Ok so it’s long but thats only if you’re brave enough to play off the tiger tees. Measuring in at a whopping 7,879 yards, you can easily find shorter courses but with five choices of tee boxes, you have the option to setup a fair game for all.
Set within 350 acres of established parkland, Rockliffe Hall is undoubtedly one of the UK’s top courses and a must play for anyone looking for a 5* facility in the North East. Situated just to the south of Darlington along the meandering curves of the River Tees it is in fact a young course, providing the backdrop to the beautifully restored 18th century Rockliffe Hall.
In fact golf isn’t the only round ball sport associated to this fabulous estate. Middlesbrough Football Club owner Steve Gibson who not only owns Rockliffe Hall, has his clubs training facilities discreetly over the wall so you’ll probably be bumping into your fair share of footballers.
Since opening in 2009, Rockliffe has been maturing into a real technical test of golf. Not only can it be long but the course setup does require good management due to the strategic positioning of traps and features.
With a generous sprinkling of bunkers, particularly around the greens, combined with lakes, wetlands and some tasty rough you’ll surely get punished if you bite off more than you can chew. Rockliffe is a great challenge, incredibly fun and interesting which is non more apparent than at the signature 5th where you play to an island green. You would like to think this is where the toughest test lies but you’ll know differently once you tee up on the par 3 15th for a 242 yard single shot. Let’s hope the wind isn’t into otherwise it might be a little too much even for most of our Sunday best, even if it does go straight.
With the course getting better every year and maturing wonderfully into one of the best new courses in the UK, Rockliffe Hall sits comfortably alongside The Grove, The London Club’s Heritage and Centurion making it a must visit. The off course facilities are already the finished article and as a combined package, the exciting course, beautifully restored hall and 5* facilities it does provide a brilliant corporate event venue for the money.
Brands looking for luxury golf events to intimate corporate away days, Rockliffe Hall should be on any businesses shortlist as a venue in the North. Just make sure you pack your long sticks and hope the rough isn’t up.
Images: Rockliffe Hall, DarlingtonIt’s just what corporate golf is looking fore?
Located just outside Watford and close to major motorway links, you’ll have to go a long way to find a better venue within the M25 belt. Comparing favourably with other courses in and around London, The Grove is perfectly setup for businesses and brands looking for a premium experience to host their guests.
From the moment you take in the extended driveway and approach the hotel, even the carpark is perfectly manicured. From the first hello at the door, the Grove’s staff go well beyond and you’re made to feel incredibly welcome by their friendly staff. With the hotel attached The Grove has a formidable and professional team to host variable sized events. From intimate group events where attention to detail and a one on one service is key, to large scale corporate days where you’ll want a slick oiled machine, The Grove’s team knows how to support your event.
Designed by Kyle Phillips The Grove sits among his impressive design portfolio, alongside International favourites, Scotland’s Kingsbarns and more recently, Yas Links in Abu Dhabi. The Grove certainly doesn’t let its self down, and since opening in 2003 it’s established itself as a top course known particularly for its impeccable condition. The land around Watford isn’t exactly spectacular but Kyle really has got the most out of the land and created what can still be regarded as a very interesting and enjoyable track.
The round starts off with a comfortable wide fairway opening par 4 which helps settle the nerves on the tee box of those big corporate days. In fact, due to the layout and condition it is a great venue for large mixed events where all levels of golfer might attend. It’s not the sort of course to beat up particular player so allows for a relaxed round and perfect to build relationships with fellow players and to do business.
The whole experience at The Grove is first class. The course might not have the distinctive personality of the UK’s finest courses but as an overall experience it certainly ranks highly, especially if you’re looking for a resort within the M25. If there was a requirement for a venue ideal for corporate hosted events in and around London, then The Grove certainly has to be on the shortlist.
Images: The Grove, WatfordDrive your event engagement further?
