among the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi as well as Dubai – which is only an hour away, thus making this an alluring bolt-on to a trip to the latter too.

A 10-minute boat journey from Saadiyat, Zaya Nurai is arguably the coolest place to hang out in the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi.

From Instagrammable scenes wherever you look, to achingly chic villas and a super-cool beachside bar, it offers an alluring combination of utopian setting mixed with a lively vibe.

That blend is illustrated nowehere more than the Smokin Pineapple bar, which overlooks the white sand and turquoise water (pictured above) and is a magnet for the glitterati of Abu Dhabi as well as tourists attracted by the many socialite and travel influencers who make ZN a priority.

The two giant swings that rise out of the Arabian Gulf in front of Smokin Pineapple will be the wallpaper on so many screens around the world.

zaya nurai

It isn’t just the secluded private pools – with direct access to the beach – that make the 34 villas special; they ooze minimalist, effortless luxury.

Spacious and decadent, they are so well equipped with a myriad facilities and services – from the soaking tubs to walk-in showers and remote-controlled curtains to the club-class Bose music system – that almost make you reluctant to leave it for the pool or beach.

Dine in elegance at Frangipani (all-day dining specialising in local cuisine), our favourite Hooked (Lebanese) – which is pictured above and patently has a ‘glad to be alive’ location – and Dusk (Mexican).

There is an excellent gym, a yoga pavilion and, predictably, a world-class spa. The only stress on your horizon at Zaya Nurai is in deciding how to divide your time up at this flawless resort.

Chris Bertram

Chris Bertram is a specialist in all things golf courses.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG.
He has been freelance since 2010 and spends the majority of his time playing golf and writing about the world’s finest golf courses.

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