Pharaohs and Fairways

Egypt’s championship golf courses are located just beyond ancient attractions

By: Thomas E. King

This is the first Image
The nine-hole course at the Mena
House Oberoi Golf Club is just
beyond the Cheops Pyramid.
If there’s anything that golfers savor as much as a hole in one, it’s having a great game under blue skies. An ace isn’t guaranteed on any of Egypt’s 17 golf courses, but excellent weather is virtually assured.

Golf can be played year-round in this 78 million-strong North African nation one and a half times the size of Texas. Northern hemisphere spring and fall are optimum seasons, with winter providing brisk starts for early-morning rounds. An early-morning tee time, however, is a necessity during the long, hot Egyptian summer.

Golf is taking on new directions in Egypt. The fashionable activity for affluent Egyptians and jetloads of visitors is also being actively promoted by the Egyptian Tourism Authority through its tourist offices in the U.S.

These days, the construction of new courses is regularly announced. Water-saving courses built with cutting-edge technology are being integrated into designer resorts that in some cases are part of marinas or residential developments.

These are recent trends for a healthy hobby that has been on Egypt’s sporting calendar for well over 100 years. Vintage courses in Cairo and Alexandria, dating to the late 19th century, were crafted by the British.

Named after Alexander the Great, Alexandria has become an inter-national convention destination, particularly with the opening of the 6,000-capacity Al Zahraa Ballroom adjacent to the Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza. The sole place to tee off in historic surroundings is on the century-old, nine-hole layout at the Alexandria Sporting Club in the middle of this city of 5 million people.

The closest golf resort to Alexandria is Porto Marina. This 2007 entrant on Egypt’s burgeoning golf scene features a par 62, 4,047-yard executive golf course, a 6.2-mile lagoon the hub for numerous watersports a resort hotel and a 500-berth marina.

Hurgada is another golf hot spot with the 400-room Steigenberger Al Dau Beach Hotel and adjoining golf layout. Its 18-hole pitch-and-putt, water-hazard-dotted course the longest hole stretches just over 100 yards is perfect for beginners and those refining their short game. Across the Red Sea, the Sinai Peninsula may well become Egypt’s next golf haven. Sharm el Sheikh, the area’s principal resort town and a world dive center, already has more than 100 hotels.

Just one, the Maritim Jollie Ville Golf & Resort Sharm el Sheikh, has an adjoining 6,021-yard championship challenge. An international golf academy with PGA-qualified instructors lures first-timers as well as polished players to a stunning setup where a memorable game can be enjoyed in a dramatic setting of mountains, desert and sea.

Cairo has the pharaoh’s share of courses in Egypt with seven grassy playgrounds, welcoming everyone from hackers to hard hitters.

Opened in November 1999 after being carved from the desert dunes beyond Cairo, the 18-hole, 7,108-yard course at the Mirage City Golf Club is the sporting sensation at the 428-room JW Marriott Hotel. The resort course is popular with transit passengers as its just 15 minutes from the international airport as well as conference delegates taking a break from sessions in the 2,175-person capacity Tutankhamen Ballroom.

Closer to the city is the 1889 Mena House Oberoi Golf Club. Though the 5,315-yard, nine-hole (18 greens) course is not too difficult, golfers can be distracted by its unusual setting. The 40-acre, tree-lined course is backdropped by the Cheops Pyramid.