Feb 19th, 2016
Al Zorah Golf Club
The UAE's first new course in six years
Words: Daniel Owen
We’ve all heard of Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. And we know they are part of the UAE. But the UAE is made up of seven Emirates, and one you’ve probably not heard of though is Ajman. Situated to the north east of Dubai, and just 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport, Al Zorah is Ajman’s first golf course, and the UAE’s first new golf course in six years.
If you’ve never played desert golf it is something to behold. The sheer ambition of growing a golf course in a desert is mind blowing. To build ones as good as they do is a real achievement. Long gone are the days of browns, greens made by mixing oil with the sand to make a putting surface. And arguably the Troon golf managed Al Zorah is the pinnacle of the progress of golf in the region.
Built in one million square metres of mangroves, the course is framed beautifully by tidal water. The combination of desert and water is an intoxicating one, which while not totally unique (with Yas Links in Abu Dhabi another example in the region) is a rare find.
One of the most interesting rides to a first tee you will ever find, the course features over 1.5 km of monorail like wooden boardwalks to help you through the water that may or not be there. Dependent on when the tides are in the course changes dramatically. We played it when the tides were out so there were times when an errant shot could be played from where it lay. If we’d have played later in the day that same ball would have been swimming with the fishes.
What amazed us for a course that had only been started on two years previous, was that it was in immaculate condition. The greens ran true, and the fairways ran firm. There was a real links feel to many of the holes, and the fringes around the green were short. The old Texas wedge could come into play, something we’re big fans of, why chip if you can putt? At 7,169 from the black tees you'll need all the help you can get.
Pretty open off the tee, there were times where you felt you could flail away as hard as you liked off the tee. Not always the best advice, but pretty enjoyable having grown up playing a densely tree-lined Surrey track where you had to steer the ball around the course. Much of the course's protection is around the greens from huge slopes, to heavy bunkering, although if you can get the ball to the green they aren’t currently too challenging. We’re sure this will change as they get faster.
When the mangroves come into play they get really intimidating. Despite the course being a fairly easy ride off the tee, the 9th and 11th tee shots will really test your commitment to making a solid swing. The Island tees look great and are totally unique with just the boardwalks connecting you between them and the fairway. You will not want to hit it right on the 11th. Keep left, keep dry.
The course will be renumbered as the clubhouse gets completed, but for the moment the 18th plays as a 237 yard par three. Go long or maybe blade a second shot and you’ll be in the mangroves again, like one of my playing partners. An unusual finish to a course, and the only par three finish in the UAE, it’s a real testing last hole, especially if you’re trying to post a decent score.
While brand new, the course feels well established. And despite being Ajman’s first course, they realise that the courses of Dubai and Abu Dhabi provide stern competition. But with keen pricing, it offers some of the best value in the region. If you find yourself in Dubai on holiday, don’t be scared of a short road trip to play this absolute gem.
Green fees start from AED495