A question we get asked a lot by our clients at Clubs Away is how to create events or experiences that can open up conversations. We’ve probably all attended an exhibition, trade show or product launch and had experience of how a conversation can fizzle out pretty quickly, and the opportunity with it. If you’ve been the exhibitor you’ve probably been thinking why, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
So, why does this happen? Having seen this instance many times at the various events we deliver, it happens as a result of having nothing beyond your product or service to talk about. You believe in your brand and could talk about it all day but going in directly for the sales pitch can turn off your potential customer. If you are going to get someone interested in having a conversation about you or your brand, then that person first of all needs to engage with you on a level outside of what product or service you are offering.
We have always felt there are two essential elements to sales;
You can’t have one without the other, but there is evidence contrary to that rule but generally speaking it’s safe to say that to maximise on the success of your brand you need to have both those elements working flawlessly. Allow me to provide an example;
One of our clients is a top sportswear brand and it would be fair to say they are a dominant force in the market they operate in. Their sales would flourish just as a result of the sportspeople, endorsements and marketing alone. They could happily sit back and watch the online orders role into the company and without doubt would maintain a successful business as a result.
The reason they don’t is that a key part of their business focus surrounds their people, not just sales people. Their brand resonates throughout their business, from marketing to HR, its not just an outward facing approach, it starts from the core. They focus on people right the way through the business because they understand that having a relationship with their clients whether it be distributors, sales people, operational staff are all key to building their business to further success.
People, no matter who they are or where they come from are more likely to buy from a brand that they feel they have a relationship with. The better the people are within the business at creating and maintaining relationships the more successful the brand is likely to be – its that simple!
During 2018 we started researching ways we could make it easier for our clients to engage with their audience at a higher level. 2019 saw Clubs Away launch its Golf Simulator Hire service and 12 months on has seen huge results of engagement for our clients;
3 Product Launches
22 Golf Days
6 Charity Engagements
Golf Simulators have proved to be really helpful in unlocking those conversations for our clients and importantly given them the time to build a relationship with their potential customers. A big success has been the response of how a simulator can drive in all manor of customers, keen golfers and those who’ve never played, people just want to have a go. Due to this non intimidating setup it’s been a real hit for brands and provided considerably larger lead generation stats compared to when they’re not using it.
If a golf simulator sounds like a solution to you and your business or you just want to find out more, please get in touch email@example.com and look forward to helping you improve the engagement of your business.Yas Links, business or pleasure??
Sitting 6 miles north west of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Yas Links is only a 10 minute drive which is need given the flight time is twice that compared with many popular golfing destinations in Europe from the UK. That said, once you’re here you’ll realise that this isn’t like European golf resorts, and all the wives tales you’ve herd about the UAE, its time to throw them out the window. Yas Island, home to the Links is also home to Yas Marina F1 circuit, Ferrari world with the worlds fastest rollercoaster, Warner Bros World, waterparks, huge shopping malls, bars and clubs, not to mention a host of luxury hotels.
Being in Abu Dhabi makes Yas Links a perfect location for the end of the year when most of Europe is falling into a freeze, Yas will still be seeing heat most Brits would call positively barmy! This makes it not only a superb holiday getaway but due to its local surroundings its a perfect destination for intimate corporate events. From one to one meetings or smaller team sales events, Yas Links has a fine tuned private and personal approach thats symbolised from the first moment when you collect the keys to your personally named changing locker.
Open in 2010 Yas is a first class golf facility boasting a world top 50 course designed by Kyle Philips and a floodlit 9 hole academy course and practice area. With beautiful view of the Arabian Gulf to one side, Yas Marina F1 circuit, Ferrari Wold and probably your hotel to the other, its an amazing setting for an equally amazing golf course. Playing up to almost 7,500 yards its got five tee positions for those looking to adjust the difficulty making it perfect if you’re out on business as you’ll not want to talk a deal if the course is giving you a beating. The front nine plays wider and probably easier to score compare to the back nine which slowly tightens up to offer some real risk and reward golf, particular the final stretch.
