When designing a desert course, environmental factors push themselves to the forefront of the architect's mind. The recently-opened Al Badia Golf Resort, part of the Dubai Festival City property development on the banks of the Dubai Creek in the United Arab Emirates, is no exception.
Its waterfront location means that supply is plentiful, but the key factor has been the use of salt tolerant Paspalum grass. "The use of Paspalum grass on the turfed 85 acres means the million gallons of water a day needed to irrigate the course is one third less than that required with conventional Bermuda grass," explains Roger Morris, general manager of the resort. "Players will be in awe at how rich and green the course is in contrast to the desert terrain which was its starting point." "The challenge presented was to create a golf course that was equal in vision to the richness and detail of the project as a whole yet seamlessly moulding this element into the overall quilt that combined is the Dubai Festival City property development," says Robert Trent Jones II, course architect.
"This had to be achieved keeping in mind the one existing site condition that was to remain untouched, the wind," he continues. This general consideration guided the creation of the route plan, which is responsible for developing the rhythm or the unique personality of the golf course. Key to this unique personality is also the extensive incorporation of water throughout the course. The presence and movement of water is one of the encompassing statements of the Dubai Festival City project in its entirety.Water is seen, heard and felt almost everywhere on the course and also off.
"Though extensive in its incorporation, water is constantly being presented in differing manners, from large bodies of water that must be played along or across, to gently flowing streams meandering through golf holes, to spilling falls adjacent to green sites. Variety is paramount." The influence of water is everywhere, even in the use of sand. Trent Jones has introduced a 'Rivers Of Sand' concept, which runs throughout the Dubai Festival City course adding texture and colour and creating elevation change. "These 'Rivers of Sand' present a visually crisp hazard that, unlike a body of water, provides the golfer with an opportunity to recover from an errant golf shot. They also create shadows across the sunny, open course, which will give golfers definition and allow them to decide the line they want to play on for their game. In fact, as golfers play all 18 holes, they will need to use all 14 clubs in their bag. The holes are varied, interesting, offer change of pace and change of direction," he explained.
Trent Jones says two of Al Badia's holes, the fifth and eighteenth, are among the most challenging he has conceived to date. "Hole 5, a great par five, runs uphill and through a watercourse that sweeps throughout and ends at a lake near the green." The eighteenth hole, also a par five, which measures approximately 540 yards, is "a boomerang-shaped dogleg left, combining strategy with length. It wraps around the large central lake and the golfer's task is simple: challenge the edge of the lake as much as he dares. The wind generally will work in his favour, making the green reachable in two. But players will need to judge carefully, as the two shots needed both play over water and the green is protected at the back by a meandering bunker which is shared with the ninth green".
The course will be part of the Four Seasons Golf & Country Club at Dubai Festival City, making it the eleventh course in the Four Seasons' portfolio and its first in the Middle East.
This article first appeared in issue 1 of Golf Course Architecture, published in July 2005.