Yas Island – the location of a multi-billion dollar project by Aldar, Abu Dhabi’s foremost property, investment and management company – occupies an area of around 6,000 acres in the Arabian Gulf and it’s the site of a number of world class attractions that include a Formula 1 Grand Prix racing track, the Ferrari World theme park and, of course, the Yas Links golf course, which opened in 2010.
The golf facility extends to an 18-hole layout, a 9-hole academy course and floodlit practice area. It’s the first project that architect Kyle Phillips has worked on in the Middle East and he was involved right from the outset when it was decided to shape nearly two miles of coastline (during the construction phase of an access route to the marina) and use almost 2 million cubic metres of dredged sand to cap the golf course.
Extending to 7,450 yards with five tee positions at every hole, Yas Links was over three years in construction and it lies across the highway from the Yas Marina car racing circuit with eight of the holes – including three of the four short holes on the card at 8, 13 and 17 – located right against the coastline.
Many think the “Cape” hole at the 9th is the best of the par fours because the tee shot has to carry water on the right and the more length that’s gained from the tee, the shorter the approach is to a green that falls away at the back.
The 18th is a fine finishing hole where the shoreline snakes along the left hand side of the fairway, threatening shots all the way from tee to green. The safest option is to play away from the water, avoiding first a central fairway bunker off the tee then a long waste bunker down the left side of the narrow green.
Kyle Phillips has designed a number of superb golf courses in recent times and Yas Links is surely one of his very best. The likely grand budget from investors in Abu Dhabi included the possibility of reshaping the coastline in accordance with his required golf holes, rather than as would normally apply, planning golf holes within the defined landscape. The result is, in my view, a World Top 100 Golf Course, such is the majesty and challenge of these ‘desert links’.
I have read other reports on this site, and it would appear that conditioning has not always been perfect over the course’s 11 year life to date. I played it two times in the last few days and found the conditions of the playing area to be of the highest order, even if the surrounds are in places a little untidy. The greens are simply magnificent and the fairways well grassed, receptive and encouragingly good to play shots from.
The first 7 holes are mainly inland, varied and tough, particularly when the wind blows, but it is from hole 8 onwards that the course becomes a wonderful roller-coaster of challenges, inspired perhaps by the adjoining Ferrari race track. 8 is a mid-length par three with huge mounds to the left and the Persian Gulf to the right, while 9 is a demanding par four named ‘Cape’ and arguably the best designed golf hole of all 18. But these are just the introduction to a stellar back nine.
The long par fours at 12 and 15 play to the same massive shared green while 13 is a knee-trembler of a short par three. It may be Stroke Index 18 but with sea to the right, a tiny outcrop of a green to aim for (although it is actually much larger than it looks), a prevailing wind from the sea and deep bunkers along the left side of the green, the tee shot is daunting indeed. The ideal shot is to aim for where sea meets land to allow for the ball to drift back on the breeze onto the flag stick, for any shot hit straight at the pin ends in sand. And then comes 14, a delightful short par four, with a narrow approach between deep bunkers, a topsy-turvy green with a steep mound to the left and water to the right. Your adrenalin should be pumping by now!
But this is only preparation for holes 16, 17 and 18 with pars of 4, 3 and 5 that are probably the toughest finish I have played on a golf course anywhere. All 3 holes are pure exhilaration and made much more difficult in wind. The approach shot at 16 is played from a wafer-thin narrow fairway with danger lurking on both sides, and the daunting 180 yard tee shot across the bay at 17 is to a well-protected green. Meanwhile the 18th seems a never-ending monster of a hole as it weaves this way and that, and eventually arrives at the distant green where on our second round the hole was set on a pinnacle right next to two gaping bunkers. This triumvirate of holes makes up as thrilling a finish as I have ever played on a golf course.
The backdrop on Yas Island of empty vast modern buildings, a race track and an amusement park detracts from the ambience of the golf course and this together with the fringe conditioning issues, as mentioned earlier, means that I have not given a maximum ball rating. However, No.1 in the Middle East is a worthy accolade and, in my view, Yas Links deserves a place on the grander ‘world’ stage. Go play it and decide for yourself, I have a feeling that you will be delighted you made the effort.
