From its decor to the stunning location, everything about the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort is unique when it comes to a UAE getaway
By Robbie Greenfield
Abu Dhabi has made plenty of international headlines over the last few years for its growing status as a golf destination. This is impressive on two levels. Firstly, as a market it’s still extremely young. Abu Dhabi Golf Club put itself on the global map with the launch of its championship 10 years ago, but Yas Links and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club have only been open for fi ve and six years respectively. In that time, both have won a glut of awards.
So golf in Abu Dhabi is new, and it’s also currently limited by number. Abu Dhabi City Golf Club and its sand course, Al Ghazal, are both integral to the emirate’s golfi ng heritage, but only three courses attract tourists from overseas.
The general consensus from experts is that you typically need at least double that (and preferably more) to boast a golf destination with global appeal. Yet Abu Dhabi has gotten there with three, helped by two key factors. One is the quality of its hotels, and the other is the terrifi c standard and variety of its three championship golf courses.
There are plenty of global golf destinations that offer dozens of courses that all bring a dose of déjà vu to each tee shot. In Abu Dhabi, you have a classic desert layout with 10 European Tour championships under its belt (not to mention a Westin resort on site), an Arabian answer to a traditional links course that has been ranked inside the world’s top 100 by many of the world’s most respected publications, and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club itself, perhaps the ultimate expression of golf resort luxury. Together with the stunning St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, which overlooks its sixth and seventh holes, it’s a mouthwatering package.
Whenever I visit Saadiyat Island I have to remind myself that I’m still in the UAE; even more so when checking into a place like the St. Regis. This is proper five star fare, with a beachfront vista to match. In early summer the sand is almost blindingly white, the Arabian Gulf a brilliant shade of turquoise. As you walk out onto the beach, a noticeboard informs you of when dolphins and turtles were last spotted offshore. From the vantage point of a shaded wicker cabana, this could easily be Barbados. And it’s one of the harder spots from which to embark on an afternoon round of golf.
There was no escaping the onset of summer heat during our May date with Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, but the club is well equipped to deal with the discomfort of temperatures in the 40s. With a light breeze blowing off the coast, it was nothing a few cold towels couldn’t correct.
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is one of those courses where it’s straightforward to play, but difficult to actually score. You have to be fairly wild off the tee to miss the landing areas on most holes, but the swales that surround the greens are continually challenging. And then every so often you run into a hole that’s just plain tough, like the par 3 sixth, or the par 4 eighth. The former quite cruelly offered me a glimpse of the cabana I had willingly abandoned to contest a scrappy match with PGA professional Clinton Norris, but the beauty of this course is that it has enough scenic distractions to take your mind off any questionable standard of play. Golfing escapes in the UAE don’t come any more relaxed.