With such a quality course there are almost too many standout holes to mention but an early favourite is the dogleg 3rd which hugs the coast-line for 400 yards with your approach shot to the eight bunker guarded green. Bunkers are something that you’ll have to get used to seeing at Yas Links with game management of the upmost importance, particularly if the wind wants to blow, things can get tricky. The 4th is a great long par 3 with an amazingly undulating green making for some testing pin positions. Its the 9th where things start to change, and from the off your first tee shot is a tight one over the water calling for great accuracy otherwise you’ll give yourself a tricky second.
The whole back nine slides down the strip of land besides Ferrari World and the Yas Marina circuit until turning back on its self, tightly hugging the waters edge. The 12th and 15th have a nice links double green touch so if you miss the serious bunkers guarding the green you could still be left with a lengthy put of some distance. It’s the closing holes that you’ll go home remembering, even if its because you left a few balls in the Arabian Gulf due to the typical head on wind. With small greens and thin fairways the 16th is a nervy test. The 17th is a majestic par three and with all the carry and a fair bit of wind it’s a good result to hold the green. Slightly right sided shots will end up in the dip leaving for a tricky piece of short play to get down for par. The the round is then topped off with an epic finish at the lengthy par 5 18th. You’ll be given a few questions on where to play before you even get to the green and will play really long especially if that wind comes in head on which it usually does.
Uphold your brand values on the fairway?
Yas Links is defiantly a venue worth traveling to, even if you’re visiting Dubai as its well within a two hour drive. At the end of the game you’ll need to freshen off in the rainfall shower even if you did take the cart guy up on a much need cool lolly and enjoy the Spanish style clubhouse. The food is superb and often supported by events, but if that not your thing then outdoor seating has a beautiful view across the back nine for a perfectly relaxing view with a beer. Just don’t forget your sun cream and plenty of water.
As a PGA Professional who hosts Corporate Golf Events and Holidays I have seen first hand that not everyone is aware of basic etiquette most of us take for granted on the golf course. With this in mind I thought I would put together my top etiquette tips so you know next time your out on the course, you won’t annoy your playing partners or letting your company brand down. Especially with corporate events it’s important that you represent the values of your business both on and off the course.
Pace of play;
It’s always important for you and your playing partners on the course to keep up with the group ahead. If you find yourself in a position where your group has lost an entire hole of those players in front, please let the group behind through if you are holding them up.
Stand still and in silence when other people are taking their shot;
This one is an important one if you want to keep on friendly terms with your playing partners. From the moment your playing partner is choosing their club it is etiquette to stay silent until they hit their shot. No player wants to be put off halfway through their swing as it’s hard to pull out and almost always results in a poor shot. The last thing you want is to be blamed for them mishitting a shot even if your chatting wasn’t the reason, they’ll still blame you, even if they don’t say it.
Repair the golf course;
It’s our duty as golfers to make sure we repair the damage we create on the course. How would you like it if you’ve hit your Sunday best only to find yourself in an old fairway divot. Even if you take the fairway divot and bits fly all over the place, just make it look like you’ve tried to fix it. These are a few of the most common:
• Pitch marks on the green
• Divots – Just not on tee boxes
• Rake bunkers
When to play your shot;
The person who is farthest away from the hole plays first. To speed up play try to prepare for your shot whilst other people are playing. The player who had the lowest score on the previous hole tees off first.
Etiquette for when you are on the green;
This is where everyone has to be a little more aware of where their playing partners are. Thankfully fully spiked shoes aren’t really worn anymore so the damage you can make to a green and accidentally sabotage your partners chances of holing a putt are limited. Still there are ways players will expect you to respect their upcoming shot and stepping across and on their line before their putt isn’t one of them. Other ways you can respect your playing partners around the green are:
• Mark your ball with a coin so the other players aren’t distracted
• Don’t stand in eye view of anyone whilst they are taking their shot
Lend a hand;
Who’s happy after hitting a poor shot resulting in them stomping through the trees or thick grass looking for a ball. Chances is they’re not so happy so if your partner finds themselves not being able to find their ball, then be on hand to help them find it – its always handy to have the favour returned should you need it!
Keep your cool;
We all know golf is a very frustrating game, but you need to make every effort for your playing partners sake to manage any frustration in as silent way as possible. Particularly when playing a corporate event you’re not only representing yourself but the business brand you work for. Your company no doubt works hard to portray a brand image and a culture, so it’s your responsibility that you try and uphold the business values at all times. Not to mention, it’s not the most pleasant experience playing with someone who loses their temper but whilst you are vocalising your frustration your playing partner might be trying to concentrate on their shot routine.The inside scoop?
Clubs Away was co-founded by a PGA Golfing Professional, Michael. His passion for golfing started when he was just 4 years old. He is not only an experienced player, but also provides golf coaching at all levels. With 5 PGA competition titles under his belt during his amateur career, Michael graduated from the PGA with distinctions in all Coaching and Business assignments and exams.
It is this determination and dedication that Michael puts into the world of corporate hospitality, and he works with some of the world’s largest organisations. Clubs Away was formed around the idea that sometimes the best way to close a deal is over a round of golf. We take the time to fully understand your business needs and requirements, taking everything out of your hands so you can enjoy the entire experience.
Our mission is simple: to improve your business with corporate golf events and golfing holidays. We help you to get the most out of any event, whatever the objective. Our bespoke, complete service is tailored to your individual needs. Whether you’re putting together a team building day, charity fundraiser or an opportunity to close business leads, our expert team is on hand to help.
We think differently when it comes to creating the perfect corporate hospitality event. By holding an initial consultation to understand your business in its entirety, we help you target the most achievable outcomes with your event. We have named our approach the ‘Power of Play’ – we’re here to help you to bring different ideas into play. Creative thinking developed through play helps create better networking opportunities, build more profitable relationships and enhance team dynamics.
Clubs Away use golf to drive your business performance forward. The main packages we offer are corporate golf events and handpicked holidays. We have a team of in-house designers to cater for your branding needs too, and a golf simulator powered by leading tracking software if you want to stay a little closer to home.
Whether you ‘re hosting a golf event for 2 people or 200, we can cater to your needs. With an experienced team of event planners and PGA professionals, Clubs Away pride ourselves on an innovative approach. Our aim is to create a bespoke event, which not only exceeds all your expectations, but those of your guests too.
Our unique events are created from a selection of handpicked 5* venues, and our event management system takes care of everything so you don’t have to. We are the only travel and events company to provide a PGA professional host to support your event too, allowing extensive business development opportunities.
Our holiday packages are put together by our experienced team, who have spent time at some of the finest golf courses and hotels across the world, bringing you an in-depth insight into the selection. But don’t worry, the world’s best courses don’t always come with the largest price tags. With our well-recognised team of PGA Pros helping you put together your ideal holiday, you can rest assured we’ll bring you the best possible deals.
Once we’ve helped you put together your package, your work is complete. We take care of all the finer details, from arranging flights to booking accommodation, making your golfing holiday as stress-free and relaxing as possible. We don’t just promise 5* golf travel – we deliver it.
The main thing that sets us apart from the competition is the inclusion of a PGA professional within all our corporate golf events and holidays. We are the only golf travel company in the industry to offer this service.
From start to finish, our world-class professional will guide you through the event planning, acting as a local guide, coach and organiser.
How our team can make your event memorable:
The initial meeting you have will be with one of our PGA Pros, to gain an insight into your objectives. With many years of experience under their belt, they are more than happy to provide innovative ideas and recommendations.
Our Pros will use not only their expertise, but their connections in order to get you perks that other companies simply can’t. Whether you want to stay in the best suite in the resort or dine at a private table exclusively for professional golfers, our team will be able to assist.
With all their experience and knowledge, you will have access to the same level of coaching of any PGA great themselves. All our Pros have been on European and US Tours, teaching some of the best players in the world. You really are in the best hands.
We have recently introduced a golf simulator into our array of services, allowing you to play on some of the finest golf courses in the world without the hassle of having to travel there. Combined with innovative, cutting-edge radar software Trackman to analyse your golfing techniques, you can step into the pro world and join leading coaches and players.
