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.
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. While walking the golf course, I frequently found myself being more impressed with the architecture off the golf course than on the golf course.
Certain tee shots didn’t fit my eye, due to either awkward clusters of trees in the line of sight (e.g. the 5th hole) or doglegs with too severe angles. After 30 years of golf course construction in Dubai, the Majlis course is still regarded as the “best” which I take with a grain of salt, and it puts the quality of the other courses into perspective over 3 decades. The extreme heat also puts far too much strain on the grass which leads to excessive amount of maintenance.
Big name architects have generally not gravitated towards this region of the world to build golf courses because the land just isn’t interesting, or too challenging. The exception to this statement is Gil Hanse being hired to build 'Trump Dubai', but despite this contract, the reports on the course weren’t too encouraging either. After seeing the Maglis course and Abu Dhabi National, it made me appreciate Kyle Philips work down at Yas Links even more.