Al Ghazal Golf Club – January 2016 Today I had the pleasure of a very unique golf experience – playing sand golf in the desert. What better way to spend your birthday?
I arrived an hour early (even with the cab driver getting a little lost) and there was no one around except a friendly cat. It was a gorgeous morning and a little surreal looking over the golf course which was all sand with oiled browns.
I met with the pro Rory Young and we had a wonderful morning golfing. The only advice he gave me before teeing off the first was “Stay on the fairway”. If you are on the fairway you get a little mat of astro turf to play off and in the rough you are hitting out of the sand.
While some areas of the rough (I might have spent a bit of time in there) was soft sand, other areas were rocky and some compacted, hard and crunchy sand which is still a result of the rare rain that occurred last week.
On this course you do not want rain. It can close the course for more than a week if there is too much. The browns can wash away and the fairways can become a quagmire.
Putting on the browns was a little bizarre. The ball runs true and it is a little slower than grass but getting it to the browns can be a little tricky as the ball can shoot off as it scoots over the sand. I did this a few times but the added bonus is you can putt on from most places around the browns. At one stage I putted out of a bunker, although the bunker sand is very soft and fluffy.
You pick up a broom before you step on to the browns and drag it behind you sweeping your prints as you walk to address your ball. You can never get away with stepping on someone’s line – evidence is clear. The good news is you can sweep a lovely path to the hole prior to putting.
I did drop a few long putts and watched a couple run round the rim and not drop, but that is golf.
Interestingly, the course only needs one mower – for the driving range as this is the only grass on the entire course. The fairways and browns are maintained with a tractor pulling a flat panel to smooth out the sand.
I had some great proper golf shots off the little patch of astro turf and I hit some great balls out of the rough. I also hit some terrible balls connecting just with the astro turf and the ball only jutting forward due to the impact of me hitting the turf. A couple of times I hit so far behind the ball in the rough it was like I was trying to get out of a green side bunker.
The ball did always go closer to the hole and I only donated a couple of spiders today. Rory pulled out five balls from one of the water hazards (there are a few on the back nine) and cheered when he pulled out my green spider and returned my ball to me.
My driving was fairly consistent and while a little directionally challenged at times, I did hit the ball well. Even the drop kicked drives punched forward and didn’t put me in too much trouble. Teeing up on oiled sand and playing in my joggers was strange but fun.
This course definitely goes down as the most unique course I have ever played and I love that this was a birthday well spent.
Following the round, Rory and I continued our golf chat over a plate of deliciousness from the clubhouse. There are lots of changes and upgrades going on at Al Ghazal Golf Club and I plan to come back to play here again next time I am in this part of the world.