Having opined on the darker side of this game/sport called golf, it is high time its lighter side deserved a mention. How lucky are we to live and play the courses in the UAE. They are among some of the best in the world with facilities that match — though there are exceptions.
Now, I must admit upfront that (even with help from HSBC and all the right gear) there are courses here where I am yet to be allowed to play, and perhaps quite rightly so. Yas Links and Saadiyat being some, though I have had the pleasure of walking Abu Dhabi during the Championship.
The ones I have played to date include: Ranches, Creek, Els, Fire and Earth at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Jebel Ali, Montgomerie, Abu Dhabi City, Emirates Golf Club Majlis and Faldo, Tower Links, Dubai Hills, Meydan, Al Badia, Sharjah, Al Zorah and — mentioning it quietly — Trump.
How can the experience be compared?
Approach: I am torn here between the rolling green and obvious affluence of the Montgomerie or the entry into JGE and the waters (hazards) of the 16th hole on Fire on the left and the 18th on the right: but, perhaps Monty edges it.
Refreshments: The coffee provided can differ greatly in quality. Most courses are aware of the fact that players get up at dawn and have a great hot beverage offer. Some, sadly, have regressed, being taken over by a high street chain who refuses to offer fresh milk in their coffee — shame to penny pinch in that way.
Other on-course refreshment is largely hit and miss and works well where permanent kiosks are provided. The carts driving around are best used for cold towels, icy soft drinks, and pick-me-ups of chocolate. As for menus, a lot of the clubs offer similar bar-style food and cold drinks so, really, I suppose the clincher here in the UAE, especially as winter comes in, is the view. so ...
19th hole: I did ask for T's view on this but, as he´s never stayed long enough to pay for refreshments, he has refused to comment at this time. As everyone in Dubai knows, a water view commands a premium so, again, Jebel Ali with the yachts, the Creek’s landing seaplanes, and Al Zorah’s mangrove forests come out on top.
Buggies: The ideal conveyance for a hot cappuccino, now host satellite & entertainment systems and food ordering facilities. Players can often be seen plugging music into their buggy. Why? Unless your partner is particularly boring, it boggles the mind: with that being said, a couple of guys I play with have started to … oh! One of my favourite courses, Jebel Ali, does not fare well in this regard and some upgrades are awaited. It also amazes me that generally qualified people who drive better than Tiger Woods and survive the 311 daily are subject to auto breaking carts and Sat Nav limiters that go wrong and have you going backwards more regularly than Man United under Ole.
Nature’s residents: As someone whose home course in Wales is open to grazing sheep, wildlife on course here can astound. At Jebel Ali, you get to see free-roaming springbok, desert fox, the beautiful blue Indian roller bird, and, of course, the prerequisite Dubai peacocks. Hills is doing well in that regard but is, as yet, too new. Thankfully, courses now employ a hawker to hunt crows, a dreaded sandwich stealing pest across the UAE.
Other facilities: To me, Montgomerie and Dubai Creek are brilliant, even taking your shoes and cleaning them! In summer, most courses (thankfully) offer iced towels for your head or, in MOT’s case, to sit on — more of that later — and you are never too old to enjoy a complimentary iced lolly or two.