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.
Date: December 31, 2019