The course weaves wonderfully up and down the coast, roughly bringing water into play every other hole. A real variety of generous fairways to wide greens can suddenly give way to tight pin positions and extensive bunkers. Really went for the whole links feel with the fescue and even a double green. While the links angle is slightly diminished given the gentle climate, it's still a spectacular stop. There are even rumors that the coastline has been dyed to give off a more attractive shade of blue. Any look at the course does need a mention of 16, 17 and 18, which are as strong a finishing trio as are available in the UAE.
Best Hole-16: As noted any of the final 3 could be entrants but 16 is wonderful. Anything left is wet and there's a massive pot bunker waiting for you in the middle of the fairway even with a decent drive. The result is that the fairway looks like a thimble off the tee. Even a good drive leaves you with a difficult second, there's water and sand left and fescue right all into a narrow and long green.
In a part of the world where there is no drought of well conditioned courses, it’s the design of Yas Links that sets it apart. Set on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, nearby to the F1 track, Kyle Phillips work here is straight out of the top drawer.
As with Kingsbarns, the mounding work here makes it look, play and feel, like a genuine links. Most holes have an strategic element to them, and the player is confronted with this from the start on a medium length par 4. The 3rd is the first hole that makes full use of the coastline, dog legging to the left. I really enjoyed the options on the risk reward par 5 7th that is extremely well bunkered. The 8th is a one shotter that plays over the water, as do all of the remaining par 3s. 9 is a classic cape hole, where players chose how much of the corner to cut off.
On the back, I love the double green that the 12th and 15th share. Not only is the green massive, there are lots of different ledges and shelves and so taking note of the pin positions is key. A great example of how fun the greens are here is the shortest hole on the course, the par 3 13th. Despite being the shortest, it is definitely not the easiest, with a crazy green with lots of different run off areas. The finishing three holes are probably the signature holes here- all involving water and offering the player exhilarating shots.
For me, this is the best course in the UAE by some distance.
Notwithstanding the ongoing zombie apocalypse, there is change in the air at Yas Links. They seem to have recognised the concerns over some of the conditioning issues and have already rectified many of them. Plenty of new sods were growing in and conditioning as of mid-March is solid if not spectacular.
Some things never change however and the course retains the same challenging, exciting, even exhilarating design. The aesthetics are probably even improved right now as the rollercoasters and water park have fallen silent, another victim to the overwhelming shut-down of public facilities designed to keep people apart from one another. Yas Island as a whole is perhaps a shadow of itself. The staff at my hotel noted that even the golf course was closing at the same time the theme parks were directed to, but fortunately that was not the case and the afternoon I played seemed sufficiently solidly booked with golfers. That being said, I was graciously allowed out a little early by the starter and was never held up so it was a very pleasant round. A green and serene patch amongst meltdowns, closures and concerns. My family and I have a fortnight of 'isolation' to look forward to when we return to Australia in a week; assuming there will still be an airline to get us back there... but enough of this twaddle: to the golf.
What a wonderful and exciting course Yas Links is. It feels almost natural, even though the land surrounding the course is mostly flat, the fairways roll across the land twisting and falling. And the green complexes were probably the highlight for me. There are some buried elephants out there where a mishit or overly aggressive chip or putt can have you replaying from off the green once more. Some really interesting shaping and thought definitely required with the short irons and flat stick in hand.
Off the tee was no let up either with options available aplenty. Whilst the back nine certainly plays harder, the front is equally as interesting. This course requires patience and thought. Anything less will have you playing from some of the wild looking bunkers, or worse, from the thick coastal ground-cover from which I couldn't execute a single decent recovery.
The hotels being constructed down at the turn point of the back nine are eyesores now in brutal grey concrete and when completed I can't imagine that will improve greatly, but it is what it is on Yas Island. You can always look the other way out over the azure water and adjacent sand island. The course staff were excellent, including marshalls on both the front and back nines to keep the pace of play moving.
