Akoya Golf Club - Hanse Golf Design

The spring of 2014 started out with a bang for Integrative! Early this year Riley and I were invited to help out the Coore Crenshaw team at Cabot Cliffs in Inverness, Nova Scotia.  If that wasn’t exciting enough, about 3 days after I locked in to a season at Cabot, I was contacted by Jim Wagner of Hanse Golf Course Design. He invited me to help out with the shaping at their Akoya Golf Club project in Dubai, UAE. Next thing I knew I was on a plane heading east. The last time I was in Dubai was for the Desert Classic of 2008. I watched Ells and Tiger go toe to toe, with Tiger pulling ahead in the last round.

I arrived early in the morning after delayed flights and a lost bag, to meet up with Rodney Cole who is the Design Rep for HGCD. We went straight to the site to walk the holes that they have been working on. I was amazed to see the work that had been done from a completely flat piece of ground. The holes the team had built were pumped full of strategy, artistic flare, and a natural feel. The inspiration for the course was the natural dunes that start on the outskirts of Dubai and go as far as the eye can see into the “Empty Quarter”. The next day Bard Reynolds (Earthmoving Manager) brought myself and the other shapers out to study the dunes. It was fun to bounce ideas off each other while walking up and down dunes of various sizes.   

Most of my time on site was spent working on the opening hole and the 9th. They were side by side separated by a huge sandy waste area. The vision looking off the first tee was a sea of tight mow fairway with undulations reminiscent of the 1st and 18th of St Andrews.  Rodney and Bard were great mentors on this project. As I would be pushing dirt on the holes, they would come by once or twice a day to see the progress and to give me their opinions and thoughts. It was great to draw from their wealth of knowledge.

On one of my days off, Rodney and I decided to take a drive to Abu Dhabi to take a look at Yas Links and Saadiat Beach Golf Club. It was great to see a few good courses in the region and explore a bit of the country. Also, with my free time I was able to meet up with a number of close friends, most of which are superintendents and golf professionals living and working in Dubai. I got to see a number of tourist attractions that live up to the reputation of Dubai. BIG AND RICH!

In the few days before I left, Jim Wagner was on site assessing the progress the team had made since he was last there. He worked with me on a few ideas he wanted to implement on the 9th hole and took the time explain and teach me the reason why he felt the hole should play in a certain way. The short time I spent in Dubai was well worth it!  I learned a lot from the team of shapers and the management. I am very hopeful to work with Hanse Golf Design again in the future!

- Trev

Riley Johns