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Tue 12 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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As Dubai's annual Desert Classic Golf tournament gets in to full swing, First Class discovers five of the most exclusive golf resorts in the world. From the rough of Scotland to the bunkers of North Carolina, Holly Sands explore the resorts offering championship courses with hotels to match.

As Dubai's annual Desert Classic Golf tournament gets in to full swing, First Class discovers five of the most exclusive golf resorts in the world. From the rough of Scotland to the bunkers of North Carolina, Holly Sands explore the resorts offering championship courses with hotels to match.

The Montgomerie, Dubai, UAE

The summer season sees the course in a full stand of Bermuda grass, with vigorous turf growth creating a testing rough.

Designed by Colin Montgomerie, the Dubai golf course covers a total of 265 acres next to the exclusive Emirates Hills residential community. Throughout the course of the year, The Montgomerie alternates between two distinctly opposite seasons of golf.

The summer season sees the course in a full stand of Bermuda grass, with vigorous turf growth creating a testing rough. During the winter months, the course is over-seeded, creating an entirely different golfing terrain.

One of the course's signature holes is the par 3 thirteenth, ambitiously designed in the shape of the Emirates. A 360-degree teeing area around an island fairway and green keeps the game fresh and challenging, so much so that it has been known to take many players by surprise.

The daily walk-on rate at the Montgomerie is approximately US$190 as it is first and foremost a golf club rather than a hotel. Club and shoe rental are available for US$50 and US$13, respectively, but the The Clubhouse and The Academy each have a golfing retail outlet for those in the mood to indulge in their hobby. The outlets offer a range of golfing attire, footwear and hardware from a variety of specialist brands.

The quality of the golf is reflected in the magnificence of the hotel accommodation. Each of the 21 guest rooms and suites offer a host of amenities, including a personal butler service, movie library, airport transfers and a courtesy shuttle service. Rates start at US$315 per night for a Superior Room, to US$870 for an Executive Suite.

Guests at the hotel are also entitled to discounted green fees and discounted treatments at the Montgomerie Angsana Spa.

With six treatment rooms, the Angsana Spa is well equipped to offer an extensive menu of therapies, treatments and indulgences using the arts of aromatherapy and therapeutic touch. The fact that each of the spa therapists have attended the Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Phuket should help you rest assured that you couldn't possibly be left in more capable hands.

The Old Course, St Andrew's, Scotland

Consistently voted as the world's leading golf resort and a favourite of Hollywood stars like Michael Douglas, The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa is situated in the heart of St Andrew's. Sitting majestically on the East coast of Scotland, looking out across the stretches of the North Sea, St Andrew's is the historic birthplace of the great game.

In recent years the five-star hotel has undergone an extensive multi-million dollar refurbishment of its facilities. It boasts 144 rooms, 37 of which are suites as well as various restaurants, including the Sands Restaurant and the highly recommended Road Hole Grill.

The refurbishment saw the introduction of the hotel's spa, which you might like to visit after one or two rounds. The facilities on offer include an indoor swimming pool boasting a relaxing waterfall, steam rooms, a fitness studio and a gym that looks onto the Old Course.

The Thermal Suite houses a hydrotherapy pool, plunge pool, light therapy sauna, a detoxifying Japanese salt steam room and finally a rooftop whirlpool for those who want to brave the infamous Scottish weather.

The Old Course Hotel offers a series of packages to visitors, which range from two, three or four luxury nights' stay in the resort; one or two rounds on the Old Course, St Andrew's New Course, Jubilee Course, Carnoustie Course or Kingsbarns Course.
Also included in the package is lunch for each day of your stay, held in the clubhouse, complimentary three-course dinner in your hotel, complimentary Scottish breakfast each day and a visit to the British Golf Museum.

Sitting majestically on the East coast of Scotland, St Andrew’s is the historic birthplace of the great game.

Prices start at US$2890 per person for the two-night package to US$4540 per person for the four-night alternative. As well as playing all the famous courses of St Andrew's, guests of the Old Course Hotel have unlimited access to the hotel's private Dukes Course.

