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.
Date: December 29, 2019