In the same week as Trump International Golf Club, Dubai celebrated its first birthday, Golf Digest Middle East commissioned Zimbabwean-born, Durban-raised and Toronto-based course architect Paul Jansen to run a critical eye over the region’s newest layout. Sir Nick Faldo describes Jansen as “a bold and creative architect. He is both an enthusiast and historian of course design.” Here’s Jansen’s thoughts after looping Gil Hanse’s links-inspired design:
“Legendary golf course architect Alistair Mackenzie wrote that “the chief object of every golf course architect or green keeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his/her work indistinguishable from nature itself”. In other words, a golf course should, wherever possible, merge pleasantly into the landscape and where it is necessary to move earth to heighten levels or form depressions in new ground, the “thing should be done with the delivery of a sculptor modeling his clay”.
Sculptor and golf architect Gil Hanse looked to adopt this same mantra when building the new Trump International Golf Club, Dubai in Dubailand, a few miles outside of the Dubai city centre.
Holes have been sculpted, by hand and machine, to blend into the surrounds and where new features have been created, they mimic the shapes of nature. In particular the use of ground contours – a refreshing feature rarely seen on modern golf courses – dictate much of the play and call for great imagination and creativity. To this end, Hanse and his team have avoided guarding the landing areas and green complexes with abundant features (think bunkers) that stymie the ground game and are costly to build and maintain.
Instead ground contours have been introduced to create strategic and visual interest and are then leveraged in such a way that they maximise creative shot options and intelligent play from tee to green.
Links golf has taught us that something as simple as a bump or depression can offer as much interest as any other feature and this is certainly clear to see at Trump Dubai. While not technically a links golf course, the holes at Trump Dubai are designed, built and set-up to play linksy which in many ways sets it apart from the other courses in the region and gives the place added character and individuality.
Walking great distances between greens and tees mars any course and delays the game, yet at Trump Dubai holes flow seamlessly from one to the other with many tees little more than a skip and a hop from the green surfaces.
Transition areas – including those between the greens and tees – are well shaped with a strong emphasis on the small detail which is paramount to achieving a great result. The rough areas are all “responsibly” planted with native material which helps achieve a strong sense of place and ensures a product that is much more environmentally sustainable. Golf courses are now seeing that securing their future is reliant on finding ways of becoming much more environmentally sustainable and it’s pleasing to see a strong environmental approach from the start at Trump Dubai.
One could argue that the residential component – so dominant – to the sides of the golf course takes away from the overall experience but you can’t argue that Hanse and his team have worked tirelessly to reduce this impact. They’ve created a core golf experience that is fun to play and engaging, a course that is closely linked to nature…at times almost indistinguishable from nature itself. It’s hard not to like Trump Dubai even if the other distractions are not to everyone’s liking.”
About Paul Jansen