Does this all sound like something you’re interested in? If you’re focused on creating a corporate golfing event that will drive your business forward, contact our expert team today for an initial consultation.
In April 2019, the brand agency representing Now TV requested assistance from Clubs Away to create a brand engagement experience at the British Masters Tournament at Hillside Golf Club, Southport.
With Clubs Away having a vast experience in exhibitions and golf, we quickly got to work creating the event blueprint tailored to the exact requirements of the client; Brand exposure for Now TV Creating an experience that spectators will want to participate in Data collection.
The most important aspect of creating brand exposure and collecting data of participants is the experience itself. Our events team started work on suggesting ideas that would draw the spectators to the Now TV stand and after doing some research on what other stands were doing at the event it was obvious that our Trackman powered golf simulator was going to be the top draw for the spectators.
There were challenges before the event took place – when does an event go smoothly? Having received the drawings from the tournament organisers we designed the stand around having our 4m x 3m x 5m structure within the stand. Upon a site inspection we found that this structure was not possible due to the stands support beams within the ceiling. After approval from NowTV, Clubs Away designed and manufactured a tailored simulator structure that measured 3.18m x 2.7m x 4.0m. Clubs Away were also asked to create the branding for the front of the simulator which had to be tailored to the new sizing of the simulator, all this was turned around in 3 days ready for the event.
During the 5 days of exhibiting the Clubs Away golf simulator attracted over 1200 people to the Now TV stand to experience our Trackman powered golf simulator but more importantly the guests of the stand engaged and were exposed to Now TV.
“Thank you so much for all your help bringing this together, from start to finish you’ve been amazing and helped us create exactly what we wanted”
The feedback from our clients, Now TV and the spectators from the week has been amazing and we are very excited by the prospect of expanding this service to our clients.
When I ask companies why they have decided to organise a golf event I’m past being surprised when they don’t have an answer, in fact over 90% of businesses don’t have a definitive answer as to why they have a golf event. Some of the answers that we get are; “we thought I would be a nice thing to do”, “our competitors do one” and a common one “we have some budget to spend”.
Whilst these are all very nice, they are not reasons to run a golf event and before you do anything, you should clearly define why you are running an event. Only when this is done can you start to create an event that is tailored to the goals of what the company wants to achieve. This is central to good corporate hospitality and where a desired output is created to increase business performance.
Ever organised a golf event and after having 100 people confirm they would be attending, when it comes to the day itself the drop out rate is huge?
Since we started Clubs Away one specific goal was to help our clients with this issue. We have seen significant results in this area of corporate event management, reducing the drop out rate for our clients by 11%.
Getting people to attend is more than just sending out an invitation and getting a confirmation whether they can attend or not, It’s a process in itself and is one that can make or break your golf event.
The invitation is the first point of contact where your potential guest gets to hear about your event, so its needs to appeal to your guest.
One of the most important factors of running your event is the venue and is sometimes overlooked in its importance.
It’s important when a company runs an event they ensure the whole experience is representative of their brand, and the venue is no exception. If you are a high-end brand that prides itself on quality then you should choose a 5-star golf resort. I can hear you now saying, “I don’t have the budget to that”. There are of course ways around this;
It’s better to deliver an event that shouts your brand values with a reduced number of guests. This again links to the drop out rate . If your guests don’t feel like your event doesn’t reflect your brand your drop out rates will be high.
I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but I’m saying this because it’s true. We know how to negotiate along with buying power with venues to get the package you want. Our free venue finding service takes all the hassle away from you and guarantees that you will get the best price with all the little add-ons that make your day a truly bespoke golfing experience.
Its amazing how little attention companies give to exposing their brand on their events. We were recently invited to a corporate golf event of a potential client so we could advise what they could do better. The answer: Everything!!!!! The only exposure of their brand was by way of a banner on the 1st tee.
