Once just a favoured stopover en route to or from Europe for many western travellers, with rapid development and more relaxed social laws Dubai has reimagined its image and fashioned itself as a holiday destination par excellence. Luxury hotels, fabulous dining, shopping unlike anywhere else, adventure and activities galore – you name it, Dubai has it.

Desert adventures are now matched by beach fun and surfing action, and you can even go skiing in the desert – well, in the huge Mall of the Emirates, where you can visit a remarkable ski destination with all the thrills of the Alps in one convenient location.

Dubai also now boasts some of the best golf courses and resorts in the world as it effortlessly combines the sport with dining, entertainment, luxury lifestyle hotels and business conventions and functions. So much so, it is developing a reputation as the premier golf destination in the world for those who like to combine a game of golf with a luxury holiday or work gathering.

There is no shortage of golf courses to choose from in Dubai, with a selection of links styles, desert landscapes and even parkland settings by the water. Here are nine courses to tempt you to pack your golf bag alongside your suitcase.

Jumeirah Golf Estates Fire Course

Dubai golf course

Regarded by many as one of the UAE’s finest courses, this Greg Norman-designed course offers plenty of scope for big hitters to knock long drives on the generous par fives, while also throwing down a tough challenge for your short game. Built in 2010, it is considered slightly easier to play than its sibling Jumeirah Golf Estate Earth Course and features excellent parkland settings in a desert landscape, with large sandy zones catching wayward balls while hinting at some of the UK’s links layouts and Australia’s sandbelt courses. The first hole can leave a false sense of security for unwary golfers, as the next few holes, including the par-three second hole of over 200 yards (183 metres), can easily bring your scorecard undone.

The Clubhouse at the Jumeirah Golf Estates has a variety of dining possibilities with outdoor terraces to enjoy the panoramic views of the course. Favourites include the Swirl Bar & Lounge for a post-game drink, and the Flame Tree Restaurant & Grill for excellent fine dining.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,480 yards (6,840 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Golf tuition
Two practice putting greens

Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club

Dubai golf course

Opened in 1993, this is perhaps the premier golf course in Dubai for its flawless presentation and attention to detail, and it’s renowned for its sail-shaped clubhouse. This course features beautiful smooth fairways fringed with coconut and date palms, and a lot of bunkers to test your mettle. There is also a multitude of water hazards, including the Dubai Creek, which offers spectacular views.

Its signature hole is the sixth, noted for its tee box towering on stilts in the creek – you’ll definitely need to hit a perfect tee shot from this spectacular setting if you’re looking for a par.

The course recently underwent a renovation on the back nine’s tees and greens, and Thomas Bjørn also redesigned the front nine to make it all the more challenging. This course has hosted the Dubai Desert Classic twice.

The course:
18 holes, par 71, 6,967 yards (6,370 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Pitch ’n’ putt
Two practice putting greens
Golf tuition

The Els Club

As part of Dubai Sports City, this golf course is just one exciting element of the whole complex, with expert advice and training available from its onsite institute.

Step onto the course and be amazed by the links design fashioned into the desert by four-time major winner Ernie Els. He has made good use of natural dunes and native grasses between generous fairways and plenty of bunkering. Els has adapted design ideas from some of his favourite courses around the world to offer a variety of challenges for players of every level. There are four tees on each hole to suit your level of skill – or bravery.

The Els Club also features the Butch Harmon School of Golf to improve your swing – and hopefully your score.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,538 yards (6,893 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Butch Harmon School of Golf

Emirates Golf Club Majlis Course

This magnificent course was opened in 1988, and was nicknamed ‘The Desert Miracle’ as it was Dubai’s first all grass championship course. Considered by many golfers to be the better of the two Emirates courses, it is home to a wide variety of fauna and flora around its seven freshwater and saltwater lakes. This is a visually stunning course with its lakes and natural vegetation, and you’ll savour your round here regardless of your score on the day.

This course is a challenge for golfers of every level. Desert dunes and water hazards make a good score a real achievement, especially with the putting challenges of the large, undulating and fast greens, which often have difficult pin positions.

You’ll know you’ve played well if you can match your handicap here. Just to let you know, Ernie Els set the record here years ago with a stunning round of 61. It has previously hosted the Dubai Desert Classic and the European Ladies Tour.

