The Real Deal

Yas Links is like nothing you have ever seen in the UAE.  It’s a nod to tradition in a wonderful setting.

When it comes to Abu Dhabi’s grand masterplan, Yas Links Golf Club is something of an anomaly. You only have to look at the neighbouring structures of Ferrari World, the Yas Marina Circuit and the chameleonic Yas Hotel to appreciate the emirate’s taste for the futuristic. And yet Yas Links is a tribute to an era where golfers played in plus fours, smoked pipes and answered to names like Old Tom Morris: An era about as far removed from modern Abu Dhabi as you can get. The most amazing thing about the course is, simply, that it works. In this hot, desert climate, the concept of emulating a seaside Scottish links appears absurd at first, but Yas Links is remarkably authentic, from the wispy fescue grass to the crumpled dunes and the hickory flagsticks. Yas has forgone the extravagance so pronounced in other new golf courses here with a minimalist approach that is both welcome and refreshing.

Credit must go to the developers, Aldar, for having the willingness to attempt such an audacious project, but American designer Kyle Phillips is the star, bringing his vision of a modern links course to life in dramatic fashion on the gently curved shoreline of Yas Island.

“What makes the course so intriguing is how traditional it is, because  nothing like that has ever been attempted before in the UAE,” says Phillips (who is the designer behind acclaimed modern Scottish classics Kingsbarns and Dundonald).

“There are a lot of very good golf courses in the UAE, but up until now there hasn’t been anything that would feature on a connoisseur’s ‘must play’ list,” Phillips explains. “I suppose that was our aim at Yas, to produce a different course that is complex and varied enough to appeal to the most passionate of golf enthusiasts.”

It’s very early days for Yas Links Golf Club (the full course is scheduled to be open by August) but judging by the early play on the newly opened front nine, Phillips looks to have  emphatically achieved that objective. This is not the kind of golf you will be accustomed to playing in the UAE, where a driver is an almost mandatory weapon off the tee. Phillips has not only achieved the look of a genuine links, but the playing characteristics of one, too. As such, Yas Links presents a superb examination of your all-round game, from your strategy off the tee to your ability to judge a subtle wind and play the right type of approach shot. Once the turf on the course has had time to bed in, tighter surfaces will produce an even more exacting test of the kind of golf you could previously only experience in Ireland or Scotland.

The third is a tremendous par 4 that sweeps in a gentle dogleg left along the mangrove lagoon that borders many of the holes on both nines. The approach on the par 5 seventh hole brings to mind the challenges of Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down, with a blind shot over an imposing dune. And the back nine, when it opens this summer, promises to be even better. Yas Links has the potential to be a modern classic, testament to the genius of Kyle Phillips.

Robbie Greenfield
Golf Digest
May 2010


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply