Archive | January, 2011

The Architect of Every Golfer’s Dream

Imagine a ride in one of the first Ferraris, and being driven by the car’s creator, Enzo Ferrari.

You could ask him about the distinctive roar of the engine, the uncomfortable seats, and twiddle the knobs until he responded with a stream of invectives.

I had a similar experience recently when I played a round of golf with Kyle Phillips, the architect of Yas Links Golf Club.

Kyle who? you might be asking. The world of golf architecture is split in two: on one side Arnold Palmer; Jack Nicklaus; Ernie Els; even Tiger Woods – legendary names of golf recognised the world over; and in the other camp Pete Dye; Robert Trent Jones; and Kyle Phillips – hardly household names.

However, mention Kyle Phillips to golfers and even granite-like Irishmen get a tear in their eye and start to wax lyrical. “The course is fantastic, you can run balls in, they’ve got lots of great run-offs,” says Graeme McDowell, the US Open champion and Ryder Cup star who played the course this week. “You can hit lots of different shots in and around the greens. I think Kyle has created something pretty cool here.”
Read More…

Goose Flies Away with Invitational Top Prize

Abdullah Al Naboodah almost managed to give his 104 invited friends the ultimate links experience in the middle of the desert as the latest edition of the Emirates Airline Invitational proved to be a major success in its first outing at Yas Links Abu Dhabi.

That list of 104 included 52 top professionals from the European Tour, including the world No.1 Lee Westwood and the reigning US Open champion and world No.4 Graeme McDowell.

The Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links is a true links course, and that likeness was enhanced by the overcast and breezy conditions.

It even rained a bit, but the occasional showers were too short-lived to make it too uncomfortable for the players.

And one man who tamed the course despite the tough playing conditions was South African Retief Goosen, who gave enough indication of his current form with an eight-under par 64 round, which was enough to win him the top professional prize.
Read More…

The Goose Flying High at Emirates Airline Invitational

Retief Goosen got his season off to the perfect start by winning the Pros event at the Emirates Airline Invitational Hosted by Abdullah Al Naboodah at Yas Links Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, as England cricket legend Michael Vaughan and playing partner Ross McGowan scooped the Pro-Am two-man Team prize.
The Goose warmed up for his first outing on The European Tour in 2011 – this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – in stunning style, shooting a round of 8-under-par 64 that included seven birdies and a scintillating eagle at the at the 11th with just one bogey at the 17th.

The South African only entered the event last Thursday and had never played Kyle Phillips’ delightful Yas Links course before but after experiencing at first hand the unique and much-lauded atmosphere generated by the region’s most prestigious Pro-Am he’s more than happy he decided to take part in the event.
“It was my first round here so maybe that was a good thing – I didn’t know where all the trouble was,” said the two-time US Open champion. “I just tried to hit good shots, played solid golf, putted well and hit a lot of shots close to the pin. The course obviously suited my game quite nicely. I was a late entry so I think I made the right decision to play.

“Yas Links is a beautiful layout, it hasn’t been open very long but it’s in really great shape. It can get tough – when the wind blows hard round here it can get really difficult. The greens are also obviously very sloping so they can be very tricky.
Read More…

Top 10: Professional-Level Golf Courses

With the opening of new courses at Yas and Saadiyat in 2010, Abu Dhabi has laid down its marker as a top golf destination. As in previous years, the venue for the European Tour HSBC Championship is the Abu Dhabi National (Thursday to January 23), but Yas Links stages an exciting hors d’oeuvre on Monday. The No 1 golfer in the world, Lee Westwood, and the US Open champion, Graeme McDowell, head a line up of tour professionals for the invitational Pro-Am hosted by the Dubai entrepreneur Abdullah Al Naboodah. Half the Dh1.8 million purse will go to local charities and half to charities chosen by the winning professionals. Even if you’re invited, you won’t beat these guys, but you can join them at home and on other iconic courses around the world.

