Developed by DAMAC Properties, one of the leading luxury real estate companies in the UAE, and operated by The Trump Organization, the golf facility at Trump International Golf Club Dubai is a Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner co-design which debuted in early 2017, becoming the first new 18-hole layout to open in Dubai for seven years.
The course is set within a massive residential project that’s situated close to Dubai Sports City, with links-style fairways routed around a 500-acre property which was until very recently nothing more than a flat and barren desert landscape. There’s also a 9-hole par three academy course, floodlit driving range and short game facility.
Feature holes include the short par four 8th, which is played to an awkward raised green, and the left doglegged 13th, where the “island” green is completely surrounded by sand. Rather disappointingly, the closing holes on both nines play around opposite sides of a large lake in front of the clubhouse – now where might you have seen that before?
This is a very strong golf course and already looks incredible. Sure, some of the waste areas will need to be cleaned up a bit to get the final look, but the tee boxes, fairways and greens are all top notch already.
This course reminds me of Yas Links - Trump is perhaps the stronger course but the scenery is not quite as stunning with houses and apartment buildings besides the fairways. I also think it's the harder course but both now rank towards the top in the UAE for me and I would want to play them every time I come back.
The fairways are wide, really wide, but once your ball leaves them get ready for a difficult recovery shot. The bushes (gorse? fescue?) lining the fairways and some of the bunkers are able to swallow a ball or two. If you're in the desert it's not that hard to play out of the waste areas, but better keep it in the fairways. These have a surprising amount of roll in them so don't be surprised and pick your club wisely. You can even run up the balls to the green or use the Texas wedge from way off the green.
The green complexes are mostly large but often feature undulations that make the ball run towards the pin, not like at Els which has mostly upturned saucers. I find that more player friendly, especially as I can't generate enough stopping power on the pitches and chips. The greens tend to the large side, so there will be plenty of pin positions and long putts. They were running at just over 10 on the stimpmeter and in immaculate condition. I guess they use the same grass throughout so fairways and greens somewhat blend into each other which makes for a great look.
I enjoyed the front 9 slightly more but have to mention the short par 4 12th hole, which played 243 yards when we played just last week. You can try to drive the green or play it with a putter (yes!) from the tee. Up to you. It's really nice to see such a hole on this course. The 18th is not for the faint hearted with water all down the left-hand side.
I find the par 3s too long, most around 190-200y, from the gold tees but this might just be a matter of personal distaste.
Overall, there are some really memorable holes and views that have been expertly shaped by Gil Hanse and his crew. There is not much to dislike (nothing actually) and I'm sure you'll have an enjoyable time. Adding this course to the Dubai golfing scene only makes a trip more worthwhile and you should play this when in the city. There can be some green fees around the 500 AED mark but I think the normal rate is closer to 700. I would play this course for that money, but not more.
Overall, it's a very strong offering (great range too btw) and a course that is a joy to play. We played as a 2-ball with a buggy and finished just around 4 hours. Of course it's a faux links, but we are in the desert here. It's a fun experience and you should go and check it out!
Golf shaped in every way, A fine course. Dubai is the World's Magpie. They have curated what they perceive to be the pinnacle of urban accoutrements and artificially scattered them across the desert. They have then connected them with a fantastical and obligatory road network of dizzying complexity and perpetual jeopardy.
Each time I sit down to write a review, I feel like one of the many, many houses here that flank the fairways. Empty. Yet still they are building. The incredulous, slowly plodding builders labour and shuffle in the distance, under the blistering cosh of an inescapable sun, stoically looking on as we play past them. I feel apologetic for the extravagance. Their seemingly superfluous midday toil in this land of the follies. "If you build it they will come." But will they? One thing is for sure the feats of engineering here are nothing short of magnificent.
If you can look past all of this, then you will no doubt indulge, and enjoy it all. I myself felt like a Sci Fi Traveller, stuck on a distant rocky colony, soon tired of the facades and veneer of somewhere genuine. It is totally incongruous and unnatural. Everything jars with me, despite the engineering. But the course is epic, and maybe the stitches will heal and will not scar?
I played two other courses, The Fire and the Address Montgomerie, both fine and excellent top drawer, no expense spared facilities but I am ambivalent about saying more.
The joy of Golf and traveling to play is that usually the courses we play say something about where we are. Here is no different but I don’t like the story. Remember that when you are watching the Final hole at the Earth course next week. That river in the middle of the fairway is fake News.
