A long golf tradition

Golf in Egypt

Egypt has a long golf tradition, going back all the way to 1882, when the first course in the country, Gezira Sporting Club, was founded. A lot has happened since then. We recently visited most of the major courses in the country and were pleasantly surprised (almost) everywhere we went.

Text & photos: Bo Sjosten

 

There are roughly 20 golf courses in Egypt, divided into these major areas: Cairo (East and West), the Red Sea Coast, Sinai, Luxor and the Mediterranean coast.

Cairo

Cairo has the oldest course, but also a slew of recently built courses and a few more still under construction. Cairo is a very large city, with very intense traffic. To get around in Cairo is an adventure in itself. Therefore it is probably best to think Cairo as two cities, Cairo East and Cairo West.

The international airport is located in Cairo East, as are most of the best golf courses.

Right next to the airport is the JW Marriott Mirage City Golf Club. The Marriott Hotel next to the course is an excellent base for a golf holiday in Cairo East, and the Mirage City Golf Club is a championship course that you won’t be bored with. Top quality in all respects.

About half an hour south of Marriott you’ll find Katameya Heights Golf & Tennis Resort. As can be gleaned from the name of the course, it runs up and down the sides of a significant hill, making for some very interesting and challenging holes. It also provides some of the best views of New Cairo, one of the developing parts of Cairo, still mostly under construction (as is most of Cairo, it seems). Katameya Heights is also a top class course, you won’t be disappointed.

[Description: Katameya Dunes Golf Club]

Katameya Dunes is an exciting new course in a yet to be finished area of New Cairo. This could become the best course in Cairo.Photo: Bo Sjosten

A bit further east is Katameya Dunes. Dunes is a brand new course, so new that most of the residential areas surrounding the course are not yet finished, making it somewhat of a challenge to find. It's worth the hunt, as it's a true masterpiece. It has 27 holes on three loops of nine. The course has the feeling of a links course, even though technically it is a parkland/desert course. Nick Faldo is one of the designers of Katameya Dunes, maybe it is his influence that has given the course its links character. We only had the opportunity to play 18 of the 27 holes, but we were very impressed. This is the best course in all of Cairo.

When traveling from Cairo East to Cairo West, the fastest and slightly less insane way to go is on the main motorway, the ring road, south of the city center. Not long after you cross the Nile River on the ring road, you will reach the Pyramids of Giza, not to be missed. Right next to the pyramids you will find maybe the most famous of all the Egyptian golf courses, Mena House Golf Course. If you have ever seen a picture of golfing with the pyramids as a backdrop, this is the course where the picture was taken. Unfortunately the course is currently undergoing renovations, so it is not open for play. You’ll just have to come back another time for that classic picture.

Two large golf resorts in Cairo West are Dreamland Golf Resort and Soleimania City. Here you have to be careful, as there is some naming confusion. The golf course in Soleimania City is called Pyramid Golf & Country Club, and the hotel right next to Dreamland Golf is named Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort. It is easy to end up at the wrong place.

Dreamland is a large resort with several hotels and an amusement park called Dream Park. It is a fine resort for a family vacation, with lots of activities for all ages, so no one will be bored.

The Dreamland Golf Course has a full 36 holes, designed by Karl Litten and later redesigned by David Jones. It sounds good, but to us the course was really nothing special, a typical resort course with a flat, parkland layout. There were some interesting holes and the course is worth playing, but you would probably be bored if you came here for a golf vacation.

A bit further up the road you’ll find The Allegria Golf Club. This brand new course is designed by Greg Norman. It is so new that when we visited there was only a temporary clubhouse located between the 5th and 6th hole. There was nothing wrong with the service though, and the restaurant was in full swing.

[Description: Allegria Golf Club]

The Allegria Golf Club has an exciting layout, and very nice greens. Still quite new, but showing lots of promise.Photo: Bo Sjosten

The Allegria course is a desert course with a very good layout and many very interesting holes. Greg Norman has done a very good job with the land he was given and the Allegria shows lots of promise. In our estimation it is already the best course in Cairo West.

In the same area as Allegria another resort showing promise is the Orange Lakes Golf Club, still under construction.

In spite of not being located in Cairo at all, Stella di Mare Golf & Country Club and the brand new Sokhna Golf Club are often included when you discuss Cairo golf courses. The reason for this is that Cairo is the city you fly to when traveling to these courses, about an hour away from Cairo by car, along the Red Sea coast. Stella di Mare is a perennial favorite with golf vacationers, a fine resort indeed.