Yas Links is a wonderful course and comes highly recommended.
Yas has some brilliant holes and is a must-play and safe to say Abu Dhabi's number 1 course and is certainly links-like and is really impressive. Lots of holes by the water, strong bunkering throughout, expected waste-areas and quality green-sites that are now common on Kyle Phillips designed courses - The Grove and Kingsbarns in the UK and Verdura in Sicily are comparable of greens on his courses that I have played.
Just a small negative note though, right now in December '19 the presentation is not perfect - there have been a few issues this year with drainage and some heavy traffic parts of the course that have not been managed well. I think in perfect condition a 5.5 ball ranking would be very close for me. These problems are already being attended to and now that the Troon Group have taken over the management at Yas I am sure it will not be too long before their standards are evident on the course.
There are too many standout holes to mention all of them but a few of my choices are as follows (played from the white 66 tee) - The dog-legging to the left 3rd at 400 yards down the coast-line with eight bunkers protecting the hole is an early favourite. The 4th played 189 yards and is the only short hole not over water (the others are at the 8th, 13th and 17th) but has one of the best greens with so many pin options to bring in the many run-offs, this is a great design. The 9th tee is a special place to prepare for a tee shot on a big par-4 (428 yards) which needs to cut across the water to reach the fairway, deep breath and trust your swing here and try not to let Ferrari World to your left get in your eye-line.
The back nine is set on a much thinner piece of land, so there is a little out and in feel for the second half. The 11th is a snake-like par-5 and I would favour the left side for the tee shot and also the second shot. Another links-like feel comes at the 12th green, which is in fact a double green for the 15th - both protected by some serious bunkering.
Your round finishes on a high note with the last three holes all influenced by the Arabian sea on the left - approaching the par-4 16th is a real test to another thin green, another with plenty of bunker protection. The 17th is a fantastic par-3 and is my top 10 short holes that I have ever played - all carry over the sea to a heavily protected and undulating green, a real feel good hole. The 18th can play up to 646 yards from the Black 74 tee and this an epic hole with decisions to be made on every shot; decisions on which side to play, how far each shot should be and then eventually at the Pebble Beach style of green-site it continues to be a game within a game. That last 40 minutes or so from the 16th tee is as good a course finish that I can think of - exciting, exhilarating and so much fun.
Enjoyed the Spanish style of clubhouse as Yas too - slightly unexpected in the Middle East but it works well. Very impressed with the golf plus the many other facilities on Yas Island too; international hotels, theme park, marina, shopping malls and the now famous F1 circuit. Yes it is all very man-made and obviously new but extremely popular. Recommended.
Played Yas a number of times while in the UAE. It's a spectacular setting and a strong design by Kyle Philips. I've enjoyed every visit and keep coming back. You can get some good tee time deals by checking their website or calling in on the day.
The front 9 are somewhat tamer than the back 9 which often play into the wind in the late afternoon. That makes 14-18 a long walk with tough shots into the wind. Sure, Yas Links is a 'faux' links course but done extremely well. The conditioning is very good and the greens always in top condition. I've taken both carts and walked the course, and walking is fine except if it's too hot of course. There is also a good range and a small short game area plus a 9 hole par 3 practice course (which I think is lit at night).
The clubhouse has a nice terrace overlooking the 18th green, and around the corner from the 9th, and it's a good place for an after round drink. The food is good too. Given the proximity to the race track, you sometimes hear the pitch of high-revving engines but it's not something I mind.
I would strongly recommend Yas Links if you're in the region. Abu Dhabi is just two hours from Dubai and it's well worth the drive. I'd also play Abu Dhabi National and perhaps Saadiyat while in the area.
