The Emirates Golf Club is the inspiration of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his Royal Pavilion – styled in the fashion of a Bedouin tent – nestles behind the 8th green. The Majlis course opened for play in 1988 and it was the first 18-hole grass golf course to open in the Middle East. The layout follows a blueprint by Karl Litten and it’s literally carved through the desert. Narrow green ribbons of fairway wind their way through natural slightly undulating terrain. Expect to play a few sand shots at The Emirates Club.
Without doubt, the Majlis course is one of the finest layouts in the United Arab Emirates and it’s the well-known venue of the Dubai Desert Classic tournament, which always attracts the world’s best players. The Majlis course now stretches out to some 7,301 yards from the tips with par set at 72. Tall desert dunes frame the perimeter of the course and numerous salt and freshwater lakes come into play on several holes.
Large, fast greens are a hallmark of the Emirates Club and these slick putting surfaces can cause great problems for club golfers, especially if the Course Manager is feeling mean with his pin placements.
A cluster of memorable holes will stick in the mind, especially the par three 7th which must carry the full length of a lake and, as with all great courses, the Majlis has a wonderful closing hole which requires an approach shot across yet another lake to a long and thin double green which is fashioned in the shape of a bow tie. The hopes of a number of potential Desert Classic winners – including Ian Woosnam and Tiger Woods – have been dashed at this wicked par five closing hole.
The clubhouse is also well known and is one of Dubai’s amazing landmarks. In a similar vein to the Royal Pavilion, the clubhouse represents a cluster of Bedouin tents. It goes without saying that inside it’s a sumptuous experience.
Home to the Dubai Desert Classic, the Emirates Golf Club would be far from my favorite type of course as a self-proclaimed purist. However, one thing they most certainly had to work with was sandy soil. This club is truly the closest I have ever come to the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz and I’m now 99.9% certain that the surrounding city skyline was carefully planned after this wild idea. It’s amazing what can happen in the course of 20 years. If you see old photos there were no buildings in the backdrop at all when this course was built. Now it’s clear the Wizard has been busy. Please see my photo here to understand what I mean.
As for the course, it’s actually quite fun and has some decent holes, to be fair all of which are challenging and can be played back to near ridiculous lengths due to the tour event. I would say there are far more hard doglegs here both to the left and right than most courses you will run into. I guess that just goes to prove that this course was built to host big events and challenge the world’s best. Now that’s not always a good thing but it is one of the cases where a large part of the draw to this course is so you can play what you see on TV. Now that’s always fun but I wouldn’t want to make a hobby of it.
On my day there I was playing with a few friends and clearly over powered and out classed. These guys made the course look pretty easy. To be fair one was playing to a +6 hcp which makes my (- 5) hcp a bit humorous. Though we are talking 11 shots minimum differential. The course is a fun challenge for him but with the lack of tournament conditions and pressure he swept up with a rather mundane 65. Nothing fancy there but it seems there are several birdie holes I didn’t translate as such. He just hit it over all the doglegs as did our other + hcp playing partners. The strategy at Emirates is much different if your average drive carries 280 yards. Then indeed there are quite a few birdie holes.
The greens were fairly undulating, smallish, fast and bumpy. The course obviously gets a lot of play and ups its maintenance game around the big event. Much of the rest of the year they are treading a careful balance between not killing off the grass in the high temperatures and keeping a moderate level of maintenance. The grasses seem quite similar to what you might find in Florida and the strain of Bermuda they are using is very sticky and tough to play out of around the greens. A 60-degree wedge is a staple when missing greens.
All in all, the course delivers an interesting day and a surreal experience in what I can only literally refer to as a cartoon-like setting. A great experience but I certainly wouldn’t ask for it by name though I’d love to have another round soon with my buddies who are playing there. However, maybe I’d do better to just caddy for them and see how the 0.01% handle such a place.
There is no other way to describe this course as than Incredible. Simply the best condition I have seen (and will most likely see) a golf course in. We were lucky enough to play the week after the pros had been on for the Dubai Desert Classic. I had been there earlier in the week to play the Faldo under the floodlights and I had been looking forward to this all week.
We played with a member who had retired at 40 and lives the life with houses in Dubai, Portugal and close to Royal Birkdale back home! A very nice guy and a great guide.
From arriving, as with most courses abroad, bags disappeared instantly from the valet's and we were set to explore the magnificent venue. The locker room was a very unique shape and nice to see the lockers the previous winners of the annual event held there as well as a club from each winners bag. Upon arrival we were also given as many tee's as we wanted, and a lovely ceramic bag tag which is still standing proud on my bag!
The practice range and balls are incredible, I love a grass range and I spent a few other evenings down there in the evening under the lights hitting balls. I couldn't get enough (My wallet could though!)
A three putt on the first and a perfectly hit bunker shot landing 2 foot from the lip still ending up in the water a good 50 feet away (greens that quick) wasn't the best of starts. I also didn't get the memo that the 18th and 9th green were shared, so when my partner told me the pin was 156, I conveniently didn't see the 9th pin and aimed straight at the 18th pin, which was a few more yards away (splash, double!)
The back 9 was a lot better for me, birdie on the 215 yard par 3 and a birdie down the last off the pro tees I was over the moon with. All the sponsor hoardings and stands did make the experience even more phenomenal, walking through the media tent on the way from the 18th.
The layout is incredible, the views are even better, you quite simply have to play here if you can. The 8th is the money shot, off the tee you have the perfect chance for a photo with all of the towers behind you, well most holes have that too! The layout I could argue that Dubai Creek was on par with, but the overall experience and condition of the course is on a different level. The only negative, £250 a round, £10 a pint and £15,000 pa membership! Maybe in another life!
Played: January 2018
Walk between tees/ Course Congestion: 9/10
OVERALL SCORE : 47/50
The early days of golfing in the vast desert of Dubai involves the creation of the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club in 1998. Over the years, numerous iconic images from this course have become known around the world including the Bedouin tents for the clubhouse and of course the jaw-dropping skyline of Dubai that grabs your attention from many optimal vantage points. Over the past 20 years, Dubai has exploded with luxurious and state-of-the-art construction. Skyscrapers firms competing left, right and centre with each other for the tallest or most attractive tower in town.
As expected, the golf course is flat which wasn’t a surprise and with the annual visit from the European Tour, many more bunkers have been added to block access to greens or catch stray tee shots.
The extreme heat also puts far too much strain on the grass which leads to excessive amount of maintenance.
Played the Majlis course in January 2001, just ahead of the Desert Classic which I watched with interest as Thomas Bjorn went on to win. Naturally I went for it on the 18th and dumped my approach shot into the lake! Make no mistake, this is a good course and a most impressive club. I played Dubai Creek which is also a decent track. We stayed at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort which has a cracking little 9-hole course attached… well worth playing too.
My overriding memory of the Majlis, apart from the heat, the sand and the flatness, was the size of the greens, they are huge. I found myself miles away from the pins on numerous occasions and managed more three putts than I care to remember. The 5th is a solid par four which asks serious questions with the approach across a lake and the 7th is a super par three.
If you visit Dubai, I’d recommend both the Majlis and the Wadi (now called the Faldo course). I'm sure better golfing options will appear in the UAE over time to eclipse the Majlis, but it's well worth playing if only to follow in the footsteps of the pros.