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Only 1 hour by car from Dubai International Airport and with 2 airports close to the city, Abu Dhabi is probably one of the best connected cities in the United Arab Emirates. While Dubai acts as the city of action, glitter and glamour, Abu Dhabi is a little more laid back in its manner. That is unless they are hosting the Formula 1 of course. The city serves up an amazing palette of entertainment and venues that are well worth the visit. My wife and I visited in December of 2019. This is the perfect time of the year to go if you want to avoid the blazing heat of the summer.
Troon Golf in Abu Dhabi
Established on YAS Island in 2010, the famous architect Kyle Philips designed the YAS Links Abu Dhabi – the first golf course in Abu Dhabi. You may know Kyle Philips as the designer of Kingsbarns and several other great tracks around the world. Next to YAS Links, sits the magnificent Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
This club has probably one of the most distinctive clubhouses in the region. The huge eagle, with its wings spread wide, is an easily recognisable landmark for the course. It is also serves as one of the deserts swing venues at the start of the European Tour season. Last but not least, Abu Dhabi has the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, designed by the Black Knight himself – Gary Player . All three courses are managed by Troon Golf. Troon are an international management company with over 500 golf courses and extremely high standards. They have just recently acquired the YAS Links and I’ve heard from members that great improvements have been made in the past 6 months.
Upon arrival, we were picked up by a Porsche Cayenne from the airport in Dubai. In about an hour we arrived at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa Hotel. Due to the time difference and the 3:00 AM arrival, we slept in the following morning, and enjoyed the fabulous breakfast at the Fairways restaurant. The breakfast choice was immense! There was literally something to taste from all around the world. And after breakfast, what can be better than lazing around the pool? It is situated in a beautiful green garden with friendly and attentive staff making sure you can enjoy everything in comfort. Late afternoon was a perfect time to pay a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The light around sunset is fabulous as it bathes the stunning architecture in magical colours. Very impressive and a must see when you go to Abu Dhabi.
Our second day started off with our first round of golf at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The club is located right next to the Westin Hotel which was very convenient! Our buggy was waiting, prepared with tee’s, fresh water and towels. We played it just 3 weeks before the European Tour HSBC tournament so the course was in excellent condition.
If you would like to read a more detailed account of the course you can read my review on Abu Dhabi Golf here!
We concluded our day of golfing with a relaxed dinner on the terrace of the clubhouse with some nice views of the golf course. This is a more casual restaurant and was one of our favourites of the trip. The clubhouse also has a more upscale restaurant – The Grille. This is another great dining option that we experienced later in the week.
Night Time Entertainment
Next to the 18 holes Championship course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, there is a full size 9 hole course. This course (also owned by Troon Golf), is floodlit until about 11pm and is great if you want to play in the summertime. It’s much more bearable (and safe) to play when the sun is gone. You can also play it during the day, so it is one more extra course right next to your room.
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club
On the third day we played an early morning round at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. The course is designed by Gary Player and is probably my favourite of the trilogy. Every hole gives something different and the immense bunkers and waste areas mean that sometimes on the tee you have no idea where to hit it. You really need to know your distances and commit to the shot on this course. On the other hand, when you finally do play it, and walk up to where your ball landed, the course opens up. It looks much more benign on the second shot than it looks from the tee and higher handicaps can set a decent score here.
Another very special experience are the many wild antelopes that are living around the golf course. We were lucky to see many of them throughout our game.
If you would like to read a more detailed account of the course you can read my review on Saadiyat Beach Golf Club here!
The Saadiyat Beach Club
After the round at Saadiyat we made our way to the Saadiyat Beach Club for lunch and some beach time. This is an excellent location, close to the golf course and a super spot to take weight off the feet. It offers 2 restaurants, a bar, a fabulous club, live entertainment around the pool and great access to the beach.
We finished the day with a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. It’s just a short drive away from Saadiyat, and is highly recommended to include this in your visit. The architecture of the building itself is already a must-see and it hosts some interesting exhibitions too. Even when travelling with kids this would be an interesting stop to make.
YAS Links Abu Dhabi
On our final day of golf we travelled to the very first course created on YAS Island, the YAS Links Abu Dhabi. Troon Golf was selected to manage Yas Links in 2019 and was designed by Kyle Phillips. Phillips is the famous American architect also responsible for Kingsbarns in Scotland among others. The course is located on a beautiful piece of land, almost completely on the waterfront and provides some amazing holes.
Read my more detailed review of Yas Links here!
Where to Stay?
When playing the courses in Abu Dhabi, the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa Hotel is a great base. The Abu Dhabi Golf Club is but a step away from the breakfast terrace, there are great training facilities and excellent rooms complete with views of the golf course. There are also several great choices for dinner on the premises. We found the staff be super friendly and they really made us feel at home during our stay in Abu Dhabi.
Besides these three amazing golf courses, Abu Dhabi also hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix at YAS Marina Circuit (right next to YAS Links). So if you are looking for more excitement off the golf course, there is plenty to find in Abu Dhabi.
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