Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Yas Links

May 1, 2013
2013 / May 2013

Yas Island is a $36 billion development project by Aldar Properties. The island hosts the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix along with many attractions such as Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World and, of course, Yas Links.

Golf World listed Yas Links among the top 100 courses in the world, and Golf Digest ranked it No. 24 outside the United States. The course is perfectly maintained and managed. Everyone was tops, from clubhouse staff to course and locker room attendants.

Yas is the first links-style course in the Middle East and the first designed by Kyle Phillips. Phillips, known for his golf architecture at The Grove, London; Dundonald, Troon; and Kingsbarns at St. Andrews, has more than 25 years in design experience, with a reputation for creating unique courses that take into account the environment and topography.

Yas Island is a unique experience, nearly always windy, within a rich ecosystem of water birds, marine life and coastal organisms. Wayne Tallman of the Global Traveler Advisory Board and I flew to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways and were able to sneak away from our duties to take a look at Yas Links.

Hole 1 | 378 yards, par 4

Securing a par right out of the gate can be a confidence builder. Wayne allowed me a “breakfast ball” on the first tee (the benefit of being the host, I’m told), and I corrected my initial drive down the right near the fairway bunker. Wayne pushed his ball farther right in the bunker, hitting the green in three rather than regulation. I had a clean mid-iron to the green and landed just on the right for a long putt to the cup. An excellent putt got me within “gimme” distance for my first par (of very few) at Yas Links. Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld provide a backdrop here.

Hole 3 | 442 yards, par 4

This is the first hole that encounters the Arabian Gulf. The water was a beautiful blue, and the thin stretch of fairway looked daunting from the tee box. As we mustered the courage to slam our drives with precision, the wind gusted at 30 mph. A powerful push over the sea and across the fairway could easily send us into the dunes. We were not deterred; both drives landed cleanly, mine just right of the left fairway bunker and Wayne’s farther right, pushed by the wind. As the gusts continued to blow, I hit toward the green and landed on the fringe but clear of the front right bunker. Wayne overshot, landing far back of the green for a comical three-putt. I conquered this windy dogleg and walked away with par.

Hole 5 | 405 yards, par 4

I must give credit where credit is due: Wayne birdied this hole while I struggled in the sand dunes. We were playing swiftly and came up on a foursome who kindly waved us ahead. I chatted with them briefly and learned they were German expats. Wayne hit an excellent drive to right center of the fairway. I, on the other hand, pulled left and long into the dunes. I thought my new friends would allow us to play our balls before driving out, but no; I was soon surrounded in the dunes, searching for my ball and those of my new friends from Germany. My ball was sitting up, and I advanced on the same trajectory — in the dunes. Meanwhile, Wayne nailed a shot within two feet of the pin and told me to move on.

Hole 8 | 186 yards, par 3

A series of bad breaks began for me on this par 3, sitting dangerously close to the water’s edge. Wayne connected well, landing on the left side of the green. The contours of the green feed left to right, which I soon learned. My shot was simply unfair; it looked fantastic but rolled to the right and was swallowed by a trap … which saved me from going into the drink. I went from trap to trap, ending my hope for a sandy par.

The clubhouse © Yas Links

The clubhouse © Yas Links

Hole 15 | 482 yards, par 4

There are two types of golfers: those who think through each shot methodically and those who throw caution to the wind. Wayne and I are the latter. Hole 15 begins a difficult home stretch to the clubhouse. Although there is a generous landing area, Wayne and I made it more difficult by splitting our shots, mine right in the rough and his left over the fairway bunker and in the rough. My ball was sitting up; and where convention would say, “Land an iron on it,” I took my 3-wood and decided, “What do I have to lose?” This was the right decision, as I landed 60 yards from the green, avoiding the right fairway bunker. Wayne had a more difficult shot, coming up 90 yards behind me. They say the short game is key, and I went with a true links approach with a 7-iron to bump and run to the green. With all the shenanigans, I walked away with par.

Hole 17 | 201 yards, par 3

A beautiful hole with a tee shot that requires you to carry a horseshoe-shaped bay to the green, which juts into the Arabian Gulf. The wind was in our faces, and we selected our weapons — fairway woods — hoping to clear the water without going over the green. Both our tee shots were PGA-quality, landing on the left side of the green but with a long putt to the cup. Congratulations were in order as we secured pars on this challenging hole.

Hole 18 | 646 yards, par 5

This is a doozy — long, difficult and beautiful as it wraps around the sea, doglegging to the green and the clubhouse. With the widest landing area on the course, we managed to miss it due to the wind off the gulf. My drive landed just right in the rough on some hardpan, and Wayne outdrove me by 50 yards farther right but still in play. At least the water was taken out of play — for now. My next shot, a 3-wood down the fairway, got me back into the game. Wayne positioned himself shorter than he wanted but in striking distance of the green. The tightly mowed grass let me down, and I rolled off the left of the green into the deep blue, whereas Wayne landed on the right fringe for a bogey to end a truly enjoyable day.

Yas Links Abu Dhabi

Yas Island
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates
tel 971 2 810 7710
yaslinks.com

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