How golf helped transform Abu Dhabi into a leading travel destination

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.

Perfect conditions

Yas Links 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.

It was followed in 2000 by the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, designed by Peter Harradine who carved out 18 exceptional holes from the surrounding desert. Then in 2010, the Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club opened, becoming the Middle East‘s first seaside course.

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 clubhouse at Abu Dhabi Golf Club during the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship

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.

It was elevated in 2019 to be one of eight tournaments which make up the Rolex Series, one of the European Tour‘s premier events, with prize money reaching $7 million. Abu Dhabi also made its move on to the Ladies European Tour schedule in 2006, with the Fatima Bint Mubarak Open at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

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.  

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Dr Marc Groff
Dr Marc Groff
1 year ago

You will need the Troon Executiv Card to get discount and points

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