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Yas Links Abu Dhabi named “Best Course in the Middle East”

Yas Links Abu Dhabi, the new Kyle Phillips designed golf course which debuts at IGTM this week, is the “best course in the Middle East,” according to the latest issue of Golf Course Architecture magazine.

The world-class development on Yas Island, home to the Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit, venue of the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the spectacular Ferrari World, the world’s largest indoor theme park, has received widespread critical acclaim.

It is the first Middle East design for leading course architect Kyle Phillips, creator of World Top 100 Course Kingsbarns, Scotland, as well as the highly rated Verdura Golf & Spa Resort (Sicily), Dundonald (Scotland), and The Grove (London), who has created an extraordinary links overlooking the Arabian Gulf that rides rolling sand hills along three kilometers of coastline, and features nine seashore greens.

Following a recent visit to the site, Golf Course Architecture editor Adam Lawrence, wrote Yas Links is the, “first pure golf course in the Gulf,” and, “it is a golf experience like no other in the region.”

He added: “I am very confident in asserting that Yas Links is the best course in the Middle East by a distance, and that it has taken golf in the region to a whole new level.”
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That’s Amore

With the creation of Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily, Italy is starting to come into its own as a golf destination.

Golf never really made the cut in Italy until recently. Known as the land of excellent cuisine, rich history, beautiful and diverse cities and passionate people, Italy didn’t quite have a golf experience to match. Sure, there was the effervescent Italian golfer Costantino Rocca, who left his mark on golf history with his improbable putt from the Old Course’s Valley of Sin that forced a playoff with John Daly at the 1995 British Open. But in one of the most traveled tourist destinations in the world, pickings were slim for avid golfers. A great day on an Italian course was all about the food and wine, and not necessarily the golf.

Times have changed. Just as the Molinari brothers, Edorado and Francesco, have elevated Italian golf in the pro ranks to neverbefore-seen levels with their Ryder Cup and European Tour heroics, now there is also a full-service resort whose quality and amenities place it in the game’s upper echelon. Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the Sicilian coast, an 80-minute drive from Palermo, has changed the game’s image in Italy. The food and wine are exquisite, and so is the golf.

Architect Kyle Phillips, of Kingsbarns Golf Links fame (near St. Andrews), designed two 18-hole courses at Verdura that take maximum advantage of the land and views boasted by this five-star luxury resort, part of the Rocco Forte Collection of luxury hotel properties. Now even the Molinari brothers can be proud of a top quality golf experience in their homeland. These two championship layouts are joined by a fun par-three course, which serves as the perfect venue for a relaxed, late-day nine holes. And the magnificence of the links are rivaled by the excellence of the resort’s cuisine and treatments at the spa—be sure to try the Sicilian aroma massage and enjoy the heated indoor infinity lap pool, three outdoor saltwater pools of varying temperatures, and a fullyequipped gym.
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GOING OUT: UAE’s best amateurs all set to become part of golf’s history

For many the much-anticipated Men’s Open 2011 being held at Yas Links this weekend represents a dream come true as it affords the opporunity to become a part of local history.

And that’s the reason the first two-day event at the spectacular Kyle Phillips designed course, named among the top 10 new international golf courses in the world, has a full field of 108 players and a lengthy waiting list.

Sponsored by Sport360°, who will also be providing the Player of the Tournament trophy, the 36-hole gross strokeplay event has “one of the strongest amateur lines-ups in the region with half the entrants between a +4 and 4 handicap,” said Jamie Goodenough, Sales and Marketing Manager at Yas Links.

Day one will see competitors tee-off according to their handicap with the tee positions the same as those used for the recent invitational, while day two’s play will start in accordance to the scores from the previous day with championship tees in use.

Set against the backdrop of dramatic views of the Arabian Gulf, Yas Links Abu Dhabi combines stunning scenery with the thrill of links golf’s ultimate test: uneven fairways, pot bunkers and unpredictable wind conditions.

And here’s what some of the stars of world golf had to say about the course with its rolling hills and nine seaside greens:

World No.1 Lee Westwood: “The course is very good. It’s very similar to the other ones Kyle Phillips has designed, it’s got a feel like Kingsbarns to it.”
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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

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