The only real thing here is the consanguineous flow and genius of Gil Hanses Work. That is as genuine as an Emirates will to make the impossible happen I just wish they would celebrate their own cultures more.
Admittedly, even politics completely aside, the Trump name in golf, after visits to several of his courses, maybe with the exception of the Martin Ebert renovated Turnberry, does not inspire much excitement for me when visiting a new course these days. I was surprised to find out that Trump Dubai in fact wasn’t a Trump owned course at all, rather a course that has paid a great sum to utilize his brand. As well travelled as I think I am, that was a first for me and I still can’t figure out the choice given this is in the Middle East. Clearly there are many factors for which I am unaware but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that decision was being made.
Make no mistake, they did a heck of a lot right here at Trump Dubai and perhaps the main one was not allowing the likes of a Hawtree or RTJ to build this course, but opting for the currently hot and growing hotter Gil Hanse and team.
This course was the nicest surprise next to my visit to the Atmosphere Bar on top of the Burj Khalifa on my trip. By the way, my best non golf related tip for Dubai is to skip the touristy stuff and visit the top of the Burj Khalifa for drinks and snack at Atmosphere Bar as the sun is setting.
Tip #2 is to visit Trump International Dubai and see what a team like Hanse’s and a great architect can do with a blank canvas. The one caveat is that you have to be able to look through the perpetual build-up of the surrounding high-end real-estate development that surrounds the course. It’s modern and it’s ugly, the course however is anything but ugly.
One of the best parts of this project is the unique use of warm weather grasses that allow you to play the ball on the ground like a links course. On top of that it plays extremely firm and fast. Great start! It’s been set up as a modern inland links-like course, with wonderful bunkering, tons of width and abounding short grass. 18 totally different holes allow tremendous variation in shots. Given the site would have been perfectly flat when they started, there has been enough ground moved around to create quite substantial height differentials with a few significantly uphill and downhill holes – something that’s missing from most other courses in the Middle East.
The shaping of the many waste areas and bunkers is wonderful. On top of that, the greens are brilliant, boasting a wide range of various sizes, which all look and feel very natural and not that different to what you’d find at the most natural of links courses. There are fun little bowls and backstops and an abundance of options when it comes to recovery shots or ways to play most approach shots.
Perhaps the most talked about hole on the course and one of my favorites is the short drivable par 4 12th hole. This totally bunkerless and hazardless hole consists only of short grass, playing up hill to about 250 yards, drivable for many people including the author quite readily with a 3 wood. There is little more fun than watching your well-struck tee shot skirting off the ground up the front of this crazy green and then repelling off in one direction or another. We were literally laughing out loud. The correct play would be either a high draw or low running hook that’s perfectly weighted to run up the slope on the right side. This green is the smallest on the course and maybe one of the smallest I’ve seen especially taking into the consideration the fall offs and slopes. It may eventually become known as the shortest snowman in golf. While that might be an exaggeration, standing on the tee I was thinking eagle chance, walking off I was sweating to make a par and honestly had to hit a ridiculously tough 10 ft putt to avoid a 5.
Outside of this gem of a hole there is a very solid mix of long, middle and short 1,2 and 3 shotters. The par 3’s, might in fact, steal the show. The par 3 5th playing to about 190 yards plays very much like a Redan, allowing a tee ball off to the right to wind all the way around and down onto the green that is raised up from the waste areas in the front and to the left. The 18th must be the Hanse version of a tribute to Pete Dye’s 18th at Sawgrass and is shaped in a similar way around one of the only water hazards on the course. It’s a daunting tee shot into the wind.
Trump Dubai dare I say is architecturally the strongest new build modern course baring his name. Ironically, it’s the only course not owned by him. Then again, perhaps that is not entirely ironic. The developers of this project did one thing right in the author’s opinion and that was to bring in Hanse and team and let them do what they do best, create great golf courses.
You can bet I will be returning to this course should Dubai end up a travel destination for me in the coming years.
The Trump Organization operates Trump Ferry Point as concessionaire to the City of New York who owns the course (it's in Ferry Point Park). I haven't played it, and it's a Nicklaus design as opposed to Hanse so it might not be quite on the same level as Dubai, but it's a similar example of the Trump name being applied to a course they don't actually own.