Accommodation only starts at US$405 for an Eden Parkland room, to US$1380 for the Royal Ancient Suite, per night.

Green fees for St Andrew's golf courses are from US$17 for the Balgove to US$125 for the Old Course. Though as you might expect, these prices are doubled during high season. Club hire is US$50 per round and US$70 per day, while shoe hire is US$25 and they throw in a new pair of socks.

As a hotel guest you can enjoy guaranteed prime tee-times on all of the St Andrew's courses, and the hotel provides a transfer if it is not an in-house course. You will also have guaranteed tee-times on other high-profile Scottish and Irish courses, presenting a perfect opportunity for those wishing to tour golfing heritage sites.

Sandy Lane, St James, Barbados

Situated on the western coast of the island of Barbados, Sandy Lane is home to some of the world's most revered golf courses. Carved from a disused limestone quarry, The Green Monkey designed by Tom Fazio is perhaps the most famous of its three, with a par 72, 7343-yard course, and green fees that have been known to reach US$500.

Sandy Lane was originally built in 1961, before it was sold in 1996 and officially reopened as an exclusive 112-room resort in March of 2001 by Dermot Desmond, JP McManus and partners.

In the wake of its relaunch royalty, movie stars and politicians have been known to holiday at the resort. Most notably, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren chose to hold their wedding ceremony on The Green Monkey course, tying the knot at the 19th hole in October 2004.

Woods hired out the entire resort, including all 112 guest rooms and suites for several days to ensure complete privacy.

Rates at Sandy Lane start from US$900 to US$3700 for rooms, US$1800 to US$5500 for suites and US$3,600 to US$9200 for penthouses. For those who really want to splash out a five bedroom villa can be hired with rates starting from US$8000 to US$25,000.

Aside from the guest rooms, the resort is home to four restaurants- including it's signature "L'Acajou", five bars, a 47,000 sq ft spa and three golf courses; The Country Club, The Green Monkey and The Old Nine.

As well as The Green Monkey, world-class golf course architect Tom Fazio also designed The Country Club, a 7060-yard par 72 course which hosted the 2006 World Cup of Golf. The course is visually stunning, studded with lakes, lush greens, well-groomed fairways and panoramic views of the Caribbean sea.
The Old Nine is a smaller course at 3345 yards, par 36 described as "intimate yet demanding". It is the oldest of the courses, having been constructed in 1961 with the original Sandy Lane property.

Official green fees vary between each course. The Country Club and The Old Nine charge US$235 and US$95, respectively, but are between US$10 and US$40 cheaper for Sandy Lane hotel guests.

In the wake of its relaunch royalty, movie stars and politicians have been known to holiday at the resort.

Green fees for The Green Monkey are US$500, with the hire of GPS fitted golf carts included in the price, a benefit which is also included in The Country Club green fees. Clubs and soft spike shoes are also available to rent for US$65 and US$20 respectively.

Pinehurst, North Carolina, USA

One of the most acclaimed golf resorts in America, Pinehurst boasts eight immaculate courses across 2000 acres of land. Renowned golf course architects Donald Ross, Tom and George Fazio, Rees Jones and Ellis Maples have all worked their magic on these greens across the last century, each creating unique golfing terrains.

Having been designed by Donald Ross in 1898, Course One is the most antique, but the classic layout mean it's challenge nonetheless. However, it is Courses Two, Four and Eight which reign supreme at Pinehurst.

In particular, century-old Course Two has hosted more championships than any other golf course in the country, while Course Eight was the site of the PGA Club Pro Championship in 1997 and 1998. Alongside presenting some of the most breathtaking views at Pinehurst, Course Four, reworked in 2000 by the hands of Tom Fazio, is set to hold the 2008 US Amateur.

Guests may choose only to make a day visit, with walk-on rates US$410 for course two; US$265 for Courses Four, Six, Seven and Eight; and US$165 for Courses One, Three and Five. Green fees, a cart and range balls are all included in the price, but club hire is an extra US$70.

