“An oasis of tranquillity carved out of the desert” is how Abu Dhabi Golf Club is billed and for once the marketing spin is correct. As a United Arab Emirates destination, Dubai is where most travelling golfers will head, but Abu Dhabi is where the mystique of ancient Arabia blends with a modern, cosmopolitan society. Most of the country comprises of arid desert called Rub Al Khali (or Empty Quarter) where the gigantic sand dunes are forever shifting in the winds. Abu Dhabi Golf Club is located a short drive, by car, from the modern high-rise skyline of Abu Dhabi city. With its striking clubhouse designed in the shape of a falcon with its wings outstretched, Abu Dhabi Golf Club really is the quintessential oasis.
Peter Harradine designed the 27 holes at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in 1998. The National is the championship course that hosts the annual $2m Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The event was inaugurated in 2006 and American Chris Dimarco took the title, which was lifted by England’s Paul Casey in 2007 and Germany's Martin Kaymer in 2008, his maiden European Tour victory. Casey won the title for the second time in 2009 and Martin Kaymer again claimed the Abu Dhabi Championship title in 2010 beating England’s Ian Poulter by just one stroke in a thrilling finish.
Kaymer triumphed again in 2011 claiming his third Abu Dhabi title in four years and in the process displaced Tiger Woods as number two in the world rankings. England’s Robert Rock held off the challenges of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Thomas Björn to win the 2012 title, claiming the biggest win of his career.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson claimed the 2013 title by one shot from Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy received a two-shot penalty in the third round of the 2014 event, allowing Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal to finish one shot ahead of the Northern Irishman and Phil Mickelson. Martin Kaymer threw away a six-shot final round lead in the 2015 event, finishing third behind runner-up Rory McIlroy. The winner, Frenchman Gary Stal, claimed his maiden European Tour title and also a European Tour exemption until the end of 2017.
Rickie Fowler lifted the title in 2016, winning by one shot from Thomas Pieters and the following year Tommy Fleetwood won by the same margin from Dustin Johnson. Englishman Fleetwood successfully defended his Abu Dhabi title in 2018 after carding just 30 strokes on the back nine of the final round in windy conditions.
The National course is generally regarded by the pros as a tough but fair challenge, but for the average golfer the 7,600-yard tips will no doubt prove too great a challenge. Saltwater lakes, ornamental trees and palms make the setting oasis-like with lush playing surfaces, bold, strategic bunkering coupled with large greens paint the Abu Dhabi picture. Nine holes feature water hazards, so take ample golf balls!
Famous for its clubhouse built like an enormous eagle, this course is one of grand scale. Like a lot of golf in the UAE it is fairly contrived, with a lot of forced carries and water in play. This makes for some fairly interesting strategic decisions, particularly on the 9th and 18th that go back to the aforementioned clubhouse, but in general here the challenge can outweigh the fun. Having said that, similarly for my recent post on El Cameleon, for the average golfer it is always interesting to tee it up where they have seen pros play a lot of golf (Abu Dhabi Championship).
I think that all golfers enjoy playing a course that hosts a big Tour event just to see how different your own game is when comparing with the players that earn a living from playing the game we all love. This is a strong tournament course hosting the annual HSBC sponsored Abu Dhabi Championship and after remembering some recent rounds at the event especially Shane Lowrey’s opening 62 in 2019 goes to show that the elite players are light years ahead of most amateurs.
I played in December 2019 just five weeks before the 2020 event and with the spectator stands going up, the tournament feel was already there. The course certainly rewards accuracy as the biggest protection is the deep rough, which will be even tougher for the pros as it will only get one more cut between my game and the event starting on the 16th Jan. During the Championship, accuracy from the tee will be where the best rewards will come from.
The course has been open for just over twenty years and should be on a play list when visiting Abu Dhabi, the onsite Westin resort is the perfect place as a base to explore the golf options and the other sightseeing activities - playing here in December was a delight and a great escape from the obvious dark winter days at home.
As well as the deep rough all around, there are lakes that come into play on around half of the holes and substantial sand hazards everywhere. My personal thoughts on the course is that technically it is very strong and without a doubt the very best players have the challenge that are always looking for but some holes are a little similar and in places predictable. Holes that I enjoyed a lot were the 3rd and the 11th - both shorter par-4's and both fairly dramatic dog-legs (3rd to the left and 11th to the right) - these holes got my attention because of choices from the tee; play to the dogleg and attack from there or for the longer hitters, take the corner route on for a potentially easier reward.
The greens on the National are really interesting with lots of places to run up a score if you get on the wrong side of the flags. A great green example is on the par-3 4th - a green much wider than it is deep and sloping from left to right, so an extreme right side pin is the toughest position.
Other holes that I enjoyed playing were the 9th, the 17th and the final hole. The par-4 17th requires a drive over water to a fairly small landing area which if the wind is against is as tough as any tee shot on the course. The 9th and 18th both play towards the familiar clubhouse with its famous falcon design which is now an iconic sight at the start of the European Tour Year with the first event of the Desert Swing.
Really pleased to have played the course (I think the white tees would be my choice next time as the greens played a touch long for me) and there are some similarities with the course at Dubai Creek just over an hour away - I do think that the current ranking of #7 in the UAE feels about right.
I consider the Abu Dhabi National Golf Course an excellent test of golf. I played the course twice in November 2019, once from the white tees (6,700 yards) and once from the green tees (6,300 yards). As a 9 handicapper, I enjoyed the overall test of golf better from the white tees but choose wisely to get maximum enjoyment from your round.
The presentation of the course was excellent. The greens weren't very quick but they ran very true. The sand in the bunkers was a joy to play from. All of the other grassed areas were nicely presented with no bare areas and the lies were excellent from the fairways and around the greens. Even the areas off the fairways or around the greens where there are a multitude of different bushes and trees were immaculately presented. The level of detail was very noticeable.
