Top golf­ing greens near Mus­cat

Minty Clinch tries out top cour­ses in and around Oman’s cap­i­tal

Business Traveller - - LIFESTYLE | CONTENTS -

1 ALMOUJ GOLF

WHERE IS IT? 33km west of Mus­cat Old Town WHAT’S IT LIKE? Greg Nor­man’s cham­pi­onship course is the fo­cus of the Wave, a life­style devel­op­ment with a marina and ex­clu­sive real es­tate on a 6km coastal stretch be­tween the Gulf of Oman and the Al Ha­jar Moun­tains. This is the ideal lo­ca­tion for a classy links course that an­swers all the ques­tions, apart from the ones about not rais­ing your head at the sight of fab­u­lous white sand beaches mid-shot, and main­tain­ing fo­cus as jets growl low on the flight path over­head.

The par-4 opener sets the tone with a nat­u­ral khwuar (lake) guarding the green, but the flavour of splen­dours is re­vealed on the par-3 sec­ond, a 230-yard hit off the back tees to­wards the sea, with a snag­gly waste bunker block­ing the right side. As with many tra­di­tional Scot­tish links, the long, nar­row de­sign max­imises ocean frontage, al­though Oman’s aqua­ma­rine wa­ters are a far cry from the Mo­ray Firth.

Opened in 2011, Almouj has 300 mem­bers and cham­pi­onship as­pi­ra­tions, cur­rently met by the an­nual Eu­ro­pean Chal­lenge tour event in Novem­ber. The pros face a wor­thy cli­max at the im­pos­ing par 4, which sweeps along the shore in Peb­ble Beach mode. CON­TACT The Wave, Mad­i­nat Sul­tan Al Qa­boos; tel +968 2200 5990; al­mou­j­golf.com PRICE Sum­mer (June-Sept): 18 holes 30 ri­als (£62) week­days (Sun-Thurs); 35 ri­als (£71) week­ends (Fri-Sat). Win­ter (Oct-May): 50 ri­als (£102) week­days; 60 ri­als (£122) week­ends. In­cludes buggy and Tay­lor­made club hire. CLUB HOURS 6.30am-6pm MAX­I­MUM HAND­I­CAP Men 28, women 36 rec­om­mended; cer­tifi­cate not re­quired. FA­CIL­I­TIES Cham­pi­onship course 18 holes, 7,310 yards, par 72; academy prac­tice course nine holes, par 27. Teach­ing academy with swing stu­dio, nine-hole par-3 be­gin­ners’ course, prac­tice area and putting green. AF­TER THE GOLF Two-level club­house of­fer­ing in­ter­na­tional, Mediter­ranean and Omani specials in the Academy restau­rant, lounge and ter­race. Break­fast is served from 7am; last food or­ders 9.30pm.

2 GHALA GOLF CLUB

WHERE IS IT? 24km west of the Old Town WHAT’S IT LIKE? If you’re look­ing for a course with char­ac­ter and a warm wel­come, this is the one to pick. Pro­vided you can find it – it’s easy to spot from afar but equally easy to miss off an ill-signed mo­tor­way slip road. Be mind­ful, too, that char­ac­ter can come with a high price in terms of lost balls and shred­ded score­cards.

Oman’s first 18-hole course, Ghala was a sand lay­out when it opened in 1971. In 2011 it was turned over to grass by Bill Long­muir, a pro­lific winner on the Eu­ro­pean Se­nior Tour and the cur­rent head pro at the Royal West­more­land in Bar­ba­dos.

Given that Ghala oc­cu­pies a nar­row, steep-sided wadi (val­ley) be­tween moun­tains and mo­tor­way, Long­muir had to ac­com­mo­date re­stricted ter­rain as well as a sur­feit of sand. The first five holes wind up­wards in a con­ven­tion­ally benev­o­lent man­ner, but the sixth is a game changer, with a long carry over sand to the fair­way.

This pat­tern is re­peated on the re­main­ing holes, with an ever less favourable ra­tio of grass to scrub. With blind tee shots and in­va­sive pink cliffs, there are spots where you can only hope for a kindly ric­o­chet to keep your ball in play. CON­TACT Mus­cat Ex­press­way, Mus­cat Gover­norate; tel +968 9219 4957; gha­lagolf.com PRICE Sum­mer: 18 holes 26 ri­als (£53) week­days; 30 ri­als (£61) week­ends. Win­ter: 35 ri­als (£71) week­days; 40 ri­als (£81) week­ends. Buggy 5 ri­als (£10); club hire 5 ri­als (£10), as­sorted brands. CLUB HOURS 6.30am-6pm MAX­I­MUM HAND­I­CAP 36 rec­om­mended FA­CIL­I­TIES 18 holes, 6,527 yards, par 72. Academy and flood­lit driv­ing range (6.30am-10pm), prac­tice area, putting green. AF­TER THE GOLF The restau­rant, lounge, ter­race and bar is run by Laval, a high-end oper­a­tion that prides it­self on gourmet Mediter­ranean cook­ing and lively nightlife. The club opens at noon and closes af­ter mid­night, with a daily happy hour from 6pm to 8pm.

