Peter Harradine was the architect behind the 18-hole championship layout at Mirage City in the late 1990s – returning a decade later to add a 9-hole par 32 executive layout – and his design company has been very busy in recent times with another couple of large scale Egyptian projects at Uptown Cairo, close to the capital city and Marassi, near Alamein on the Mediterranean coast.
With ponds and streams in play at nearly every hole, golfers must be switched on right from the first tee shot, otherwise a substantial number of golf balls will find a watery grave during the round. By way of leveling out the hazards, bunkering around the greens is light – but, of course, that slight concession to protecting par is only relevant if preceding shots have remained dry and in play.
Feature holes on the card include the 578-yard 8th (a par five with water running down the entire right side of the fairway and a large lake that threatens the approach shot to the green) and the 167-yard 12th (a downhill par three that plays over water to a green with a large rock wall surrounding the back of the hole).In October 2010, the European Challenge Tour came to town for the Egyptian Open – a competition dating back to 1921 – and among the players competing at Mirage City was the then world number 9 ranked player, Rory McIlroy. Unhappily for him, he couldn’t match Mark Tullo’s winning score of twelve under par for the event.
A huge moorish styled clubhouse sits high on a hill overlooking to first tee from its balcony. Located to the right as you take the walk to the clubhouse is an expansive practice area with prime turf to hit from aqnd numerous chipping and putting greens, no expense spared here! The area around the golf course is dotted with high end residential development and it is located within the compound of thE 5 Star J.W Marriott,( which might I add is one of the best hotels I have ever had the privilege of staying in). It appeared to me that this was where the wealth of Cairo resided and a quick look at the membership board confirmed this with a raft of Asian, ex-pat and Spanish names present.
The February tempertaures in Cairo demand that one must take a buggy, so much against my own principles I conceded and loaded my clubs onto the cart,after 4 holes I cant say I was offering to change my mind.
The course opens with a lovely medium length par4, a huge lake will gobble up anything missed to the left, but there is plenty of room to the right and in reality the hole is a 3 iron and a wedge offering a very real opening birdie to kick start your round. This opening birdie may come in very handy for as you stand on the 2nd tee and take in what lies ahead a 5 is a real possibility, water rightt, desert scrub left it takes two of your finest shots to be on in regulation, as said 5 is nothing to be sniffed at here. from here the courese winds it way in a figure of eight shape back up toward the clubhouse, holes 4 ( a cape type bit off as much as you can chew par 4) and 6( a long par 5 with a huge exapanse of water all the way up the left side, offering a real do/die option on the second shot). If the golfer can stand on the tents tee with any less than 40 on his card , he should be a happy man.
Holes 10,11 and 12 Probably represent Mirage City's version of Amen Corner. The 10th is a par 4 where ones tee shot is key,find the fairway and a medium iron to the green is a real possibility, if not be prepared to write a 5 or worse on the card. The 11th is the best of what are a collection of 4 tremendous par 5's, containing all the hallmarks of Harradine's design, risk/reward, water, a green with plenty of character but most importantly a chance if played the right way to pick up a stroke. At the end of this stretch comes a delightful litte par 3, played downhill over a pond to a green set in a natural amphitheatre, well below the level of its surroundings. Holes 14, 15 and 17 all have danger present at every turn on the way in and the as for the 18th it would not be anywhere near a list of holes I would pick from if I needed a 4 to win a match. A tight tee shot played to the elbow of a dog-leg, gives rise to an shot played severely uphill to a postage stamp sized green, with plenty of very interesting pin positions.
I might go as far to say that Mirage City is up there with the finest resort courses around. Much like Valderrama if set up for tournament play it would no doubt be a great test as the winning scores from the Challenge Tour events played here suggest, but for the average punter it is emmanently playable. We were only scheduled to play Mirage City twice on our trip, I think I played it 5 times! thats how much I enjoyed it. I have recently learned that a new nine holes has been constructed at Mirage City, hopefully I can get back there someday soon to see if it stacks up to its big brother.