The first nine holes of the Fry/Straka-designed Yas Acres golf course in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will open in September.
Yas Acres has been developed by real estate development company Aldar Properties and is located a few miles away from the Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links golf course.
“I have not set foot on the Yas Acres site since March 2020, due to Covid, but this is why we, as a firm, insist on creating the most detailed construction and grading documents in the business,” said Dana Fry. “We prefer to be on site, of course. However, a skilled contractor can look at our plans and effectively build a golf course to specifications. Additionally, we had talented shapers on site who would use live video to walk us through the construction progress. That’s the whole point of construction documents and having a strong on-site team in place – something that can get lost if too much emphasis is placed on freelancing. I’m hoping to travel to Abu Dhabi in time for the opening this fall.”
The new course has been built on Yas Island, which was a naturally formed peninsula until the UAE government separated the sandy expanse from the mainland by constructing a man-made, salt-water channel. It has now become an ‘entertainment island’, home to many hotels, resorts, amusement parks and other attractions, including the Formula 1 racing circuit.
“Yas Links is clearly the best golf course in the Middle East,” said Fry. “We’re confident that Yas Acres, when completed, will represent a truly worthy companion track. The entire island is pure sand, and that is catnip to any architect. First thing we did at Yas Acres was build a man-made ridge that runs right through the property that reaches heights of 30 feet. But before that, the entire site, which is 156 acres, was filled about five feet – to make sure all the turf and vegetation would not be affected by groundwater levels, which fluctuate because of the proximity to the sea.
“All the holes interact directly with this ridge, via tee boxes, fairways or green sites. That sort of elevation also allows for lots of running water and streams. Naturally, our design called for a substantial desert vegetation of the entire course, but especially the ridge. Without that, it’s difficult to make a landform that big look natural.”
Fry and his design partner Jason Straka have created large landforms on several projects before, including Union League National in New Jersey, which is nearing completion. “I used to work for Tom Fazio during the 1980s and I’ve always believed that his long-time associate, Andy Banfield, was the best big dirt-moving guy – but now I believe we can do it just as well,” said Fry. “Using big dirt to make great golf holes is only half the battle. The other half is tying the big dirt into the surrounding landscape to make it look like it’s always been there. That’s a grading exercise and a vegetative exercise. And when it comes to revegetation, I’ll take Jason Straka over anyone.
“Yas Links is an excellent golf course, but it does not feature the elevation we have at Yas Acres. The other factor that makes Yas Acres so special is the size of our property. We had 156 acres to work with there – for just the first nine holes alone! Merion Golf Club has 18 holes on 108 acres, just to put that in perspective. So, we have incredibly wide corridors of pure sand and we’ve been able to create some really compelling contours and hole environments because of the unique space we have.”
Construction has been handled by golf course contractor Desert Group. Pure Dynasty seeded paspalum was supplied by Atlas Turf International, a Toro irrigation system has been installed and AquaFuse’s products have also been used.
Yas Links is the first Middle Eastern commission for Fry/Straka and while a second nine is planned, construction has not yet started.