Brand exposure on an event has to come in many forms of presence and we recommend that 20%-30% of the total budget should be attributed to branding your event. I cannot stress enough how important this is and you should consider how you expose your brand in the following areas;
When choosing how to do this you should always strive to expose your brand in the above areas as much as possible in a way that fits in with your brand guidelines.
If you need some inspiration, please see read our events page
Giving a gift to your guests is probably one of the most important aspects of your golf day.
This should always be done at the first point of contact with your guest, having a registration desk with a company representative is the best way to do this. Giving a gift to your guest does two things;
Remember that they might not know anybody so its important that you make them feel welcome by this method and interacting with them for as long as possible.
The gift should always expose your brand. There are so many things to choose from the list is truly endless, some companies even choose non golf themed related items which can work as long as the gift is synonymous with your brand or product. When choosing your gift you should always choose something they will get use out of and that will remind them of your brand, product and golf day.
Choosing a competition format for your golf event can be a large task in itself, do you choose, Medal, Stableford, Greensome’s, Foursome’s, team’s or individual???
This is a question that faces every golf event organiser and unless they fully understand the implications behind each format then this decision can have a massive impact on your golf day and what memories your guests leave with.
There are many factors to think about when making the final decision, time, administration, number of guests attending, to name a few. No matter what decision you make you should always consider both your guest and your ability to manage each format.
With electronic scoring such as VPAR are becoming ever popular we have been sampling both techniques to see what effect each has on a golf day. Whilst I agree that electronic scoring has its place in a competition environment I don’t think it has any place in a corporate golf day.
Having electronic scoring sends the message that day is centred on the competition itself. This is one of the mistakes that happens to frequently as its your company, brand and product that should be at the heart of any event. Making the day about competition can confuse the message that you are trying to send to your guests.
There is also another good reason not to go down the electronic scoring road. If the day is made about the competition itself, electronic scoring will ultimately tell people where they have finished in the field. There are always a small percentage of guests that will leave your day if they know they haven’t won or get a prize in the competition. The time after the round is your chance to network and talk to as many people as possible so don’t give them an excuse to leave, if they think that they might win a prize its pretty much guaranteed that they will stay to find out.
In ever changing and growing markets that are filled with fierce competition, businesses need a better and deeper way to develop relationships with their clients.
Ensuring that business partnerships stay positive and productive has become a top priority for many companies, and this is where corporate hospitality comes in.
Corporate hospitality describes private events or travel trips organised by businesses or corporations for their staff, clients and stakeholders.
Historically, it was used as a way to say thank you to clients. It still serves this purpose, but it now features much more strategically to company plans. There is a much clearer objective – and that’s to win or secure further business.
Company golf days are increasingly being utilised as a face-to-face marketing tool to help enhance the relationship between an organisation and its current or potential customers, through interaction in a non-sales environment.
For many, it now plays a significant part in business development – with any budget laid out for a corporate event expected to see a significant ROI in terms of speculating to accumulate.
There are many reasons why corporate hospitality is worth focusing in on.
Saying thank you to your clients and rewarding them is hugely important; if your company isn’t doing it, your competitors might be.
Face-to-face interaction is imperative when maintaining relationships with clients, so corporate events serve as an ideal way to nurture and strengthen existing relationships away from the boardroom.
By putting on an event or trip, you’re taking the time to go the extra mile. Clients who feel inspired and motivated by the prospect of working with your company are more likely to stay in business with you.
It’s also a good way to branch out and meet new contacts by inviting potential clients in the hope of securing new business.
There is no one better than a current client to talk positively about your company – so getting current and prospective clients to circulate can certainly be beneficial.
Behind every corporate event is a good strategy.
Understanding your objectives is key – you may be wanting to strengthen an existing relationship, encourage more business or increase brand awareness.
That in mind, choosing the right type of event is vital to who you are dealing with and what you want to achieve.
It also needs to run smoothly from start to finish, showcase your brand in the best light and ensure your guests enjoy the experience.
Effective hospitality is what sticks in the mind of those who attend – if your biggest clients are present, then you don’t want to disappoint.