The clubhouse is almost as spectacular as the course. It resembles a Bedouin tented village, with a variety of food and beverage options to suit every palate.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,301 yards (6,676 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Pitch and putt
Two practice putting greens
Golf lessons

Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth Course

The Earth Course at Jumeirah Estates was designed by Greg Norman and had to wait for some time before it made its debut with the Dubai World Championship in 2009.

There will eventually be four courses in this estate, with Greg Norman’s Earth and Fire courses already open for play. The Water course is being designed by Vijay Singh and the Wind course will be designed by Greg Norman, Sergio Garcia and Peter Dye, to make this Estate a must-visit for every golfer staying in Dubai.

This course is reminiscent of the great parkland courses of Europe and North America, with rolling fairways lined by several thousand trees, lots of bunkers and several water hazards making this a testing layout. In fact, Greg Norman calls the final four holes – all of which feature water hazards, including a creek running along the full length of the 18th hole – the “most challenging mile in golf”.

The course:
18 holes, par 72 par, 7,706 yards (7,046 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Two practice putting greens
Golf lessons

The Address Montgomerie Golf Club

Manmade lakes, landscaped gardens and an extravagant layout are the hallmarks of the Montgomerie course, designed by legendary champion Colin Montgomerie and Desmond Muirhead. It is a genuine test of golf on over 80 hectares, with hazards such as 14 lakes and 81 bunkers to challenge every level of golfer.

It boasts some unusual features such as the island green on the 13th hole, which Muirhead formed in the shape of the UAE. The very large greens’ slopes and speed will keep you focused on every putt. The par-five fourth hole, the Snake, is one of the course’s signature holes, featuring a ridgeback fairway and two bunkers behind the green giving the appearance of a snake’s eyes.

The 18th hole will test your stamina at 650 yards (595 metres) in length, especially if the wind is blowing.

The clubhouse is a delight and features more than 20 guest rooms and a pool to cool off after your round.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,461 yards (6,823 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Two practice putting greens
Golf lessons

Emirates Golf Club Faldo Course

This course opened in 1996 under the name The Wadi but was redesigned by former champion Nick Faldo in 2006. Its layout requires seasoned course management, shot accuracy and placement – signature features of a Faldo design.

The fairways, though, are generous and lead to very large greens that are more deceptive than they first appear. Lakes and large bunkers add to the drama and spectacle of the course, but also contribute to a challenging day’s golf. Nevertheless, it is a great pleasure to play.

This course is now also fully floodlit so you can play golf at night.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,052 yards (6,448 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range
Par-three course
Full night lighting
Golf lessons

Arabian Ranches Golf Club

This course was designed in 2004 by Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, in association with Nicklaus Design. It’s unlike most other courses in Dubai in that it doesn’t have water hazards or bunkers, but it has hazards aplenty for wayward shots in the form of sandy desert areas with native vegetation, giving it a links style. From the championship tees it plays a very long 7,691 yards (7,033 metres), but it has five sets of tees for each hole, which make it a more manageable length for higher handicappers.

The shrubs, bushes and sand areas punish those who don’t hit accurately, but the fairways are magnificent, as are the large greens.

The course also features a flood-lit driving range so you can practise anytime, and there is a par-three course for added fun.

Ranches Restaurant offers a gourmet dining experience, and luxury accommodation is also available.

The course:
18 holes, par 72, 7,691 yards (7,033 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Golf lessons
Practice range
Two practice putting greens

Trump International Golf Club

This course was built in 2017 and is home to one of the largest clubhouses in the Damac Hills in Dubai. It was designed by Olympic golf architect Gil Hanse, who has used more than 202 hectares of barren desert to create one of the UAE’s finest courses. It feels much like a classic British links course, with a canyon running through it to create elevation changes and fabulous views among the undulating fairways. It also has a number of lakes and bunkers in a variety of vegetation to catch the unwary.

The magnificent clubhouse features six restaurants and every conceivable luxury to pamper you after a game.

The course:
18 holes, par 71, 7,205 yards (6,588 metres)

Facilities:
Pro shop
Practice range with LED floodlights
GPS golf buggies
Two practice putting greens
Golf lessons