Built on the site of an old quarry on the outskirts of Cairo, the course at NEWGIZA Golf Club is the final design from architects Thomson Perrett & Lobb, opening for play in 2019. It’s part of a massive 1,700-acre development to the east of the capital which also includes housing elements, a sports arena, and a number of hotels, schools and universities.
Located only five miles from the Giza pyramid complex, a UNESCO World heritage site, the 18-hole layout is characterised by dramatic elevation changes, with sandy waste areas replacing rough and several water hazards also coming into play, especially on the inward half. For many, though, the imaginatively-shaped greens are the layout’s most outstanding attribute.
Highlight holes include the signature par three 4th (with around a 100-foot drop from tee to green); the par three 13th (where the boomerang-shaped green is positioned behind a small lake); the short par four 15th (which has its green modelled on the 13th at Woking); and the par four 18th, played to an elongated, bunkerless home green.
“Within the design and during the construction phase we have tried to enhance the previous quarry features and have 50 feet plus vertical quarry walls up against some holes to add drama and retain the site characteristics within the playing experience,” Lobb said. “It has been an incredible journey from complex design work, challenging construction conditions to seeing the course mature into a grown-up golf experience.”
New Giza is a really interesting course to play. Built on an old quarry site, there are dramatic elevation changes, plenty of water, and not surpsringly, sand. Views from the tees are often great, though only of the course itself, not the surrounding real estate.
Fairways here are generous, immaculate and very firm. As with most courses in the desert, there is no real rough, just sandy scrub from which you must hit. (The locals seem to have a clean and replace rule here as there can be some horrible lies in footprints and the like.) Tee shots are mostly straightforward with plenty of room... it is around the greens where the real fun starts.
The green complexes are large and undulating. Most greens are made up of 2 or 3 'bowls', with the aim being to get your ball feeding into the bowl where the hole is located and let it run down to the pin. Get it right and you rewarded with an easy 2 putts on the fast surfaces. Get it wrong and you are faced with challenging humps, ridges, and banks. Chipping from off the green can be a real adventure too, as you may be asked to chip just to the top of a hillock and let gravity do the rest. Sometimes the ball will be on the fringe, and you will wonder if a flop shot over the hump in front is the best option.
Water comes in to play on several holes, notably the 2nd where you must either drive 200m+ over the stream with a striaghtforward approach the reward, or lay up and play the approach over water, which is very close to the edge of the green, from a far trickier angle. The 10th also has water close to the right of the green, anything sliced is inevitably drawn down the slope and into the pond. The par-5 14th has water below a high cut to the right of the fairway looking, to catch the second shot. It also features bunkers at this spot in which no ball ever stops, as there is no lip between the edge of the cliff and the sand. Anything going into the bunker simply rolls down the face into the abyss. I really wonder what the point is, surely it would be better just to leave it as grass.
The back nine features some appealing greens, first of which is the massive kidney-shaped green at the 13th, which is reached from an elevated tee, with a tee to green water carry. From left edge to right edge it must be more than 50 meters. This gives the impression of the green being very narrow from front to back and causes much angst on club selection.
The 14th green is the opposite, long and narrow, with three tiers rising front to back. With the pin placed on the top tier, anything short will result in a long, climbing putt. The par-3 16th is another green that is long back to front, this one split into 2 tiers by a rather high ridge.
Bunkers are to be found on all but one, the par-3 6th (yes, another elevated tee). Most holes have fairway bunkers for weak tee shots, but decent hitters can usually carry them. Indeed the best line is sometimes over them, as on the 5th and 17th. Greenside bunkering is abundant but not generally deep, with the sand quality and maintenance excellent.
Overall it is an enjoyable course to play, and I found myself coming back here rather than it's more illustrious neighbor, the Allegria. Personally I would rate New Giza higher than Allegria, but what do I know. For me the standout holes were the 3rd (reachable par-5 with a devilish green complex), 6th (downhill par-3 over water with the green tucked into a quarry cut), 9th (brutal uphill par-5 with a central bunker to negotiate on the 2nd shot), 13th (as above), 14th (long, long par-5 with trouble all the way along the right) and 17th (reachable par 5 with water squeezing in on the right forcing the player to either lay up or go for the green.)
The 18th is somewhat disappointing after all the fine views we'd been treated to before then - a semi-blind approach uphill to an unbunkered green.
After the round it's up to the clubhouse balcony for a cold Stella. Unfortunately it too has been robbed of Pyramid views by housing estates but that doesn't affect the experience at New Giza, which is for my money is the best in Cairo.
Finally, on a logistics note it is worth making sure you have the same driver for the return trip. The surrounding compound is not complete and finding the entrance is a challenge - your average Cairo Uber driver will give up long before he gets to you. Hopefully that will change soon.
Today, I had the privilege of playing at New Giza and was really impressed. I've played a lot of courses, but honestly, I don't think I've ever played one better than New Giza. The layout is amazing with really astounding changes in elevation, considering you're in the desert. The course is the best maintained of any that I've been to as well. It's just beautiful. The greens are really fast, the practice areas are great, and I really don't have any complaints about it. It's not the most challenging course, though it's far from easy. I think if it were slightly more challenging, I would rate it a 6. If you only have time for one round of golf in Egypt, play New Giza.