Nine holes open for play at new Jebel Sifah course in Oman

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    The fifth hole at Jebel Sifah

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    One of Peter Harradine’s favourite holes at Jebel Sifah plays towards the Gulf of Oman

  • Nemu2

    Nine holes are now open, with nine more set to be constructed in 2019

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A new golf course designed by Harradine Golf is taking shape in the Middle Eastern country of Oman.

Nine holes are now complete and open for play at the Jebel Sifah Resort, with a further nine set to be constructed in 2019.

The course is the first seaside layout from Harradine Golf, and has been designed to cater for the needs and skills of the average golfer.

GCA caught up with Peter Harradine from the firm to discuss the project.

“We were commissioned by Muriya Tourism Company to design an 18-hole resort course and not another unplayable monster ‘championship’ course, as seen much too often in the Middle East,” Harradine explains. “Our brief was to construct a layout that would be fun to play and enjoyed by the ‘average’ golfer, who would return to the resort and play time and time again. Nine holes have been built and opened, although they are not numbered in the final 18-hole sequence.”

Harradine explains that to cater for the ‘average’ golfer, a specific approach had to be taken.

“The majority of golfers cannot play golf to a standard that allows them to score pars,” he says. “In fact, the majority of golfers are bogey players and above, and they are the people who pay our fees and are the backbone of the golfing industry. So why do we have this proliferation of monster ‘championship’ courses that only frustrate most golfers and make it difficult for them to play under 100? Many ill-informed clients actually think that a layout is not a ‘real’ golf course unless it is a par 72!”

“The common answer to making a course easier is by staggering the tees, which is very true. But what about the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth shot? What happens after that small advantage in length given by an advanced tee has been used? You still have all the other dreaded and fearsome obstacles, such as deep, horrible, enormous bunkers that sometimes even have tuffs of high grass in them. Or narrow fairways, flanked by a tough semi-rough and even tougher roughs with high native grasses gently beckoning the ball, which transform the player into a farmer as he tries to hack his way back to the safety of the fairway.”

“How do you avoid all those nasty obstacles? Well, we created a course with wide fairways, no fairway bunkers and relied on the natural topography to create interest. I must admit that I am not a big fan of fairway bunkers anyway, especially in Europe where the maintenance team is limited to 6-8 people on an 18-hole course. I prefer to work with strategically placed trees, although I insist on a high canopy so that the player can easily play under them. The obligatory bunkers around the greens are not deep and allow the setting of easy and tough pin positions. It is obvious that the easy pin positions will be used most of the time. Contrary to those spectacular tour players that recover from seemingly impossible situations, the average golfer cannot recuperate easily from difficult playing positions. We therefore ensure that the course does not invite unnecessary trouble so that the player will almost always find a playable lie.”

“It must be said that the design has the flexibility to toughen the course so that it can host eventual international competitions. The nine holes that were opened are 3,634 yards long from the tips, but a lot easier from the very front tees with a total length of 2,843 yards.”

Harradine says that Jebel Sifah is blessed with a ‘beautiful rugged and majestic environment’, helping to ensure that players have a very enjoyable game. The course is locked between a set of rugged mountains and the sea, with wadis located on the site which fill with water during the rare but violent rainfalls in the region.

“Unlike many other real estate projects, the stylish houses are unobtrusive and the short distances between the greens and the next tees will encourage the players to walk,” says Harradine. “One par three hole plays towards the Gulf of Oman, whereas the next hole runs parallel to the sea with a natural and beautiful sand dune separating the green and the nearby shore line.”

Harradine says that for him, the course’s highlights are definitely the two holes located right on the sea front.

“My favourite hole is definitely the par three twelfth hole, which plays directly towards the sea,” he says. “The green is big enough to allow multiple pin positions and even a fluky top could allow you to reach the green and end up with a par as the green is not defended by frontal bunkers. The constant breeze however ensures interesting and varied club selections off the tees. I must admit that this hole is also rather special for me as this layout is the first course I’ve designed next to the sea.”

Harradine has nothing against so-called ‘championship’ courses – especially as Harradine Golf has designed many championship courses themselves. But he believes the recent proliferation of championship courses has resulted in too many miserable golfers not enjoying their round due to the difficulty of the layout.

“When I’m asked to design a ‘championship’ course and there is enough room for 27 holes, I always suggest the third nine to be extremely player friendly and a complete contrast to the 18-hole layout,” Harradine says. “I think that the idea to have three interchangeable loops of the same ‘championship’ standard is absolutely idiotic. Golf does not have enough championships to play on all those championship courses!

“At every venue where we designed an easier nine-hole layout, it is the easier nine holes that see a lot more play and finance the entire 27-hole complex,” he adds. “Most players will play the 18-hole championship course just to get a taste of the champions layout but they then revert to the easier nine holes and have fun! We must bring fun back to the game!”