2. Yas Links, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

In golf’s rich global pageant, links status is the ultimate accolade but imitators in distant lands rarely achieve the real deal. Key ingredients are sand, sea, “natural” landscaping and an absence of intrusive real estate. Site selection and investment can supply the first three, but the fourth is harder in a necessarily commercial climate. Opened last March, Yas Links are within sight of the F1 Circuit and Ferrari World but there are no fairway villas. Blazing sun insists this is not Scotland, but walking hard past fairways, looking for errant balls in hairy rough and missing putts on huge greens provides a traditional ambiance. The American architect Kyle Phillips, who established gilt-edged links credentials with Kingsbarns, 10km from St Andrews, has worked a similar magic on a course acclaimed as “the best in the Middle East” by Golf Course Architecture magazine.
Read More…

Eimrates Airline Invitational Takes Off

Emirates Airline has been unveiled as the Title Partner of The Invitational Hosted by Abdullah Al Naboodah to be played at Yas Links Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, on Monday, January 17. This is the fifth running of the event, after two years at the Four Seasons Golf Club, Dubai and two years at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. The one-day tournament is universally recognised as one of the most popular and prestigious Pro-Ams in golf and with Emirates Airline taking up the title partnership the event has taken off as a world-class golf tournament.

The event is played in a better-ball format and among the 52 European Tour Professionals taking part – one Tour Pro per pair – there are 41 European Tour Champions, 11 Ryder Cup players, three Major Champions and the World No.1. This year the Emirates Airline Invitational, will be the curtain-raiser for the four-tournament European Tour Middle East Swing.

Abdullah Al Naboodah is delighted at Emirates’ support, saying: “Emirates Airline’s Title Partnership is great news for The Invitational. “We have been successful in building a base of select international brands as Premier Partners and Partners over the past few years but to go into our fifth year with the addition of Emirates Airline as Title Partner is a huge step forward. “The Emirates Airline Invitational will benefit the Pro-Am, and particularly the charities that we – and the Professional Tour players – support. It really does take the Pro-Am to a new level and establishes the event as a world-class golf tournament.”
Read More…

The Middle East’s First Great Course?

Adam Lawrence reckons Kyle Phillips may have built the Gulf’s first great course.

Golf in the Middle East is an odd beast. Maybe it’s inevitable; after all, a desert environment in which temperatures often rise about 50 Celsius is hardly an obvious location for a game that grew up on the cool and damp coast of Scotland.

But it’s not just the incongruity of playing in the desert that makes Gulf golf peculiar. Nowhere else in the world does the game feel quite so much like a trophy asset, built to elevate the status of a destination rather than necessarily as a place for golfers to play the game they love.

The rapid development of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman et al, accelerated by the wealth provided by oil and the fear of what will happen when it runs out, has brought golf to the region. But it has been a particular type of golf – almost exclusively based around the sale of housing, with the compromises to the golf courses that invariably follow that model around the world. Only a couple of courses have been built without integrated real estate, and one of those – Emirates Golf Club, the region’s first showpiece – is now having housing retro-fitted.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the golf and real estate model, even though it has taken a big hit in the last two years. But very few golfers, presented with two otherwise equal courses, one of which runs through a housing development, and the other of which is core, would pick the housing course as their favourite. The needs of golf and housing are not the same, however hard the masterplanner tries to balance them, and it’s inevitable that he who pays the piper – in other words, the real estate buyers – should call the tune.
Read More…

Kingsbarns Ranked #1 in Great Britain and Ireland

Kingsbarns and Loch Lomond top the 2011 Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses of Great Britain and Ireland list.

GB&I Modern Courses: 1960 and later
#1 Kingsbarns
Kingsbarns, Scotland, 1999

Hole 6

Read More…

The Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Siciliy

Spending time in the warm Mediterranean waters of Sicily might normally be enough to result in a tourist’s jaw to drop… but the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort could very well leave visitors too lightheaded to even speak.

A luxurious getaway is what awaits those traveling to this island escape. Located near the town of Sciacca, miles away from the historic city of Agrigento and its Valley of the Temples, and an hour from the International Airport in Palermo, Verdura occupies a land unto itself, complete with all of the splendor Sicily
has to offer.

Verdura Golf and Spa Resort is the 13th property in the Rocco Forte Collection in which Sir Rocco has truly outdone himself Forte has designed hotels all over Europe, such as Hotel Savoy in Firenze, and The Lowry Hotel in Manchester, but number 13 has proven to be a very lucky one for its guests. Verdura offers 203 ocean view rooms and suites with private terraces overlooking 1.2 miles of private coastline, as well as six tennis courts, a 43,000 square foot spa, fitness and yoga center, four extravagant restaurants, a private beach, 55 private villas and two championship golf courses which are a “must play” for any golfer.
Read More…