Festival City Golf Resort on course to reach 19th hole

The Al Badia Golf Course is nearing completion, Construction Week visted to find out more.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  March 28, 2004

Festival City Golf Resort on course to reach 19th hole|~|Routing plan.jpg|~|The course will form an integral part of Dubai Festival City|~|The desert is not the most appealing of environments to live in. Realising this developers in the UAE devote large amounts of space and financial resources to landscaping, irrigation and vegetation. For the most part these areas are cosmetic and provide no direct revenue for the developer. To overcome this dilemma Al Badia Golf Resort will form an integral part of Dubai Festival City providing residents with a pleasant green environment and a recreational facility that they can use. Construction Week visited the course to find out more. With a number of world class golf courses one might believe that the last thing Dubai needs is another golf course. According to the market research the opposite is true, and if the projections for tourism turn out to be true, and it appears they will, then Dubai needs more golf courses urgently. In addition, experience elsewhere has shown that new golf courses do not negatively impact existing courses. Instead they become golfing destinations that attract golfers wishing to play a number of courses as part of their holiday. With the market capable of sustaining another golf course Al Futtaim had a green light to incorporate a golf course component into Dubai Festival City (DFC). As an integral part of the masterplan, the Al Badia Golf Resort provides residents with an animated landscape and a world class sporting facility. “A golf course is a great way to create value for the residential areas and create a sense of community. “We have made sure that the golf course is designed in such a way that it really adds value to the residential experience,” says Ian Ohan, development manager, Dubai Festival City. In addition, from a purely financial point of view, building a golf course also presented the developer with the opportunity to make the landscaping pay for itself. Landscaping is normally a sunk cost that generates no direct revenue. As the masterplan took shape, the client contacted renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones II to design a course for DFC. A weeklong design session was held in San Francisco where all the information gathered from the marketing and branding studies were transformed into the various elements the golf course. These elements included the use of water and water features; the residential complex; and the rivers of sand concept. Altogether there are 11 lakes and ponds and a number of water features including waterfalls and weirs. The rivers of sand are made up of bunkers and waste areas that use the 17 distinct sand colours found in Dubai that create an interesting contrast with the green grass of the fairways and greens and remind golfers that they are in the desert. The design brief also called for the course to be challenging to all levels of play, from top professionals right down to beginners. Irrigation was the major constraint facing the developers. As a private development DFC were keen to build a course that is environmentally friendly and cost efficient. On Robert Trent Jones II suggestion, paspalum grass, which is salt water tolerant, was used to reduce the amount of fresh water the course required. Around a million gallons of fresh water a day will be needed to irrigate the course – about a third less that would have been required if conventional Bermuda grass had been used. It also meant that water could be drawn up from the nearby Creek and mixed with treated sewerage effluent (TSE) for the irrigation of the course. With the basic plans in place, the decision was taken to develop the course sooner rather than later. “A golf course is something that transforms a large area of our site and can be built very quickly. It sets the state for the rest of the development. We also had access to landfill from the airport expansion project so we decided to capitalise on that opportunity,” says Ohan. Actual construction of the course began in October 2002 before the design of the course was finalised. This is in stark contrast to other construction projects, such as high-rise towers where everything must be designed precisely before construction can begin. Although this saves on valuable programme time it does create a few problems as some services and systems, such as the irrigation need to be installed while the course is still subject to change. For the irrigation there is a pump station on the banks of the Creek that draws salt water up through a 800 mm pipe to a man-made lake that is part of the irrigation system. To prevent corrosion problems, all the pumping equipment used in this system is made with high grade stainless steel and marine grade aluminium. This salt water is used for the course areas, whereas a hybrid TSE system is use to irrigate the landscaped areas as they cannot tolerate such high levels of salt. “The early construction work primarily involved earthmoving to create a platform for golf,” says Michael Kahler, director of Asian operations, Robert Trent Jones II. For these works Al Naboodah only needed to create a few access roads. “If you look at the plan you will see that with the exception of three pods everything is core golf, it is all contained in the centre. The core roads that come into these pod areas are the only interfaces with the infrastructure that the course has,” adds Kahler. Other civil works such as the water features, pond linings, sub-surface irrigation and storm drainage were completed during this phase of construction. “This was the most active period of construction. Combined with the construction of the residential hill next to the course, there was a significant amount of traffic running though the site. A Robert Trent Jones “features specialist’ was then able to do the fine shaping of the greens, tee and bunkers. “This work is more like creating a sculpture than operating a bulldozer. He takes the design and adapts in the field. His interpretation of the design may not necessarily match the drawings,” says Kahler. Before grassing could begin ‘sweet’ sand was laid on the course. This uniform-size sand is used because it is weed free and a better medium for growing grass than natural desert sand. A 5000m2 nursery was then used to supply the sprigs of paspalum for grassing the course. The grassing is now finished on the front nine and those holes are now playable; the back nine is close to being complete. Despite this, the developer has made a conscious decision to open the course only when it is fully ready. “The grass is aggressive enough, and we could open sooner, but we want the landscaping to mature a little more and clean up the site. We anticipate inviting people for invitational play in September,” says Ohan. “The first impression is a lasting impression, you want everything to be ready when you open,” adds Kahler. ||**||

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