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Sun 25 Jul 2010 04:00 AM

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A link to the past

Yas Links clubhouse brings a traditional Andalucian feel to golf.

A link to the past
Chris White general manager Aldar Golf/Yas Links.
A link to the past
COZY FEEL: The traditional club house puts guests at ease.

Yas Links clubhouse brings a traditional Andalucian feel to golf.

The Yas Links Golf Clubhouse officially opened on March 25, with the soft-opening of the first nine holes of the course held the following day.

Located on Yas Island, just outside Abu Dhabi, the Yas Links clubhouse is designed to invoke a traditional feel - using the history of links golf as inspiration for the architecture and décor.

Links, for those not in the know, refers to the oldest form of golf which was played on the wasteland that separated towns from the sea. The first golf courses in Scotland and Ireland were built on this land and Yas Links Golf Course general manager Chris White says the original Celtic golf courses have been an inspiration for Yas Links.

"We had a very flat piece of land; we dredged the channel and used the material from the channel for the rough earthworks of the golf course. And our golf course architect Kyle Phillips, who is based in California, has specialised in designing links golf courses and we wanted to create a piece of Scottish or Irish coastline that replicated a links golf course, and that's what we've done," he says.

This links-inspired design is by no means limited to the course itself; in every aspect of the clubhouse interior, references can be seen to links golf and golfing traditions.

"It was very important that the clubhouse architecture aligned itself with the history of the golf course and links golf, so rather than having a really modern contemporary clubhouse, we went down the route of an Andalucian-style villa and of course, traditionally, that type of home had quite high ceilings and was very cooling using lots of stone and natural products," White explains.

"It is purposefully not a massive clubhouse - it is 6500m² which is quite small for a golf clubhouse but what that has created is an intimate and warm and almost homelike feeling where you can sit and relax. If you are on your own you feel comfortable and if you're in a group you feel comfortable."

Enigma Design interior designer Simon Black, who was sub-contracted to work on the project, says that the Andalucian-inspired design brief of the club was followed down to the ‘knick-knacks' used for decoration.

"We found some bits and pieces in Granada in Spain and Indigo Living supplied the furniture. We actually had most of the furniture custom made, so we described what we wanted to them, and they made it for us," reveals Black.

Built in just 12 months, the clubhouse manages to mix its traditional feel with modern offerings such as ‘Barrancas', a fine dining restaurant; Hickory's which features a sports bar, terrace and all day restaurant; and an events lawn which can cater for up to 300 people.

But in the current economic climate, when budgets may be over-stretched, is a golf club membership still on people's wish lists? White certainly feels that the demand is there.
"Abu Dhabi has been crying out for golf, to be honest," he says. "I don't think there are many people both locally and globally who aren't exercising discretion with their spending- do I really need this, can I live without it? But at the same time, golf is a nice pastime to do throughout the year and I think people work very hard in this part of the world and are saying I deserve that four hour break and I deserve to have a game of golf."

The demand for golf in the region is so high, says White, that there is the potential for a second golf course on Yas Island.

"The key is to have alternative variation- what you don't want to do is have a cut and paste of the same thing. The second golf course is on the North of the island; which is a phase three development that is being master planned at the moment and it is far more likely to be community driven, so more of a facility that services a residential community."

If anything has fallen, he feels, it is the volume of people at corporate events. While companies may once have paid for a hundred people to spend the day at a golf course, providing them with a lavish meal afterwards, White says that corporate events are smaller now.

"There are still some corporate events but it is more targeted - maybe 20 or 30 people and it is much more about building relationships than entertaining guests," he says.

"I think that is good for Yas Links. It is a golf course that is very keen to look after its membership - we don't encourage corporate golf at weekends and we are very receptive to that. We really look forward to hosting groups of 20 or 30 and making them feel like a member of the club for one day, rather than being on a treadmill and doing the same event they do week after week - we want it to be a little bit more personal."

The personal touch is an important part of the Yas Links experience. In addition to the cosy feel of the clubhouse, White says that making members feel that they are a part of a community is important. As a result, the club will run golf tournaments and has a winner's board that is just waiting for the first names to be engraved on to it.

"We are very pro families and juniors, we have a junior academy programme in place for the kids and there are very few sports and activities where the family can go out and do something together. With golf you can all play together as a family and it is quite unique in that respect," White says.

And with such a strong sense of tradition at the Yas Links clubhouse, there is no doubt that the junior members will be continuing the links legacy for years to come.

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