Muscat Hills is the pioneer of grass golf in Oman. Before the Paul Thomas design opened in 2009 the only golf available in the country was on sand. It is a hugely impressive looking set up high on a series of hills that run through rocky terrain and wadis- dry river beds- that are almost impossible to walk, so factor the price of a buggy into your costs.
Also factor in that the price of alcohol in Muslim Oman is enough to drive many British golfers to drink, but only if they have done the sensible thing and stocked up sensibly at duty free before leaving the UK. A pint of premium brand lager, such as Stella Artois or Peroni, can cost anything up to £10 once service duty and tax have been included.
Strangely, despite being a resort course, the bar and restaurant at Muscat Hills only opens between 12.00 and 15.00 and remains closed again until 18.00, so when we came off the back nine we could only get soft drinks.
But that’s enough of the background; the course itself is a classic resort course with wide fairways, huge tracts of sand and surrounded by houses although fortunately these do not intrude on the enjoyment of the golf.
The most similar course I have played to compare it to is Finca Cortesin in southern Spain although Muscat Hills is less demanding due to its wider fairways. This is still no course for beginners or novices for all that.
Although the ball travels further in the warm Omani air this is a long course at almost 7,000 yards off the men’s back tees and higher handicappers would be advised to go off the whites, the most forward of the men’s boxes reducing it to 5.602 yards.
The first deep gorge we encounter is at the 145 yard, par three third where we need to find a deep kidney shaped green perched on its hill. End up short and you are down amongst the dead men in the wadi!
The perilous par four sixth may look short at only 292 yards but it is uphill all the way to a shallow green that perches, almost uncomfortably on a high brow. Anything short is in the sand and a weak tee shot will disappear down another chasm. Just finishing the front nine with the same ball can be a hugely satisfying experience.
Water comes into play on the back nine that, like the front, starts off quietly before throwing some horrors at us. The 127-yard par three 14th veers between fiendish and daft. It is uphill onto a long, hard green that slopes towards us. If the flag is on the front and your ball is more than 20 feet behind it prepare to put your putter back in the bag and reach for your lob wedge for your third shot because you will be back down the hill.
The best hole on the course is unquestionably the last. A medium length par four with a huge lake all down the right hand side and rolling grass hillocks on the left that, like so many holes here requires a shot to a raised, hard green.
There are still improvements that could be undertaken at Muscat Hills, not least trimming the apron fronts of many of the greens where the ball can easily get caught up. Yet the greens are so firm that any high-flying shot may bounce and spin over the back, so bump and run shots should not be penalised.
Hopefully the bar will be open for you to sit outside and savour a beer after your round and allow considered reflection of the many good things to enjoy over these 18 holes, as there are certainly many, not least playing all 18 holes with the same ball.
Date: February 28, 2017