3 MUS­CAT HILLS GOLF & COUN­TRY CLUB

WHERE IS IT? 35km west of the Old Town WHAT’S IT LIKE? Opened in 2009, Mus­cat Hills was the first grass course in Oman, de­signed by Paul Thomas, son of former Ry­der Cup player Dave. In a bar­ren land criss­crossed with wadis, huge in­vest­ment in ir­ri­ga­tion has cre­ated the mir­a­cle of grassy up­lands against the back­drop of the Al Ha­jar Moun­tains. Many of the holes are invit­ing, with spa­cious fair­ways that for­give all but the most er­rant drives. The ex­cep­tions are the par 3s, which re­quire carry over ravines; grip it and rip it is the only way for­ward.

With the ex­cep­tion of the sixth hole, a bizarre anom­aly with a par­tially blind tee shot into a hill­side crossed by ar­ti­fi­cial stone walls of un­known pur­pose, Mus­cat Hills con­forms to global re­sort course rules – longish but amateur-friendly, with im­mac­u­late green­keep­ing. The 18th, a tough par 4 with a lake down the right and grass hum­mocks to the left, de­mand­ing a pin­point ap­proach to a tar­get green, is a stiff fi­nale. CON­TACT Air­port Heights, Mus­cat 111; tel +968 2451 4080; mus­cathills.ecom­mune.com PRICE Sum­mer: 18 holes 40 ri­als (£83) week­days; £50 (£104.50) week­ends. Win­ter: 50 ri­als (£104.50) week­days; 60 ri­als (£125) week­ends. Buggy in­cluded; club hire 15 ri­als (£30.50), Cal­loway. CLUB HOURS 7am-dusk MAX­I­MUM HAND­I­CAP Men 36, women 45; cer­tifi­cate not re­quired. FA­CIL­I­TIES 18 holes, 6,975 yards, par 72; academy and driv­ing range, prac­tice area, putting green. AF­TER THE GOLF Restau­rant opens at 7am and closes when the last cus­tomer leaves. Bar open 12pm-3pm; 6pm on­wards. On-site In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal ho­tel un­der con­struc­tion.

4 RAS AL HAMRA GOLF CLUB

WHERE IS IT? 9km west of the Old Town WHAT’S IT LIKE? The orig­i­nal nine-hole sand course at Ras Al Hamra in­tro­duced golf to Oman back in 1969. When sand gave way to grass in the 21st cen­tury, the de­sign­ers used their in­ge­nu­ity to in­cor­po­rate mul­ti­ple tee boxes and dou­ble greens into a 6,500-yard lay­out.

Us­ing in­dige­nous trees and scrub, they charted a desert-style track among wadis and coastal hill­sides with views of the Ara­bian Sea. The course is fully flood­lit, a pop­u­lar as­pect of a fa­cil­ity that is vir­tu­ally in the city cen­tre. CON­TACT Ras Al Hamra Street, Ras Al Hamra, Mus­cat; tel +968 9704 2505/2230 4850; rasal­ham­ragolf­club.com PRICE Sum­mer: 18 holes 20 ri­als (£41) week­days; 25 ri­als (£51) week­ends. Win­ter: 30 ri­als (£61) week­days; 40 ri­als (£81) week­ends. In­cludes buggy; club hire 11 ri­als (£22), as­sorted brands. CLUB HOURS 7.30am-3.30pm MAX­I­MUM HAND­I­CAP Men 36, women 45; cer­tifi­cate not re­quired. FA­CIL­I­TIES 18 holes on nine-hole course us­ing two tee boxes on each hole, 6,500 yards, par 71. Academy and driv­ing range, prac­tice area, putting green. AF­TER THE GOLF All-day restau­rant open from 7am un­til the flood­lights go off.

Visit oman­tourism. gov.om

Oman Air flies to Mus­cat from Lon­don Heathrow twice a day and from Manch­ester once a day. omanair.com

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