There is a lot to bear in mind with golf event management and the organisation of the day. It’s got to be executed properly. This is where Clubs Away can help.
In recent years, there has been a big increase in business being done on the golf course.
Not only is a golfing trip a great leisure activity, but with only a small portion of a four-hour game spent actually hitting the ball, there is plenty of time to talk business.
At Clubs Away, we offer bespoke end-to-end golfing packages that are tailored for business minds.
Our team organise the entire day or travel break, so that business professionals can focus on developing client relationships and forging new business deals, without the hassle of arranging and planning themselves.
We organise every detail of the expedition, from finding the venue or location of the trip through to booking accommodation and flights.
We’re are also the only company to provide a PGA Golf Professional on every trip, allowing guests to receive training tips and improve their golfing skills as part of the corporate package.
So if you need to wow a particular client, seal a business deal or strengthen a new relationship – get in touch with us to see how we can create you the perfect corporate golf event trip!
With a new year coming up quicker than ever its time to think differently about golf event management and try something new, a new kind of new year’s resolution. Historically you’ve probably stomped the fairways up and down the likes of Portugal and Spain, maybe even Bulgaria looking for a bit of sun with a swing. It could be your first winter away but there’s one jewel of a location that probably hasn’t gone unnoticed but doesn’t quite lure you away from the good old faithful Europe. Where is this mysterious golfing paradise we talk about… The Middle East!
Ok I get it, Portugal and Spain are 2 hours on a plane, where as the dessert takes a good 7 hours, but once your there it’s a trip well worth making. You’ve may have thought about going to the Middle East and asked google and thought… ‘this doesn’t sound too inviting’, where’s my brochure to Portugal again. Error 1: You can probably ignore almost all that you’ve heard, I think I probably heard all the same stories. I always started to think about the reasons why I shouldn’t go because of what I heard from friends, “Women are not allowed certain places and they are not allowed to show any skin if outside the resort”, “if you get caught drunk in the street then you’ll be arrested and sent to jail” and lastly “the people are not very welcoming”. Once out of the airport it didn’t take long to realise how wrong I was and how welcoming and safe I felt.
In June this year I was invited along with our Marketing Director, David, to Yas Links in Abu Dhabi by the Director of Golf, James Ibbotson and his team for what is called in the trade a FAM Trip (Familiarisation trip). This is something that Clubs Away insists on doing with all it’s resorts promoted on the website as we only recommend resorts with first hand experience. When James invited us to visit Abu Dhabi we had the exact same reservations and questioned whether Yas felt like a resort we could successfully promote in the UK.
After a slightly more roomy 7-hour flight from Heathrow on the new Dreamliner we finally landed in Abu Dhabi. I have to admit that it was no different to landing in any Western country, people were polite, spoke fluent English, the airport worked in exactly the same way as any other airport… Was my perceptions of the Middle East changing? After we went through baggage claim we were welcomed by James and Charlotte from Yas Links who were hosting us for the entire trip. Then it was out of the ice cool airport air con and outside to be welcomed by a warm gust of dessert air.
Our first night we stayed in the Crowne Plaza on Yas Island. Again the experience was something that I didn’t really expect, checking in was just the same as checking into any western hotel, polite, friendly and spoke amazing English. At reception we were informed about ‘ladies night’ at Stills Bar which is attached to the Crown Plaza. Ladies Night is an initiative by all the resorts on the Island to create a welcoming vibe to all women who are visiting Abu Dhabi, a sign that Abi Dhabi acknowledge there being an issue with how holiday makers that are women perceive the UAE and its treatment of women. Their attitude to women that are holiday makers is far different to that within their own culture, all women on Ladies Night get free drinks, can dress how they wish and most of all are encouraged to have a good time as you should when you are on holiday. The initiative works and this is where I realised that Abu Dhabi was going to be a very different place to my initial perception. It was more like Cancun on spring break!
The following day we were invited to play golf at Yas Links by James and his team. Voted in the Top 50 courses in the world by Golf World the expectations were already very high. Disappointed? NO! Quite the opposite!
