The first nine holes in Yas Acres, the latest original work from Fry / Straka International Golf Course DesignOpening in September, it is the first course in what could be a decade of golf development in the Middle East.
Yas Acres, the sister property of the famous Yas Links, is being developed by Aldar Properties as another recreational area on the man-made island in the Persian Gulf. The club will also open this fall, according to partner Fry/Straka Dana Fry. The second nine is planned, but construction has not yet begun.
“I have not set foot on Yas Acres since March 2020, due to COVID, but that is why we, as a company, insist on creating the most detailed construction documentation and rating in the business,” said Fry. “We would prefer to be on site of course. However, a skilled contractor can look at our plans and effectively build the golf course to specifications. Plus, we had talented designers on site who use live video to guide us through the construction progress. That is the whole point of the documentation Building and having a strong team on site – something that could be lost if too much emphasis is placed on self-employment. I hope to travel to Abu Dhabi in time for the opening this fall.”
Yas Island was a naturally formed peninsula until the UAE government separated the sandy expanse from the mainland by creating a man-made saltwater aqueduct. It was planned as an “entertainment” island. Today it is home to dozens of hotels and beach resorts, Ferrari World, Warner Brothers Studio Theme Park, Yas Waterworld, SeaWorld and Yas Links, which opened in 2010.
“Yas Links is clearly the best golf course in the Middle East. We are confident that Yas Acres, when completed, will represent a truly worthy course.” “The whole island is pure sand and that’s catnip for any architect. The first thing we did at Yas Acres was build a man-made ridge that stretches across the 30-foot-high property. But before that, the entire site, which is 156 acres, was filled in. , about five feet – to make sure all the grass and plants aren’t affected by groundwater levels, which fluctuate due to their proximity to the sea.
“All holes interact directly with these hills, via tee boxes, driveways or green sites. This type of elevation also allows for plenty of running water and streams. Naturally, our design called for large desert vegetation for the entire path, especially the hills. Without it, from It’s hard to make a landform of this size look natural.”
Fry and his partner Jason Straka They are some of the boldest and most creative practitioners of what they call “The Big Dirt” – that is, the creation of man-made terrain that gives drama and strategic beauty to flat features. Examples include Calusa Pines in Naples, Florida and the National Golf Association Club, a 27-hole project nearing completion in Pines Barnes in southern New Jersey.
“I used to work for Tom Fazio, during the ’80s, and I always thought his longtime partner, Andy Banfield, he was the best big guy at moving dirt—but I think now we can do that too,” Fry said. “Using a Big Dirt to make great golf holes is only half the battle. The other half connects Big Dirt to the surrounding landscape to make it appear as if it has always been there. This is a classification exercise and a vegetarian exercise. And when it comes to revegetation, I’ll take Jason Strica over anyone.
“Yas Links is an excellent golf course but it doesn’t have the height of Yas Acres. Another factor that makes Yas Acres so special is the size of our property. We had 156 acres to work on – for the first nine holes only! Merion Golf Club has 18 holes on 108 acres, just to put that into perspective. So we have incredibly wide walkways of pure sand. We’ve been able to create some really attractive landmarks and hole environments because of the unique space we have.”
Yas Links is the first Middle Eastern commission of Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design, which also has ongoing projects in Vietnam, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and several states across the United States. Before the Chinese government effectively banned all new course construction in 2014, Fry/Straka designed and built seven highly regarded projects there, including Qizhong Garden GC in Shanghai, which hosts the LPGA Tour terminal from 2016 to 2019.
More than 20 different golf projects have been formed in the UAE since 1995, but a lot of the golf industry these days is very focused on the neighboring kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” initiative calls for the development of multiple “resort cities” in strategic areas of the country, all of which include golf course components.
“I attended the Saudi Golf Summit in January 2020, just before the pandemic,” Frey said. “It is not yet clear exactly how many golf courses will be proposed and how many golf courses will be built. It will be a very interesting few years, watching the process take shape. The population of the UAE is 90 percent expatriate. The market for golf and other entertainment is already there. Nearby, still Everything is under construction and a lot of customers of this resort will arrive from outside the kingdom. How much is being built? No one knows yet.”