Rob, a member of the club at Jumeirah Golf Estates, kindly contributed the following article:
Although only open since January 2010, the Fire course – another Greg Norman creation at the Jumeirah Golf Estates – truly deserves to be featured on the Top 100 website.
In fact most friends and fellow members I speak to actually prefer the Fire course to the more acclaimed Earth course (host to the Dubai World Championships final), but in reality the two courses are actually diametrically opposed in most ways.
The Fire course is advertised as more of a links-like track – long reed grasses bordering many holes, different grasses, sand and surfaces used, more exposed to wind due to its position around the edge of the club – and this certainly rings true.
The key differences for me (and most amateur golfers) is that the course is frankly not as scary as Earth. Not to say that it’s not tough – far from it, but the new handicap course rating puts Fire at 110 (compared to Earth’s 140), meaning an 18 handicap player would typically get 25 shots depending on tees played, compared to 20 or so on Fire.
So why is this? Well, the greens on Fire are more ‘normal’ shall we say. Slower, yes, but not slow by any international standards. They are just a little more manageable. The fairways are easier to strike more consistently from in my opinion – that is to say compared to Earth there appears to be more soil/grass to allow a divot. Earth requires precise ball striking every time and any divot before the ball strike typically digs the club in and results in 50% power loss.
What I am trying to say is that Fire is more of a ‘conventional’ course in my opinion. It plays like you want it to. Visually stunning for sure with fantastic elevation and undulation – a real overall test in terms of depth perception and approach distance.
The back nine offers two or three great birdie opportunities. The par fives are such a joy to play, offering 350-yard drive chances if the ball catches the correct places on the down slopes. If the wind is blowing against you, the par fives can require three strong shots to reach the greens. If the wind’s with you, two shots are quite achievable and us mere mortals have the excitement of putting for eagle.
In summary, the Fire course is now regarded as one of the region’s finest. A true test of golf but also a realistic one – it goes without saying, but stick to the fairways off the tee and Fire will offer you great scoring chances. At the same time, stray from the fairways and it’ll eat you up for breakfast. Risk and reward holes abound, and the wind plus subtle elevation changes always leave the golfer having to think about the shot and club selection.
Perhaps for that reason, I consider Fire the thinking person’s course. One that you need to treat with respect, but also one that will reward good shot/course management. The overriding pleasure for me, as a regular Fire course player, is simply how at peace you feel out there. As the club is rarely busy (and with 15-minute tee intervals) you find yourself on a fantastically manicured and conditioned course without anyone else in sight – hardly ever a wait or queue. For me, the Fire course, along with Abu Dhabi Golf Club and perhaps the Els Club– are the finest courses in the region.
This is a very good course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, and I feel a much stronger ‘second’ course to the Earth versus what the Faldo is to the Majlis at Emirates Golf Club. Turning the Fire Course into a fully flood lit course for evening golf would be an amazing investment and one I hope comes to fruit given how much more I enjoy playing here versus the Faldo (but I imagine this will may never come to be given the many houses adjacent to the course).
Truthfully, I really am fond and genuinely rate this club and course very very highly indeed. It’s friendly members, the very visible and approachable CEO, the staff and what is unquestionably home to the best academy in the region all make it an exceptional golfing destination.
This said there are a some notable points of attention. Firstly, yes the course is largely in very good condition - truly, and whilst it is clearly played with quite some frequency I think having more staff manning the course could make it even better in the long-term but also throughout the playable day. The greens are not super challenging but are fun and good, however with each time I have played here they have taken some pounding from incoming approach shots (yet still remain a strong ‘good’). It may be my misfortune to have experienced them as such but I have found myself a every so slightly wanting in this department. The cart paths leading from one hole to the next were not at all well sign-posted and in many instances sandy/dusty which is a pity (and an easy fix for the club). The half-way replenish stops whilst open were not staffed which was strange and somewhat a shame. Having played here on many an occasion and using the (world class) academy to practice within, I have to say unequivocally it’s an excellent, well-managed club top to bottom and an enjoyable, challenging course from the further tees. The course has the option to chose from one of the five tee boxes: Championship, Tournament, Composite, Signature and Forward (none of which were novel as I think many other courses are guilty of) which was excellent.
Service wise, the staff are dare I say it amongst the best at any Dubai golf club: warm, well-trained, attentive and friendly. Because it deserves a worthy mention this starts at the vibrant bag drop, continues to the pro shop, extends to the starters and doesn’t stop even in the restaurants where even the chef was kind of enough to meet my each request. There has been just the one sour moment in all my time playing, practising and visiting here, which was when once I had played here we had a starter (wrongly) suggest we go to the 10th tee instead of the 1st due to traffic on course, only for a different starter to send us back to the 1st after teeing off (!) and then not having my ball recovered as promised (although I can at least say they did replace my Pro V1 and gave me an extra which was a gesture appreciated). It didn’t end there however as we were approached some 90 minutes later at the 8th or the 9th green (of our now first-9) by yet another different (and very surprisingly rude and poorly spoken) marshal who claimed we tried to ‘jump ahead’ without permission at our assigned tee-off time which was some 8/9 holes earlier due to their own organisational error. He did not apologise after realising his mistake nor acknowledge his poor etiquette and my playing partner and I put it down to him having a bad day - fortunately it was good riddance but it did (sadly) put us off our final putts of the hole. Fortunately when we took to the 10th for second time it was well behind us. I put the little incident down to a one-off that won’t stop me playing weekly as I am fortunate to be able to do.
As a final and perhaps unusual submission to the review, I must say the bunkers here are always in just the most fantastic condition (which I acknowledge is a strange observation but most noteworthy). Many of the other bunkers in the region simply don’t play as challenging, nor are close to having as much consideration in their positioning, depth, heigh and sand type - and it brought back some very fond memories of Royal Lytham St Anne’s. Simply, they are great - strategically placed across the 18, making the course that bit more fun and challenging.
A very very good course and an exceptional Golf Club - a must play and visit.
A bit of an underrated gem, which tends to live in the shadow of its sister course, Earth. Nothing should be taken away from fire though which is an excellent course in its own right. It lacks the water and arguably the breathtaking signatures holes of Earth but it's tighter and the bunkering is as difficult as anywhere in Dubai. Like all courses in the emirate, it's always in excellent condition although the greens lack the pace of some of the other courses in Dubai.
Best Hole: 12- Again, the course lacks a signature hole but 12 is probably the best example of what the course is about. A short par 4 playing just over 300 yards the entire final 100-yard stretch consists of bunkers staggered up the side of a hill in front of the green. Get your lay-up wrong and you'll be in the bottom bunker, get your approach wrong and you'll be in the top one. The green is narrow to ensure that anything long will leave you with a chip which, you guessed it, will be caught by the bunker behind if long.