It’s just been announced that three reigning Major winners and the four most recent World Number Ones will form the strongest-ever field for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 26-29 2012. Battling it out for the European PGA Tour-sanctioned event’s US$2.7 million prize fund will be Charl Schwartzel (US Masters champion), Rory McIlroy (US Open) and Darren Clarke (Open Championship). And they’ll be joined in Abu Dhabi by Luke Donald, the current world number one, and three other players that have reached that summit; Martin Kaymer, the defending champion and three-time Falcon trophy winner, England’s Lee Westwood, and Tiger Woods.
However, it’s not just star players who are attracted to this region but leading architects too. The fact that such important tournaments are now regularly staged in this region is a sign of the calibre of courses and facilities. There are some truly outstanding courses here now and it’s a great time to visit, not only because of the guaranteed winter sunshine, but because they are offering incredible value for money due to increased competition for your green fees.
Courses have been built in recent years by star names such as Robert Trent Jones II, Jack Nicklaus with Ian Baker Finch, Gary Player, Desmond Muirhead with Colin Montgomerie, and Thomas Bjorn. Some of the newest are also among the most exciting. Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi is an incredible course featuring unrivalled panoramic ocean views and expansive bunkering. The Gary Player Design Championship Course has some of the most spectacular golf hole designs in the region and the Troon-managed course has justifiably received numerous awards over the past 12 months. A host of exclusive 5-star resorts will soon create one of the world’s best and most stylish golf destinations.
Also in Abu Dhabi is Yas Links, the new Kyle Phillips designed course which has been named “best course in the Middle East” by the prestigious Golf Course Architecture magazine. The world-class development on Yas Island, home to the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit, venue of the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the spectacular Ferrari World – the world’s largest indoor theme park – has received widespread critical acclaim. It is Phillips’ first course in the Middle East and it stands comparison with his other star designs such as Kingsbarns in Scotland, the highly-rated Verdura Golf and Spa Resort (Sicily), Dundonald (Scotland), and The Grove (London). His extraordinary links overlooking the Arabian Gulf rides rolling sand hills along three kilometres of coastline, and features nine coastline greens.
Other great courses in neighbouring Dubai include the Emirates Golf Club with its Majlis Course, designed by Karl Litten, which hosts the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic, and Faldo (Wadi) course, redesigned in 2005 by the six-time major winner Nick Faldo. Nearby is the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club with 27 holes by Ryder Cup star Thomas Bjorn and the landmark clubhouse designed to resemble the sails of a traditional Arab dhow.
The Nad Al Sheeba Club is completely floodlit for night play and features links-style double greens and crossing fairways. The Montgomerie Dubai, meanwhile, is a brilliant championship track by Colin Montgomerie and Desmond Muirhead with 14 lakes and 72 bunkers, plus the world’s largest green – the 58,000 square-foot 13th is built in the shape of the United Arab Emirates. Arabian Ranches Golf Course is another must-play track, designed by Jack Nicklaus with Ian Baker Finch. It has no water hazards, just desert sand bunkers. By contrast, the Al Badia Golf Resort, designed by Robert Trent Jones II, has 11 lakes in addition to several streams – no mean feat in engineering terms for this region!
With plenty of superb luxury hotels near all the courses, there really is something for everyone here now – and you could even combine a top notch golfing break with watching the stars battle it out at a top European Tour event like the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.