From the staff to the course Yas is of the highest quality anywhere. Upon arrival the staff in the changing room cleaned our shoes before sending us through to where our buggies were waiting and ready to hit some balls on our names range bay. From there the course is just superb. The greens put your short game through the most stringent of tests but good shots are rewarded. Thanks for a great experience. Phil Akers
My opinion it is bit overrated and overpriced golf course in Abu Dhabi (and in all UAE). I played two times in all of Abu Dhabi golf courses and my ranking could be: 1. Abu Dhabi (National), 2. Saadiyat Beach, 3. Yas Links. Definitely it is desert style golf course similar to scottish links without trees to survive midday sun and long enough to walk. Golf cart is desirable in hot days. Concerning prices staff is not very flexible as Abu Dhabi National and bit higher than in other Abu Dhabi golf clubs, but service is lower level (especially if you are not member).
Yas Links is not very picturesque golf fields and besides that you see is couple hotels and large round building (offices or something else), definitely roof of Ferrari World. Nothing attractive...
In general both times condition of fields was good, greens fast and relatively large with many pin positions, fairways with some laps of ground, but playable. Clubhouse is big and spacious with views to sea (gulf). Food and beer in restaurant is pretty good and prices are high enough.
Golf course is challenging enough except few holes. One of remembrance hole was No. 7 (par 5 really challenging and risky), No. 9 and No. 15 (short, drivable par 4 that requires risky shot over water and bunkers to reach, tricky hole). 17th hole is about 200 y and the longest par 3 on the course making for a really difficult finish in windy conditions. The last hole (par 5) is the longest and one of the hardest on the course. Into the front wind it required a crazy long drive and not worse second shot with wood. To play towards a huge gully that drops down to the water must to carry huge perfectly 3 wood direct and carefully. After this hole the pint of beer is necessary.
No doubt every golf course rating is always a subject with a lot of subjectivity, depending on various criteria. I always rating by the following criteria: course complexity or challenging, fields condition (especially greens & fairways), service (only what you can get: buggie, club rent, condition of clubs, the amount of choice and etc. except staff and other subjective things that depends on your or staff mood), surrounding views or pleasure to the eyes and definitely value for the price. All criteries will be rating from 1 to 5 stars. Concerning Yas Links my personal opinion is follow:
1. Challenging - 5*
2. Condition - 4* (could be better especially fairways)
3. Service - 4*
4. Surroundings - 3* +
5. Value for the price - 3* +
I think it's really not worth going back again.
In January of last year it was time for the first trip to the Middle East for golf. First on the list was the highly acclaimed Kyle Phillips gem Yas Links.
One of the interesting aspects of this project, other than the usual fact that it was built totally in the desert, is that the Phillips team not only designed the course from ground up but also had the opportunity to design the entire area including most of what you see between the course and the sea. Thus a major project and the end result is pretty incredible all things considered. Yes, this is another very high end Middle East Members Club and arguably the best course in the Emirates, especially given its recent world top 100 ranking awarded by one of the US magazines.
One thing that is very different about desert courses in the Middle East is that you have to get use to the extreme modern skylines, which are often filled with, or soon to be filled with, cities. Yas on the other hand sits next to the Ferrari World Amusement Park for lack of a better word. Besides that you see a couple large hotels and this large round building off in the distance that looks as if it will take off into space one day to bring the first space pioneers to their destination. (Look at my photos).
The front 9 has an excellent routing taking you out from the clubhouse before cutting back towards the water on the 2nd hole. It’s amazing that this course was made from literally nothing as the shaping has been made to seem very natural in this links-like set up without a single tree if memory serves correctly. The playing conditions are fast and firm even with the warm weather grasses. Though they still take some getting use to when chipping or putting from around the green.
The greens have interesting shaping and are relatively large with many interesting pin positions. I really like the par 3 4th hole with a slight Redan character on the right side though the green is large enough that the hole would completely change if the pin was middle or left. The risk reward, reachable par 5 7th offered a very interesting cut off as much as you can chew tee shot with the tiger line being over bunkers flanking the right side of the fairway. A solid tee shot allowed for an opportunity to go for the green which was blind and up over a hill. This green had some crazy shaping with a right front severe fall off – a great aspect for this risk reward par 5.
