Dubai: Fairways in the desert

Frank Partridge aims for the green on the weather-defying golf courses of Dubai

In 1988, golf gained a proper foothold in Dubai with the inauguration of a real grass course (again, the first in the Middle East), designed to championship standard around the tall desert dunes, and charmingly appointed, with its clubhouse and outbuildings resembling Bedouin tents. The Emirates Golf Club attracted favourable reviews, and when it added a second 18-hole course in 1996 and earned a place on both the European and Asian professional tours, Dubai moved confidently on to the leader-board of essential winter golfing destinations. It's never looked back.

Today, the sandy old Country Club still hands out those squares of grass - mainly to casual players attracted by its unique character and low green fees. The overheads are minuscule compared with its swanky new neighbours, who need vast irrigation systems just to keep the precious green stuff alive. One new course, for example, has six man-made lakes. Three are genuine water hazards to catch the wayward drive; the other three are there just for irrigation. Countless gallons of water are pumped day and night along 16 miles of pipework to 700 computer-controlled sprinklers.

The new generation of golf clubs in Dubai are more like full-scale resorts than the traditional set-up of course, clubhouse and practice range. The Emirates Golf Club boasts two driving ranges, four tennis courts, two squash courts, a swimming pool, gymnasium and Le Classique, widely regarded as the best French restaurant in town. The Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, notable for its remarkable dhow-shaped clubhouse, has been redeveloped to include the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel, spa and lavish conference facilities. The course itself reopened last Christmas, having had several holes radically re-designed by Denmark's Ryder Cup player Thomas Bjorn.

Other star players to put their names to new developments are Colin Montgomerie, Greg Norman and Ernie Els. The Montgomerie course is intended to resemble a Scottish links, with undulating fairways, wide open spaces and vast putting surfaces - including the largest single green in the world, fashioned in the shape of the UAE. All that's missing are the dramatic vagaries of Scotland's climate. Most things are possible in Dubai, but not that.

Monty's course is nearly three years old, but the complex is still taking shape around it. A boutique hotel and dozens of holiday villas are being built around the perimeter. There is no shortage of spare land in Dubai, and one of the signature holes, the par-five 18th, uses a lot if it. It measures 656 yards from back tee to green. The prevailing wind blows into your face. You have to drive nearly 250 yards to clear a lake, and your second shot has to find a tiny landing area surrounded by water on three sides. Should you eventually reach it, the green is heavily protected by bunkers. If ever a hole should have an X-certificate attached, this is it. Green fees at The Montgomerie are in line with Dubai's eight major courses: £70 in high season between Sunday and Wednesday, and £89 from Thursday to Saturday.

By the end of the decade, Dubai will have twice as many courses as it does now. One new complex - of championship standard - is already appearing out in the desert, and another is being built on the outskirts of the city with the help of soil removed from the construction site of the new airport terminal. Here, so much earth is being moved and shaped at the command of the renowned American golf architect Robert Trent Jones II, that some of the fairways will soar to a most un-desert-like 70ft in height. Costing £93m, the Al Badia complex comes complete with luxury town houses and apartments, a golfing academy, and another of those ubiquitous five-star boutique hotels. It's yet another example of the emirate's determination to outdo the West at everything. And when it comes to playing a round of golf, between the months of October and February at least, it has already achieved that ambition.

Contact information: Details of all golf courses in Dubai can be found at or by calling 00 971 4380 1919; Emirates Golf Club: 00 971 4380 2222; Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club: 00 971 4295 6000; The Montgomerie: 00 971 4390 5600

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions