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!
Date: March 07, 2019