Finally, the 9th hole which was very different from the tips as opposed to the white tees due to the fact that it offered a much more interesting angle on the tee shot. However, note there was a significant carry of about 220 yards required even though it played downwind on a couple of our rounds there – actually more so in the afternoon when the wind seemed to pick up. We were told this was a reverse wind so perhaps into a 3 club wind I would sing a different tune. In any case the 9th is another gem of a hole bringing you back to the clubhouse.
The back 9 really picks up where the front 9 left off and runs down the coast in the opposite direction of the clubhouse. Now the spaceship I mentioned earlier really comes into view on every hole. At the par 3 14th the spaceship serves as a backdrop for the green and makes the hole rather surreal. The hole is a short iron that must factor the wind into play and plays over water to a fairly large green. Finding the correct distance in the elements is tricky here.
The 15th is a short, often drivable par 4 that requires a heroic shot over water and bunkers to reach in one. I’m guessing on most occasions this short dogleg right is better played with something like a hybrid or low iron and a wedge. Tricky hole!
The 17th hole is about 200 yards and the longest par 3 on the course making for a really tough finish. Playing into a very strong wind our playing partner nailed his driver to about 10 ft. Shot of the day even though we were mocking him before for taking out driver.
The 18th is a finishing par 5 that is terribly long and admittedly my least favorite hole on the course. To say it’s tough is a huge understatement. Into the wind it required a crazy good drive, but what made it so tough was really the second shot. It plays towards a huge gully that drops down to the water. To carry it required a perfectly struck 3 wood and that was when you played off to the right. Laying up left at least 2 shots which felt very awkward. Perhaps downwind this would feel much different, but no matter what with the space given that second shot would never be easy. For me this might have been too tough a finish to this great course. Ultimately challenging, yes, however, I’m not sure it’s a great idea to send most golfers home unable to finish the 18th hole.
One thing is certain; Abu Dhabi has been put on the golf map thanks to Yas Links. If you ever venture to the Emirates for golf, try and play here. You won’t regret it!
Yas Links is another wonderful addition to Kyle Phillips' global portfolio. The shaping team did a magnificent job taking a flat desert in Abu Dhabi (UAE) and created wonderful undulation, hollows, humps and bumps.
After a gentle opener, the course grows some teeth with enjoyable changes in direction and a commendable variety in how the holes are configured. I felt that the course really stepped up a few notches from the par 5 7th hole onward. A large mound dominates the landscape down the 7th fairway setting up a blind second shot into a par 5. Once again, Kyle entices to hit a heroic shot on a reachable par 5. The par 3 8th hole brings you to the sparkling body of water surrounding much of the Yas Links course, and presents a wonderfully shaped green with many dangerous pin positions near the water’s edge. The water runs all the way up the par 4 9th which has superbly positioned fairway bunkers. It’s a very tough hole to close out the opening loop.
Much of the praise for Yas Links comes from the strength of the holes on the back nine, especially playing along and over the crystal blue body of water that is an integral part of the course. The shaping is highly commendable from fairway to green-apron and the course asks a lot of you to hit heroic carries over water. Stand out shot includes the tee shot on the par 3 17th over water into a very well protected green followed the 18th hole which I would describe as a ‘double cape hole’. For those courageous enough, both the drive and the second shot on this massive par 5 are over huge bodies of water. Standing on the 18th tee will give you shivers (if such a thing is possible in 42 C degrees of heat) looking out at where you’re supposed to hit the ball.
The closing five holes at Yas Links are an absolute monster challenge and it’s no surprise at all that both professionals and amateurs rank this as #1 in the Middle East by a country mile. Kyle provided very intelligent teeing ground options to ensure the course is playable and the forced carries are in line with player’s abilities. Given that you’re in the desert, the architect also made a commendable effort to make this feel like a links course with careful discrete placement of buggy paths, well thought out tee box presentation close to the previous greens and wonderful positioned pot bunkers integrated with superbly shaped mounds/bluffs.
There is a lot of construction going on all around the golf course which in places can be unattractive, but such is life in this part of the world where hundreds of cranes are part of the ever growing skyline. There is so much to love about this golf course and the way that Kyle Phillips created a crescendo of challenge and excitement throughout this incredible piece of land.