There are some very strong holes on the course. The 5th is a great right to left dogleg with a drive over a lake to a none to wide fairway and then on to a green where a high draw would be the best way to attack the flag. The 6th is a good straight par 4 with water to be carried on the approach shot. The 7th is a great par 3 over a lake to a green that sits across you but is none too wide and is long meaning there is a plethora of pin positions. The front nine concludes with a lovely par 4 taking you back to the clubhouse where the ideal line is straight at the body of the iconic falcon.
The back nine also offers some tremendous holes. The par 5 tenth is a great 3 shot hole with plenty of bunkers making life difficult as you try to navigate your way to the green protected by a big bunker in front on the right. My favourite though was the dog leg left to right 11th. You have place your tee shot into the right place over bunkers to have a short shot into a well defended green with plenty of slope from back to front.
A strong par 4 is to be found at the 14th where you must place your tee shot down the right-hand side of a fairway that has water none too far away. The second is to a well-protected green with either a long iron or a hybrid. Other strong holes are to be found at the par 4 17th where a tee shot over water to a well-protected fairway will leave you with a slightly uphill second shot to another green protected on both sides by bunkers. The 18th is a very testing par 5 where similar to the 10th hole, you have to negotiate plenty of strategically placed bunkers to find the green sitting in front of the iconic clubhouse.
Overall, Abu Dhabi National is a very fair golf course. Everything is right in front of you off the tee; it isn't tricked up anywhere over it's entire 18 holes and it's condition when I played was very good.
The practice facilites here are excellent to. A massive range with various targets, a sizeable chipping/pitching green with plenty of bunkers and a good sized putting green with plenty of slopes.
Finally, the Westin Hotel which is right next door to the golf course is excellent and worth a stay.
Played Abu Dhabi National a number of times alongside Yas Links, while in the UAE. I really like the course and the whole setting. It's definitely worth an overnight stay, with a fantastic Westin hotel on site.
The facilities, range and short game area are all first class - it is of course a European Tour stop so the level has to be high. The course itself is very strong without being tricked up. I really like the design of the holes and the routing. A mid handicapper like myself can shoot a decent score here. The greens are not too undulating and run true, while the fairways and hazards are well maintained. It's pretty much all in front of you. There is water but you have to be well off line to find it, except for a few forced carries over water but then you should pick the right tee for your game.
You don't even need a cart, as the course is very walkable. There are not many big distances between tees and greens, and both nines lead you back to the iconic clubhouse for some nice pictures.
I would rate AD National as the best course in Abu Dhabi, ahead of Yas. But for sure I'd play both, and have done so even in one day (but that was a long day).
AD National is highly recommended and I enjoy coming back and playing the course again and again. One word of warning though, if you're playing in the weeks leading up to the HSBC, beware of the rough. We played a round in December (the tournament is in January) and the rough was vicious to the point of not being able to find the ball again, if you threw it 10 metres ahead of you. You get an appreciation for what the pros do but I didn't enjoy that day so much. But when the rough is down, this is an awesome course where you can get around in a good score.
From the staff to the course Abu Dhabi is of the highest quality. The facilities are outstanding, the range is iconic and the clubhouse is just amazing. Upon arrival the staff were very helpful and our buggies were waiting and ready to hit some balls. The course is just superb, hit it straight and you’ll make a score, wayward off the tee will punish you. Class day and will be back!
Actually I'm surprised that Abu Dhabi National is not in Word TOP 100. Interesting, Why? I was played two weeks after The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Maybe this event had affect to perfect condition of fields, especially greens. They was extreamally fast! Fairways also was in really perfect condition like handmade carpet. All around was thoroughly arranged and maintained. Of course, golf field rating is always a subject with a lot of subjectivity, depending on various criteria. I always rating by the following criteria: course complexity or challenging, fields condition (especially greens & fairways), service (only what you can get: buggie, club rent, condition of clubs, the amount of choice and etc. except staff and other subjective things that depends on your or staff mood), surrounding views or pleasure to the eyes and definitely value for the price. All criteries will be rating from 1 to 5 stars. Concerning Abu Dhabi National my opinion is follow:
1. Challenging - 4*
2. Condition - 5*+
3. Service - 5*+ (comment: you can get everything from delivery of your bag from hotel to buggie, buggies with navigation and finally lot of complementary tees, divot repair tools and pich markers with club logo)
4. Surroundings - 4* (fields nice but flat and images around don't distracting player with beautiful views)
5. Value for the price - 5* (of course it isn't cheap here but you get premium quality).
I think Abu Dhabi National is one of the best golf courses in Mid-East and really must be in World TOP 100! Never played in better condition golf course!
Actually fields is not very dificult (except some holes) and procentage of GIR can be high for low hcp player, but it's not garantee acceptable final result :) Everything is in the greens. They are fast, unpredictable and with invisable slopes.
18 hole is top of the fields...with incredible view of big falcon - Abu Dhabi National clubhouse.
I will be back!
This course met my expectations from start to finish. It’s flat, very well conditioned and lots of man-made hazards to add some challenge.
Compared to Yas Links, this course is a lot less demanding and offers much more space off the tee.
It’s hard not to fill your camera with photos of the incredible clubhouse designed in the shape of a falcon bird in flight spying on its prey.
A very good course - we played about a month after the European tour had been placed, the course itself was in good condition and the course proved to be a good challenge. The only negative we have is that the greens were badly damaged due to the tour event and then the weather that the UAE had experienced the week before we arrived. This meant that the greens although still quick were badly damaged (diseased) and also had many 'spike' marks, it was disappointing especially since the cost of playing is rather high.