Nicklaus Design: Al Zorah Golf Club interview

Senior design associate talks company's first solo layout in Middle East

Charlie Lemay's picture
Tue, 27 Oct 2015

Nicklaus Design, widely regarded as one of the world's best design companies, is counting down the days until Al Zorah Golf Club in Ajman officially opens in December.

The layout is the Middle East's newest track, while also being Nicklaus Design's first solo project in the region, and is the United Arab Emirates' first new championship venue in almost six years.

Senior design associate Dirk Bouts gives us the lowdown on the new layout.

Report: Al Zorah nears grand opening

Could you give a bit of your background, where you learnt your trade, where you come from and how you ended up here at Nicklaus Design?

Dirk: I'm a native of Belgium and ran the European office for Nicklaus Design. I started as a trainee for Jack Nicklaus 25 years ago back in Spain. I have lived and worked all over the world and returned to Europe about 15 years ago in order to head the European Office. Out of that office we currently have six golf courses under construction, with projects located in Russia, Latvia, Denmark, two in Morocco, and, of course, Al Zorah in Ajman.

Al Zorah is Ajman's first golf course and Nicklaus Design's first solo project in the Middle East – can you share with our readers your vision for the land you were originally tasked with creating a championship golf course on?

We were given a nice piece of property along the shoreline of existing mangroves. The goal was to fit the golf course onto the land, providing and ensuring we would maximize the benefit of the neighboring mangroves. At the same time, we wanted to maximize not only the views from the golf course, but the vistas to the golf course and to the mangroves from the surrounding development.

When Al Zorah opens for play in December of this year, what can members and guests expect in terms of the way the course plays?

They can expect a very enjoyable and playable golf course set within a beautiful setting, taking advantage of the surrounding natural existing features. Our goal at Nicklaus Design is to always create a balance of aesthetics and good shot values, while always respecting and protecting the natural environment of the canvas we have been given. We believe we have achieved that at Al Zorah.

The developers were mindful of giving the golf course ample space, I assume that was very liberating from a design and construction standpoint?

Absolutely. A pleasant balance between golf area and development area was created from the start and both areas now complement each other. From a construction point of view, it also facilitated matters on the golf course, as we only had to focus on the actual construction of the golf course.

People are talking about the tidal system that will alter the complexion of the course on an hourly basis. How will this change the playability and look of the course?

It will change the look constantly, and within a single round of golf, we hope the players will experience the tide coming in or going out, which is an experience in and by itself. The playability will, of course, change, depending on whether or not the low native areas are flooded.

Can you just tell us what are your favorite holes and why?

It is always very difficult to identify favorite holes, because our goal should be and is to create the best 18 holes we possibly can. We hope those golfers who enjoy the course over the years will best determine favorite holes. Having said that, the holes along the mangrove and where we have the low tidal areas should be among the golfer’s favorites.

What’s the toughest hole on the course and why?

I would say that under normal conditions, the holes that play into the wind will be the more challenging. That would be the norm on most golf courses.

For more information visit the Al Zorah Golf Club website.



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