I think for total enjoyment, Saadiyat was favourite course recently on a brief visit to Abu Dhabi - I also played at Yas Links and the National. The location brings in some great sea views but the obvious feature of the course is sand and so much of it. Bunkers, waste areas and natural sand scrapes protect on every single hole. This brings such a premium on positioning and thinking about all shots. After being in the sand on each of the first four holes, the move had to become that of plotting around the course, which is the tip for everyone who plays.
Saadiyat offers resort golf at a very high level, so be prepared for all that this brings - property everywhere, halfway houses that are like mini clubhouses, buggy technology etc. etc. etc. Those things can detract from golf sometimes but not here because the course is strategically strong with a natural feel - add in a strong test for all standards and this why the course is very well thought of.
The second hole can play the longest on the course and plays between 432-623 yards, depending on tee choice - the hole is called Split Personality for a reason. A bunker starts on the right-side after about 100 yards and then continues for around 300 yards but moving towards the fairway centre - it's a great feature but steer clear, if you can. The 5th tee gives the first coastal view ahead of playing the SI-2 par-4 - this is a very strategic hole; bunkers left and right at driving distance and then approaching a bunkerless green with a lagoon hazard protecting on the left and at the rear - you cannot get away with anything other than two decent shots to get to the putting surface.
The very next tee is a nice place to be - you now play a mid-length par-3 from a tee that is just a step from the beach - decent green site too, deep bunker protecting the left of the green is a real hazard and short and right is the best place to miss this green. A buggy ride along the boardwalk passing the Abu Dhabi holiday makers gets you to the next tee.
Getting the most of a Saadiyat round involves choosing the best tee for your game - to get this in perspective from the back Black tees, the 8th and 9th holes measure just about 1100 yards and the 8th is a par-4!
To the right of the first four holes on the back nine, there are many villas close by which for some may intrude on golf course experience but as mentioned, this is resort golf and the success of this type of course is dependent on sales and rentals - plus they are seriously good looking villas too - how the other half live!
The 13th hole plays back towards the coast and is another strategic par-4 with sand everywhere - and like so many holes you have to think about tee shot length to stay out of these massive bunkers.
The final four holes are strong, very strong - the 15th is a big par-5 with water in play from the tee, on the layup and also to the right of the green - there is the familiar sand protection on the entire left-side and a fairly small green too. I would say that the hole is much harder than the SI of 11 indicates. The 16th is my favourite on the course; from the Blue tee it is 420 yards, so driver is the choice for most. This hole is another that plays to the coast, I like the fact that it rises and then drops a little for the second half but has a huge sand trap protecting the front of the green - another hole that only two proper shots will get you putting for the rare Saadiyat birdie. The shortest par-3 (Blue 130 yards) comes at the 17th but with a slightly raised green, tee shots needs precision to hold the green. The finale is a par-4 played around the lagoon that also protects the back of the 9th green - play up the left-side from the tee and then continue to favour the left on the approach to the green and a par finish is on the cards. Really enjoyed the experience on and off the course and if you are lucky the herds of gazelles that make the course their home should make an appearance during the round.
Date: December 30, 2019