The Els Club was the first completed venue within a multi billion dollar development at Dubai’s Sports City that now includes the world’s first purpose-built Manchester United Soccer School facility, the ICC's own Global Cricket Academy, the first ever World Hockey Academy and a David Lloyd Tennis Academy. They've certainly not stinted here at Dubai Sports City.
Laid out in two returning loops of nine holes within the exclusive “golf course villa community” of Victory Heights, this 18-hole championship course has been designed for golfers of every handicap, with a choice of four tees at every hole.
A fair amount of sand was shifted when forming this “desert links,” adding definition to a relatively flat landscape that now features sizeable water hazards at holes 7 and 15.
No doubt golfing purists will groan when they first see the highly contrasting, snowy white sand that lines the fairway and greenside bunker complexes here but then global golfers who play in Dubailand® would hardly expect anything else…
"The Els Club combines the best of all the great clubs that I have played worldwide. The golf challenge is second to none. I am really proud of what we have achieved here. Whether you are an 18 handicap or a scratch golfer, it will be a great test of golf. This course is something very special. I think you can make a course challenging for the best players in the world but at the same time enjoyable for the rest of the world's golfers. We've done that here." Ernie Els 2008.
Dubai Sports City is also the base for the first Butch Harmon School of Golf outside the United States. Run by son of legendary golf coach Butch Harmon, Claude Harmon III has coached the 2008 US Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman and other tour pros including Darren Clarke and Adam Scott. The facility houses a state-of-the-art performance institute which includes physical screening and three dimensional video analysis for the students. If you’ve failed to conquer Ernie’s course due to a hook or slice, head over to the Golf School for a tune-up.
January is an incredible time of the year to play golf in Dubai and it was complemented with friends old and new. A hit and giggle with friends can be replicated anywhere in the world and unfortunately this course should not replicated. I’m surprised to read that this course had bunkers inspired from Royal Melbourne and a layout from British links courses, because none of that architecture was evident when I played the course. It would be a nice start if they had intended for the aprons and green surrounds to accommodate the running shot like they do on the Sandbelt. Instead you had the greens surrounded with short rough which did not reward nor punish a player. With that being said the ground staff had the greens playing in superb condition and should be commended for their efforts on the course in maintaining this course in the most difficult of environments. The overall feeling of the Els Club was to challenge the modern day golfer and challenge they did by making some holes, like the 9th borderline impossible to play and enjoy. This is coming from someone who hit the strategically perfect drive off the tee to find no where to physically attack any pin location let alone find a conservative place to find par. I understand that this maybe a course not to my taste and for those with a thirst of punishment would enjoy, but after proceeding through “the Lions Den” it clearly highlighted the courses lack of foresight and execution. Fortunately for the resourceful nature of golf in this region, the course may be able to stay viable, even after the words of a 25 year old that no one listens to. But if the course was placed next to Royal Melbourne, it would not be able to survive for several reasons. Too expensive, too high in maintenance and not enough restraint shown to produce a quality course, that the Middle East is yearning for…
It's lovely. An excellent setting through Dubai sports city which wonderfully encompasses both the lush design as well as the natural desert setting. The greens are all raised and famous for being impossible to hit. A good short-game is a must to navigate them, which comes as a pay-off for the wide fairways. The conditions are never anything short of pristine and the greens are as quick as anywhere, barring the majlis. There isn't much water to speak of but the aforementioned desert creates enough of hazard to keep golfers honest.
Best Hole: 15- One of the few holes where water comes into play, it typically plays as #1 on the stroke index. The water runs the entire way down the right-hand side of the hole so anything sliced is gone. The fairway is narrow and well protected on the other side with deep rough and bunkers. The green is elevated with a large collection area to the front and right-hand side for anything short.
Some of the best practice facilities I have seen at a course- with European Tour players regularly here tuning up their games. The course has relatively wide fairways mostly lined with houses, and greens that run quick and are elevated. Despite the condition, there weren’t many memorable holes here and even unlike other UAE courses there aren’t many that come immediately to mind. The 7th and 15th are played around water, and I enjoyed the 12th green setting, but nothing else for me stood out.
I played Els a number of times while in Dubai, and always enjoyed it. It's a classy place, and you realise that the moment you pull up at the clubhouse.
The range (doublesided with the Butch Harmon school on one end) is excellent however sometimes they make you hit from mats (which at this price point and in this location shouldn't be the case). There is a nice short game area too and a few putting greens, one right outside the club house terrace. The putting greens are representative of the course as well.
The course itself is a strong offering but it is a 'resort' course and by that I mean that you have houses left and right of it. I'm not the biggest fan of that but the golf course itself is strong enough to get away with it. The fairways and greens are excellently maintained. However, Els seems to have a penchant for raised greens and difficult run off areas which sometimes make the course a bit unfair I'd say. The 9th hole is a case in point, it's a long par 4 with a green that is quite severely sloped and raised up from the fairway. With a long iron in as your second shot, you probably won't hold the green unless you're a low low handicapper and the up and down is very difficult. A layup is a better strategy but even then it's not guaranteed that you can stop the ball on the green with your third shot. The same happens on the 10th hole and I just don't enjoy such green complexes that much and find them a bit unfair.
One word on the Butch Harmon School - this is just an awesome place and if you're looking for a few lessons I highly recommend the guys led by Jamie. Many Tour pros come here to tune up their game ahead of the Middle East swing so you can find yourself practising next to Tommy Fleetwood for example. It's a really great place.
Els is a fine course but I prefer the simplicity of Abu Dhabi National or the scenery of Yas Links. But if you're in Dubai, you should play here.
After playing the Majlis, Earth & Fire courses on this trip, The Els Club was certainly in the best condition of them all. All the fairway and greens surfaces were verdant green. Also, the greens have noticeably less grain than the other courses which made putting a lot easier. Being the first time I have played The Els Club, I was surprised by all the housing on the course since the website photos suggesting that the course is located in a barren and undeveloped desert. That said, there is a surprising amount of room between the housing developments and there is not sense of confinement. What the layout lacks in terms of architectural detail, it makes up in the fact that it is probably the most playable course in Dubai. It one has just arrived and has a little jetlag, this might be the ideal first stop on a golf holiday. The course has two loops (front & back) that intersect at one stage (the 7th and 15th holes). As a result, there is not tedious back-and-forth parallel golf. This journey is kept relatively interesting. The practice facilities are excellent (this is where Rory McIlroy tunes his game while staying at his home in Dubai). There is also a Butch Harmon School of Golf, but like the one in Macau, it is kind of a franchise operations with Harmon only making the occasional ceremonial/promotion visit. Finally, the club has the best clubhouse in the region. For one, it isn't under construction (like Jumeirah, and the renovations at The Montgomerie), it has plenty of room, and the restaurant has a very good menu and a great patio over looking the 9th and 18th greens.