Four in one

There are a number of new golf courses under design in the UAE at present but none has attracted the attention that Jumeirah Golf Estates has. COD gets the lowdown.

The courses were designed before the real estate element.
The courses were designed before the real estate element.

There are a number of new golf courses under design in the UAE at present but none has attracted the attention that Jumeirah Golf Estates has. COD gets the lowdown.

Inspiration for designs can come from many different sources. The inspiration for Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab, for example, came from the sail of a dhow.

Abu Dhabi's Masdar city, meanwhile, draws inspiration from traditional Arabic cities. The inspiration for Jumeirah Golf Estates, the mega golf community under development in Dubai, came from the book/film The Da Vinci Code, David Spencer, CEO of Leisurecorp, the owner of Jumeirah Golf Estates explains.


There is a school of thought among golf course designers that these signature designers design the course and have nothing to do with it. I�ve never seen that to be the case.

"The idea was to take a multiple golf course development and showcase the environment. At the time The Da Vinci Code was really hot.

We wanted to have this environmental feel and someone had seen the movie on the plane, and we had earth, wind, water, fire representing the elements, and that's how it started," he explains.

The area selected by the developers, located near the Green Community in Dubai, suited the idea of different courses with elevations varying up to 30 metres on the site.

Each of the four courses will have its own identity. The Fire course, designed by Greg Norman, will have dramatic flora and an orange-coloured sand. "The Fire course is very much a desert golf course.

It will look like a course you would expect to see in Arizona, lots of natural desert sand with bright emerald green bunkers and a local sand that's quite orangey so the bunkers will look like flames.

The Earth course [also designed by Norman] is much more of a parkland style course, more trees, more shrubs, more flowers, so it's almost diametrically opposed," Spencer reveals.

The Water course, meanwhile, which was designed by Vijay Singh, will have ribbons of wetland and oasis areas. Inspired by the Dubai wetland reserve Ras al Khor, it will be the flattest of the four courses.

The Wind course, jointly designed by Greg Norman, Sergio Garcia, and ‘the Pablo Picasso of golf course design' Pete Dye, will feature undulating fairways, thick rough, pot bunkers, and patterns of the wind.

In spite of its name, Jumeirah Golf Estates isn't just about golf, however. The 1119 hectares size-space is also a key real estate development, with around 1,100 residential properties on the Fire and Earth sites alone.

Golf, rather than real estate, was the starting point for the development though, claims Spencer.

"If you look at golf developments across the world, they choose the yield of the real estate first and the golf course second," he says. "What we wanted to do was design the golf courses first and see how the real estate fitted around them."

"We have the largest percentage of golf course frontage real estate of any property in the world. We have 75% of our plots facing golf courses," he continues, adding that the other 25% face pocket parks and lakes.

A key requirement from the client side was that the development had an eco-signature design.

The golf course is gapped with dune sand to reduce renovation needs.

An intricate lake system has been developed to enable storage and reuse of water. Wood mulch used for landscaping comes from palettes and packaging from Dubai's ports.

Positioning the golf course as a world-class golf destination naturally involved recruiting only the best golf course designers to work on the courses, resulting in the all star line-up of Norman, Singh, Garcia, and Dye.

"We wanted to have designers who believed in Dubai, thought that Dubai was cool and not just another design job," says Spencer.

All the designers were actively involved with the project, he says. "There is a school of thought among golf course designers that these signature designers design the course and have nothing to do with it.

I've never seen that to be the case." Norman, for example, visited the course nine times, according to Spencer.

There was also close collaboration between the golf course designers and EDSA, the masterplanners.

"We did the overall masterplan laying out the rough layouts for the golf courses and then each individual course architect became involved and it was a process of tweaking, going back and forth between us and them," says Richard Hallick, associate principal at EDSA.

For the masterplanners, the biggest challenge was the area plan of the project, he adds.

"When we first started working on the masterplan, there was a major underground pipeline that biosected the project so we had to figure out how we could make the community integrate with that.

We then discovered the Arabian Canal would go through the property which biosected it one more time," he says.

"The main issue is probably circulation, how you get roads across it, how you get utilities through it, do you go below, above it, those sort of challenges and then when you build the canal, there was a tremendous amount of [fill] that you had to place somewhere and in this case a lot of that would be put into the golf courses just to make large mounds and a lot of elevations, something that is not very typical in Dubai," he adds.

Obstacles overcome, work on the site is now fully on track for the grand opening use of the site at the Dubai World Championship in November 2009.

All the holes on Fire and Earth have now been shaped and most have been grassed. Work on the Water course is expected to begin before the end of 2008, while details of the Wind course have not yet been finalised.

With golf courses, the proof, of course, is in the pudding. Come November 2009 and all eyes will be on Jumeirah Golf Estates as it hosts the Dubai World Championship.

Will the site pass muster? It's all down to the elements.


Project details

Client Leisurecorp

Masterplanning and concept architecture EDSA

Golf course designers Greg Norman, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia,
Pete Dye

Landscaping consultancy services Badri & Bensouda

Key contractors Al Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, Khansaheb
Civil Engineering

Landscape architects, Phase A Cracknell

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