The modern-day game of golf originated in 15th century Scotland, which might be why the lush hills typical of the sport are so integral to the game. Upon first consideration, the arid desert landscape of the UAE seems like it would be inhospitable for a sport born in such grassy inclines. Yet, somehow, golf found home among the sand here, with the first fashioned out of dunes instead of hills.
As the country developed, so did its golf courses — you can even find a world-ranking links course in Abu Dhabi. If you are a golf amateur, enthusiast, or professional, Abu Dhabi has some great clubs for you. While the emirate may not have a large quantity of courses, it makes up for it with diversity – and an actual championship course. And if you’re interested in the original sand courses, don’t worry there’s still one on the list. Here’s some help choosing the course for your next round:
Abu Dhabi City Golf Club
The Abu Dhabi City Golf Club offers the oldest course in the emirate, and it’s the only course in the city. It was originally founded in 1976 in the Mushrif area as the Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club, and the remnants of that history are still very present today. The course sits in the middle of the Abu Dhabi equestrian horse race track. Imagine teeing off against the racers or simply taking in the Abu Dhabi cityscape. With the addition of late tee times — 9pm is their last one — this club is weekday friendly.
A par-70 course with a total of 6,307 yards, the Abu Dhabi City Golf Club assures a balance of both challenging and inviting holes no matter your handicap. The club features one par-5, six par-4 and two par-3 holes. Its website offers flyover videos of each of its nine holes so you can get to know the course before booking a tee time. The club offers four different kinds of yearly membership packages to suit your needs, whether you want access to the gym, pool and sauna, to include your children in your membership or need a corporate account. If you just want to try the club out, there are greens fees (one round session) that range from Dh180 to Dh240. Head to their website to book a tee time or learn more about their memberships.
Yas Links Abu Dhabi
At home on Abu Dhabi’s luxury tourism island, Yas Links features a par-72 championship course with the rolling hills links courses are known for. The greens are so lush you could easily forget you are in the desert – except for Ferrari World looming in the distance. The club is ranked 46th in Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses in the world, and with its breathtaking views it’s no wonder why. The club offers a challenging 18-hole course and a more accessible 9-hole, par-3 course. Fully floodlit, the par-3 course has its last tee time at 8.30pm.
There are three different membership options, which include perks like access to their highly rated gym and spa facilities, discounts at their sister Saadiyat Beach Golf Course, and other benefits. If you’re just looking to visit, the green fees start at Dh435. The links also include the Academy Course, with holes ranging between 83 and 185 yards, for golfers of all skill levels. Pair the course with the academy membership for a golf-learning bootcamp. Refresh after a game at fine dining venues Matsu and Hickory’s Restaurant & Bar, which both boast uninterrupted views of the courses.
Saadiyat Beach Golf Course
With green fairways that eventually roll onto the pristine Saadiyat beach, don’t let the par-72 beachfront course fool you. The 18-hole course is full of hazards: three salt water lakes, a beach, sand dunes and more than 60 bunkers. Nestled behind Saadiyat’s St Regis Hotel Resort and The Park Hyatt, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club feels as luxe as its neighboring resort hotels.
With a more modest offering than its sister club, Yas Links, the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club has only two membership options. No fancy gym and sauna here, and it’s reflected in the price. If you are a no-frills golfer, this club might be for you. The green fees are Dh326. With only one course and no flood lighting, there are only early tee times. No evening tee-offs here, but if you are a Saadiyat resident they do let you run the beautiful grounds after they close at 7.30pm.
Abu Dhabi Golf Resort
Home to one of the European Tour’s most popular events, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, this 27-hole, 72-par course hosts many golf enthusiasts and professionals. Just a 25-minute drive from the city in Sas al Nakhl, Abu Dhabi Golf Resort feels like a retreat. With luxury as the focus, the club facilities are grand and diverse. When not on the grass, hit the gym, pool or squash court at the club. Complete that holiday sensation by staying at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa, which sits right on the outskirts of the club and offers amazing views of the course.
The Abu Dhabi Golf Resort has two courses: The National, an 18-hole course; and The Garden, a floodlit 9-hole course, where you can sharpen your skills by day or night. The Garden course also offers a par-3 for those looking to improve or learn. If you already live in the emirate and are simply looking for a short getaway, the club’s green fees start at Dh225 for the 9-hole course, and Dh375 for the 18-hole course. If you want to become a local at the championship course check out their four membership packages.
Al Ghazal Golf Course
“Instead of greens, there are browns,” which is how Al Ghazal Golf Club’s website aptly describes Abu Dhabi’s only sand course. This is an 18-hole, par-71 course measuring 6,711 yards. The course is split between an archaeological site, which was once sat along an old coastline, and developed lands with hazards like small lakes to offer a challenge. Despite being one of the older Abu Dhabi golf clubs, Al Ghazal Golf Course has expansive facilities. You won’t find a gym, but you can relax at the spa or head outdoors to their tennis and basketball courts or cycling track. They also have a sports field ideal for football and rugby — it’s home the Saracens Rugby Club Abu Dhabi.
Al Ghazal Golf Course has two membership options, plus a junior membership for teens and children. If you’re just looking to visit, the green fees start at Dh150 for 9 holes, and Dh200 for 18 holes. After a day on the sands, check out their dining options, Madang Korean Restaurant and Ola Brasil, which alone are worth the drive to the course near Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club
The Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club offers two courses: the 18-hole, par-72 course, and a 9-hole academy course. After a round, you might enjoy some of the club facilities such as the outdoor pool, gym or climbing wall. There is also a beauty salon to fulfill all grooming needs.
The Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club has a variety of membership offerings, including packages that include the variety of sports and facilities they feature. If you’re simply interested in a visiting round at the club, the green fees start at Dh155 for the 9-hole course, and Dh230 for the 18-hole course. The prices may increase depending on whether it is a peak season.
Alexa Mena is a multidisciplinary artist and media editor for livehealthy.ae. When she's not writing for livehealthy, she's thinking about design and how it shapes the human experience.