x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

World's first tidal golf course planned

Developers say they have taken the highest precautions to ensure that minimum damage is done to the local ecology.

The course will be built on the wetlands of Saadiyat Island.
The course will be built on the wetlands of Saadiyat Island.

ABU DHABI // Surrounded by water for parts of the day and flanked by mangrove forests at others, a planned golf course is being billed as the first in the world that will dramatically alter its landscape during play. The 18-hole course in the wetlands of Saadiyat Island will be partially flooded at high tide, reverting to an area of channels and gullies intertwined with mangroves as the sea recedes. The tees, fairways and greens will in effect be plateaus. As golfers play, the landscape surrounding each hole will transform from glistening expanses of water to muddy tidal flats and back again. "When the tide comes in it will flow in and around all of the platforms that the fairways will be built on, which will make it a pretty spectacular experience during high tide, but the site will also be quite beautiful when the tide retracts because it exposes the mangroves and the wildlife that lives there," said DJ Flanders, who is responsible for the course's technical and operational development. "A golfer could tee off at one time of the day when the front side is surrounded by water and go to the backside as the tide retracts. The following day they could play the golf course and have the exact opposite experience." The 71-hectare course is being designed by Robert Trent Jones II, whose courses have hosted golf's leading tournaments. His Wentwood Hills course at Celtic Manor in Wales is the planned venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Some of the holes will feature island tees surrounded by water at high tide and linked to the fairways by boardwalks. More than one kilometre of boardwalks will be used on the course. "The distinctive terrain presents us with a challenge and an opportunity to deliver a course like no other in the region, if not the world," Mr Jones said. "The wetlands allows us to give full rein to our vision of creating golf courses where nature works in harmony with the values of the game." The design of the Saadiyat Island course, Mr Jones's second project in the UAE after Al Badia course at the Four Seasons Golf Club Dubai Festival City, is due for completion this year and construction is expected to start in early 2009. Its location in the Saadiyat Reserve District is an area of lagoons and mangroves that are home to such wildlife as sea turtles and desert birds. The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which commissioned Mr Jones to design the course, said it would do its best to protect the delicate environment. "TDIC has been extremely cautious and has taken a long time to get this site prepared for golf," said Mr Flanders, the general manager of the TDIC-Troon golf alliance and the former general manager of Abu Dhabi Golf Club. "I've never seen a golf course take as long or be as detail-orientated to make sure we're not hurting nature." Mr Flanders said TDIC hired a specialist in mangrove habitats as a consultant, and would plant two mangroves for every one damaged. He said holes would be redesigned if necessary to avoid affecting mangroves and wildlife. Golfers will be restricted from entering the mangrove areas at low tide. "It would be immature to say we'll have a 100 per cent success rate and not negatively impact some mangroves, but we'll replant those areas," he said. Lee Tabler, the chief executive of TDIC, noted that Mr Jones was well known for designs that integrate golf courses with coastal wetlands and other sensitive environments. "His courses are acknowledged for enhancing habitats while creating playable courses rich with strategic variety," Mr Tabler said. "These design traits fit extremely well with our plans for Saadiyat Reserve and also with TDIC's own corporate ethos of strong and tangible environmental stewardship." rditcham@thenational.ae