How golf helped transform Abu Dhabi into a leading travel destination
All Square 3min read • 14 Aug
The remarkable transformation of golf in Abu Dhabi over the last 20 years has been a major driving factor in turning the city into a top tourist destination for international travellers.
Starting with just one golf course made entirely of sand in 1976, Abu Dhabi now has three world-class courses, nine-hole options, and floodlit golf. It also hosts two professional events on the men’s and women’s European Tours and is a leading golf holiday destination.
Over the past few decades, the city transformed into a global tourist hotspot, with five-star luxury hotels, incredible cultural attractions, high-end shopping and huge state-of-the-art theme parks. Abu Dhabi welcomed an estimated 11.35 million international visitors in 2019, a 10.5 per cent year-on-year increase according to the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.
With guaranteed sunshine, excellent golf courses, and luxurious accommodation, the growth in Abu Dhabi’s golf tourism is hardly surprising. With temperatures around 25°C between November and April, the city is particularly appealing to European sun-seeking tourists during winter. It also offers perfect conditions for playing golf.
The golf courses themselves are some of the most spectacular tourists will experience anywhere, and visitors are blown away by their immaculate condition.
The city’s first golf course wasn’t built until 1976 – an 18-hole sand course at the Abu Dhabi Golf & Equestrian Club. In 1998 it was converted into a nine-hole grass course and, today, Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, as it’s now known, is one of the world’s best urban golf experiences, also being completely floodlit.
In the same year, the Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links Abu Dhabi opened, ranked by All Square as one of the world’s top 100 golf courses and the finest in the Middle East. It has one of the best finishing stretches in golf, with Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as a backdrop.
The city’s golf courses have developed hand in hand with its hotels, with many offering stay-and-play packages, such as the five-star Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, where your stay is combined with a round at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Putting Abu Dhabi on the golfing map
The increase in visitor numbers to the city has been helped by the fact that two major professional tournaments are taking place in Abu Dhabi.
In 2006, the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship played on the Championship Course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, kicked off. The fantastic weather, superb golf course and big prize money attracted the world’s best players, and today it boasts an illustrious list of past champions and runner-ups, including Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.
In little over 20 years, golf in Abu Dhabi has gone from a casual pastime played on the sand to a world-class industry attracting thousands of tourists, fans and the world’s best players. The growth of the game has been integral to the transformation of Abu Dhabi into a global tourist destination.