x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rake's progress is a given for golfers at Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

The beautiful golf course lives up to its name, there's plenty of sand and water

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National )
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National )

Do not forget to take a caddie when you play golf at Saadiyat Beach.

It would be better to take a mandala master, one of the Zen monks who create intricate sculptures from sand to assist them on their path to enlightenment. There are 10 hectares of sand at Saadiyat piled into the most creatively conceived array of bunkers, traps and wastelands you could imagine.

With this in mind, it is inevitable most golfers spend a good portion of their 18 holes trying to strike the little ball from a powdery white surface rather than a solid green one. And raking. There is a lot of raking.

But the huge quantity of sand was all part of Gary Player's concept in designing Saadiyat Beach, which, like all of the former champion's renowned courses, is built in keeping with its environment.

"Saadiyat is on the beach, so the sand and the course design are supposed to be in line with that. It is as if you are truly playing golf on a course that is at the beach," says Franco Botha, one of the assistant pros at Saadiyat.

The huge area of sand also cuts down on the inevitably high maintenance costs of keeping an 18-hole championship-standard golf course going in a desert environment.

Paul Booth, the director of club operations, is one of the only employees at Saadiyat Beach who has been around since the design stage began, before the first tee box was constructed.

"The use of carefully thought-out landscaping, plants that are indigenous to the region and the hot environment, along with 10 hectares of bunkers, sees minimal water usage required," he says.

The course is also home to all manner of wildlife, with gazelles grazing quietly off the fairway, turtles nesting in a protected area on the beach and a menagerie of bird life.

"It is very peaceful out here, surrounded by nature," Mr Botha says. "The gazelles haver got used to the golfers these days and they don't run off. You can watch them grazing for a while without any trouble." As he speaks two gazelles butt heads in a rehearsal for a territorial battle.

Player does not design so-called signature holes on his courses, rather every hole is unique and special, according to his design ethos. But the 16th at Saadiyat is perhaps the most picturesque hole that also sums up the course in a microcosm.

The sweeping view from the tee to the green is bordered on the horizon by the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. The fairways are impeccable, the greens like a billiard table and, of course, there is plenty of sand.

 

jdoran@thenational.ae