The Middle East’s first all-grass golf course dates to 1988 and it continues as the most prominent course in the region. Host to the annual Omega Dubai Desert Classic for nearly 30 years, Emirates is best recognized for its lush landscaping, desert accents and skyscraper backdrops, such as at the par-4 eighth, setting for two-time champion Rory McIlroy’s “Standing in the Hall of Fame” Omega watch ad.
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Emirates Golf Club (Faldo)
Once known as Wadi (“Valley”), for the natural feature that graces the layout, the sister course to Majlis was reworked by Sir Nick Faldo in 2006. A watery front nine gives way to more interesting terrain on the back. At more than 7,000 yards from the tips, the Faldo is near-equal in challenge to the Majlis, if not in character, but it is floodlit for night play, a huge plus when the mercury soars.
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Jumeirah Golf Estates (Earth)
This 2009 Greg Norman design plays host each November to the PGA European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship. It’s mostly open, with generous landing areas, but at 7,706 yards, plus water, wind and sand, it’s a stern challenge, notably at the par-5 18th, where a serpentine, rock-lined stream bisects the middle of the fairway. Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson have each won twice here since 2012.
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Jumeirah Golf Estates (Fire)
The sibling to Jumeirah’s championship course might well be called “Jumeirah Earth Light.” It’s another Greg Norman creation from 2009 and dishes out many of the same features as its brawnier brother, but it’s more playable for the average golfer, with more strategy options and more receptive greens.
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Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club
Adjacent to the Park Hyatt Dubai, Dubai Creek furnishes a superior par-3 course—Rory McIlroy has sampled it—and a totally fun championship 18. The finish is world-class, with the 354-yard 17th and the 421-yard 18th a pair of riveting par-4s that skirt the wide, boat-filled Dubai Creek. Behind the 18th green is one of golf’s most distinctive clubhouses, which resembles the sails of an Arabic dhow.
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The Els Club
The club’s namesake designer, Ernie Els, is nicknamed, “The Big Easy.” His 2008 design within Dubai Sports City is anything but. At 7,538 yards, it’s a muscular layout even with extra-roomy fairway landing areas and you’ll have acres of bright white sand to avoid, both in the form of traditional, often steep bunkers and in the vast, scrub-dotted transition areas that separate holes.
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Al Badia Golf Club by Intercontinental
Hewn from the flat desert floor in 2005 by Robert Trent Jones II, Al Badia debuted as the Four Seasons Dubai , near the remarkable Dubai Festival City. Now part of the InterContinental Hotel Dubai, the 7,300-yard layout is better than ever, thanks to a “river of sand” design element and multiple lakes that add beauty and menace at such strategic gems as the par-4 sixth, par-4 ninth and par-5 18th.
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The Address Montgomerie Dubai
The Montgomerie, as it’s generally called, is a 7,461-yard, 2002 Colin Montgomerie/Desmond Muirhead resort/residential design. While billed as links-style due its lack of trees, the 15-year-old course sports 14 lakes and a plethora of mounds and sand bunkers. Most memorable is the par-3 13th, which serves up a large, flat island green shaped like the UAE, and a 360-degree tee box, providing the ultimate in variety.
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Arabian Ranches Golf Club
Created by 1991 Open Championship winner Ian Baker-Finch, in association with Nicklaus Design, this 13-year-old residential course is playable for all, yet plenty challenging from the 7,658-yard tips, especially with shrub-dotted native sands framing the fairways. The 560-yard, par-5 third shines with a narrow, cunningly contoured elevated green set into a tree-studded sand dune.
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