King Abdullah Economic City – the largest privately-funded new metropolis in the world – covers a vast 181-square kilometre area and is situated less than a 2-hour drive north of Jeddah, on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The project consists of a Red Sea port, industrial areas and five residential districts, one of which, Al Murooj, is the setting for the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club development.
Construction of the golf course began in 2008 and sixteen of the holes were shaped before the global recession halted proceedings. Work recommenced six years later but it took until the end of 2017 before the clubhouse finally opened its doors to golfers with Troon Golf, the world’s largest operator of upmarket golf course facilities, managing the business.
The course has been grassed throughout with Paspalum Dynasty, a new strain of the salt and heat tolerant grass that doesn’t discolour during changeable weather conditions so the club doesn’t need to overseed with other grasses. The irrigation system, designed by UK- based company Irritech using Rainbird equipment, provides the all-important application of water, wasting as little as possible.
Notable holes on the course include the 470-yard 6th, the longest and toughest par four on the card, which doglegs left to the target and the 427-yard 15th, where the fairway also veers left from the tee towards a green that’s sited very close to the beach. The front and back nines conclude with demanding par fives, with water running along one side on either hole.
Architect Dave Sampson commented as follows: “The design intention was to create a course rich with variety and choice which the golfer will never tire of. With the prevailing wind off the Red Sea, the course has been routed in such a way that holes play in multiple directions, creating a layout brimming with risk-and-reward choices and opportunities for creative and varied shot making.’’
During the summer of 2018, the Saudi Arabia Golf Federation confirmed that a new European Tour event will take place at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from January 31 to February 3 2019, featuring Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose and Thomas Bjorn.
With the aim of establishing the Tournament as a leading fixture on the European Tour schedule, the SGF announcement also mentioned a special focus on families, community, charity and junior development as the Kingdom looks to develop its golfing pedigree. Dustin Johnson won the inaugural event by two shots and he reclaimed the title in 2021.
Royal Greens is a course that is well worth playing in Saudi Arabia. Being in great condition from tee to green, even the desert areas look maintained.
The course is not overly long and all the par 5’s are reachable in two for long hitters on a calm day. However three of them have water running alongside the fairways so sometimes the smart play is a safe lay up with a mid-iron.
Some of the par 4’s are at a distance where you can get greedy and try to get as close as possible but with the wind coming in off the Red Sea it can change a relatively short hole into a long hole in the blink of an eye.
The greens have lots of undulations and you need to be on the right part of the green on your approach. I do feel a little more of the Red Sea frontage could have been used in the design, as it is only evident in two holes.
The green fee is still relatively low for a course this good but is set to rise, however as value for money goes, Royal Greens is well worth the green fee.
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