Top golfing greens near Muscat
Minty Clinch tries out top courses in and around Oman’s capital
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.
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Oman Air flies to Muscat from London Heathrow twice a day and from Manchester once a day. omanair.com