Despite the availability of walk-on rates, most are inclined to take full advantage of the luxurious facilities on offer. This includes the charming range of accommodation, as Pinehurst is home to three hotels alongside a number of villas and condos.

Erected in 1901, The Carolina is a landmark hotel with a dramatic presence. The building has 220 guest rooms and suites, a coffee shop, a news stand and a clothing outlet as well as The West Lawn Activity Centre containing a children's pool and a whirlpool. The centre also offers a snack bar and facilities to set up your own mini-putting course on the large putting green.

A further 82 rooms, suites and honeymoon suite are available in The Holly Inn, and within which sits the 1895 Grille restaurant where numerous presidents have dined in the past. A vibrant Scottish influenced bar and a peaceful, well-stocked library are also available at the ambient residence for visitors wishing to unwind after a thrilling day on the green.

The Manor is a residence designed for sporting enthusiasts who might prefer to relax in the Hackers Bar and Grill after a game, with its large TV screens and a menu that offers traditional snacks and drinks. Slightly smaller than its sister hotels, The Manor has 42 generously sized deluxe guest rooms and suites and a more casual atmosphere.

If the accommodation isn't enough to help you wind down, the Spa at Pinehurst certainly will be. There are a variety of treatments available, as well as an aquatherapy facility, a salon and fitness centre, all of which can be built into your holiday package.
The packages available are vast in their components, but can also be tailored to suit your individual preferences. Room only rates are from US$160 to US$300 depending on the room type.

Erected in 1901, The Carolina at Pinehurst is a landmark hotel with a dramatic presence.

Typically, package offers start at US$300 per night, per person, which includes complimentary dinner and breakfast and one round of golf per night stayed. Courses that are available on this rate include all at Pinehurst except for Course Two, which is available for an additional US$150 per person. A golf cart, access to practice facilities and club storage are included in the price.

The K Club, County Kildare, Ireland

The K Club, is a restored country house which lies beside the river Liffey in the idyllic landscape of County Kildare. The Palmer Course and The Smurfit Course are The K Club's signature greens with Arnold Palmer having himself designed the former, before it became the venue for Ireland's first Ryder Cup.

It is widely acknowledged that The Palmer Course is one of Europe's most impressive courses, but The Smurfit Course was designed to challenge this status and appears to have done so, to a point whereby it is near impossible to judge the greater of the two.

The Smurfit Course has an impressive while treacherous landscape, with a plethora of tamed wildflower and a testing 14 acres of water etched into the green. At points in the construction of the course, parts of the fairway were lowered in excess of 50 feet below its initial height, which can be seen at the Par 57th hole.

Green fees for non-residential players on The Palmer are US$200, and US$130 for The Smurfit. Resident players green fees are not so significantly less, at a reduction of approximately US$20.

The five-star resort demands that you spend at least a day there, if not to further take advantage of the superb golfing facilities, then to enjoy the spa and incredible location.

With 69 rooms and suites, each unique in décor and size the hotel is as boutique and luxurious as its courses are unique.

Accommodation types start at superior rooms ranging through to hotel suites, which start at US$520 and US$840, respectively per room, per night. The K Club also has a presidential suite, prices for which begin at US$1000 per night, an Imperial Suite and Viceroy Suite; both of which have rates starting at US$10,830 per night.

A further 23 Garden Apartments are located adjacent to the main body of the hotel, each with two bedrooms and separate kitchen, dining room and living room. These are available for US$600 per night, based on two people sharing, and charge a further US$225 per extra guest.

As with all five-star hotels, The K Club is home to The K Spa, which offers a vast array of holistic treatments, available in a selection of treatment rooms, suites and relaxation area.

The spa facilities also include a gymnasium filled with treadmills, rowers, static bikes, cardio equipment, strength machines and free weights. Last, but not least is the pool hall where you will find a full-length swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and which lead out into the calming zen garden, featuring an outdoor hot tub reserved for those keen to brave the Irish outdoors in their swimsuits.

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