The Red Sea

When traveling to the Red Sea Coast, you will most often land in Hurghada. Hurghada is one of the world’s sunniest spots, with over 3,800 hours of sunlight each year. On top of that, it is also a paradise for divers.

In the city of Hurghada there is only one golf course, a small nine hole course called Steigenberger Al Dau Golf Course. Clearly not enough for a golf vacation, the course is nice for some short game practice. But its main feature is the night lighting, giving you the opportunity to squeeze in nine more holes after dinner, especially if you stay at the very nice Steigenberger Hotel that houses the course. Altogether this makes Steigenberger a nice base for golf excursions up and down the coast.

About half an hour north of Hurghada you come to the tourist town of El Gouna. In this gated community everything is carefully planned down to the last detail to create the perfect vacation for sunseekers from the north. The town is built around a lagoon, and the lagoon is also in play on many of the holes on El Gouna Golf. The course has 18 holes, and is a perfect complement to all the other activities offered. Not a championship course, but an interesting layout and well worth a couple of rounds.

Going the other way from Hurghada, about 30 minutes south, you’ll get to Soma Bay. This is also gated and for tourists only, but slightly less developed than El Gouna. There are five major hotels, several of them focusing on diving. At one of the hotels you’ll find a golf course, The Cascades Golf and Country Club.

The par 3 fifth hole is the signature hole. Note the 600 million year old coral in the foreground.Photo: Bo Sjosten

Almost like stadium golf on the back nine.Photo: Bo Sjosten

Several holes run right along the Red Sea.Photo: Bo Sjosten

The hotel and club house is right behind the 18th green.Photo: Bo Sjosten

Can't get enough of the beautiful 5th hole.Photo: Bo Sjosten

The Cascades is a wonderful Gary Player designed parkland desert course, with many of the holes right on the Red Sea coastline. It is a challenging but not punishing course, suitable for golfers of all levels. The holes are varied, and the design is interesting. The course is well worth playing multiple times, we could imagine spending an entire golf vacation here. We think this is one of the best, if not the very best course in Egypt, competing with Katameya Dunes, Allegria, and Taba Heights.

Sinai

Crossing the Gulf of Suez from Hurghada we leave Africa behind and enter Asia and the Sinai Peninsula. At the southern tip of Sinai is another popular tourist destination, Sharm El-Sheikh. The town itself is overflowing with sunseekers, but we headed directly for one of the two golf courses, the Jolie Ville Golf Club.

[Description: Jolie Ville Golf Club in Sharm el Sheik]

The finishing holes of Jolie Ville add some flair to an otherwise rather average experience.Photo: Bo Sjosten

Jolie Ville is a rather flat desert course, starting with a few fairly uninteresting holes. But as the round progresses, the holes get better and better, and the finishing holes are both beautiful and quite challenging. However, the course is wildly overpriced with an 18 hole greenfee of 130 Euro. If you stay at the adjacent hotel you get a slightly better deal, but until prices are adjusted we cannot recommend this course.

If you travel north from Sharm El-Sheikh, following the Gulf of Aqaba all the way north to just short of the border with Israel, you get to Taba. We did this by car, but it is not a journey we can recommend. To get to Taba you are much better off flying directly to the Taba International Airport.

[Description: Taba Heights Golf Club]

Taba Heights in a lovely desert course, lodged between the mountains and the Gulf of Aqaba.Photo: Bo Sjosten

In Taba you’ll find a wonderful golf course called Taba Heights Golf Resort. The course climbs up towards the mountain range, and from the highest elevation of the course on a clear day you have a good view of no less than three other countries, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

The course is again a desert course, with a wonderful layout and several challenging but not impossible holes. There are five tees to choose from, so golfers at every level can enjoy this course. Highly recommended, the only caveat is that this is the only golf course in the area. But greenfees are reasonable, and they also offer week packages with unlimited golf for the real enthusiast.

Recommendations

It is always risky to offer recommendations, but we will stick our head out.

Best resort – The Cascades Golf and Country Club. Stay at the hotel on the course, enjoy the food, and lazy around the pool after your round. Make sure to get an early tee time, as play slows considerably later in the day.

Best golf variation – Cairo East. Three, maybe four top of the line golf courses. Stay at the JW Marriott, play Mirage City, Katameya Heights, and Katameya Dunes. If you are adventurous, you can visit The Allegria in Cairo West, visiting the pyramids along the way. But don’t rent a car, traffic is pure chaos, go by taxi.

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