From the very moment you drive into the property and are met and seen through by security you already know that you are visiting somewhere quite special, when you arrive at the Clubhouse you are met by the golf operations team who take care of everything, from taking your clubs out of the car, to taking you into the clubhouse and showing you to your own personal locker for the day. Before we teed off we were given a quick tour of the clubhouse and I realised that this was more than just a golf club, this was a place to come for the day, not just to play golf but to eat and drink, relax by the outdoor pool or have a lesson and practice on the driving range no matter what standard you are. This golf club definitely deserves a tagline ‘Don’t just play, stay the day!’
The facilities at the resort are nothing short of fabulous and impeccably presented but this doesn’t really mean much if the delivery within the venue isn’t up too much. Yas Links provides the finishing touches that match this amazing venue. There are some very subtle touches where a lot of resort courses forget about, for example, the sheer heat of the dessert hits you by the 4th hole and you actually can’t believe how hot it is. So Yas Links thought of the perfect touch to provide its guests at this point – an ice lolly! So simple but so welcoming, especially depending on what time part of the day! Later on in the round they also greet you with a keenly welcomed ice cold towel. Another nice touch is that you have water dispensers every few holes that dispenses ice cold water free of charge. I have travelled the world playing at some of the best resorts in the world and there aren’t many that wouldn’t take the opportunity to charge an inflated price for something someone would be desperate for!
After tackling the last few signature holes and hopefully keeping a dry ball your welcomed to get wet yourself and freshen up under the rain shower in the changing rooms. You can even take a dip by the pool and ease down in the steam room before returning to the club house for a bite to eat. At Yas they have both indoor and outdoor dining, overlooking the 18th green with the iconic F1 track and sea view. If your lucky enough to stay around till the evening then you can sit down to a beautiful sunset before heading back to the hotel.
The hotels on Yas Island are intentionally run by Western hotel management groups to provide its guests with a feeling of home, these management groups include; Crown Plaza, Rotana, Radisson and Hilton. One of the great things about Abu Dhabi is that it recognises that tourists feel uneasy about travelling to the middle east because of the hearsay you can read on search engines and review sites. When you start to look deep into what the UAE is trying to achieve to overcome its perception to potential tourists goes far and beyond creating a western feel in the hotels. One thing that really surprised when I arrived at Abu Dhabi was the advertisement of ‘Ladies Night’. The concept is a simple one, it a welcome and not just to women. ‘Ladies Night’ will typically be hosted by different bars at different days of the week, its communicating to the guests of Yas Island that they want you to have a good time, that they want you to have a drink should you wish to and you won’t get arrested if you are found having consumed alcohol. Of course the Middle East have a different set of beliefs to ours in the Western world, they don’t drink, they don’t gamble and yes maybe they have different relationships with their spouses that we don’t necessarily understand however, the key message I have when I write this article is that it isn’t imposed on you as a tourist. Of course you will be expected to have a certain respect for their beliefs, but we should, we are visiting their country after all and I think this is one of the things that should be embraced when we travel.
The evening is when Yas comes alive and you really know this is an island built for entertainment. Maybe you might go for a relaxing cocktail at the Viceroy Skybar overlooking the F1 Marina circuit, watch your favourite band at the Forum or party the night away down at the marina bars and clubs, there really is something for everyone. Literally so much choice, even for some of the more health conscious, you can take an evening jog around the F1 circuit when its opened up to the public.
I think the perception since arriving has totally changed and as Clubs Away, we can’t wait to build packages for our clients so they can enjoy the exquisite experience that Abu Dhabi and Yas Links has to offer. With so much going on in the world of sport with the Rugby Seven’s, Formula 1 and Horse racing happening, combined with the tourist destinations like Ferrari World and Warner Bros (soon to be completed) the options are huge. With all this wrapped up on one island makes this a great alternative to Europe and far more attractive for those looking for a round in the winter months.
We think you might be pleasantly surprised by the packages we can put together so why get in touch about our PGA hosted holidays to Yas Links.