Andy Mossack reviews the Gary Player-designed Somabay Golf Club course and is thankful there’s no wind for once.
Somabay is recognised as a world centre of kite and windsurfing because of the wind. Something to do with an aslant offshore wind that gusts up to 8 beau fort, yet still manages to leave the Red Sea like polished marble. Apparently, this is laboratory conditions for kite surfers.
Not so for golfers of course, wind can play all kinds of tricks, which is precisely the thing that makes the Somabay Golf Club course so difficult. Perhaps, just like the biblical parting of the Red Sea, I received something of a miracle on the day I played it, as there was absolutely no wind at all.
“Really unusual conditions today Andy,” remarked my playing partner Mohamed, Somabay’s Golf Development Director, “You should kill it.”
Many a true word is spoken in jest as they say.
Soma Bay Golf Club has a Gary Player-designed track and was his first design project in Egypt. He penned it “the Pebble Beach of Africa” no doubt due to his unashamed exploiting of the Red Sea right on its doorstep. Six of the holes here run right along the coastline, the water literally lapping the fairways in many cases.
That said, the rest of them play out as a true desert course, just waste sand everywhere other than the fairways and greens. It makes it very tricky, with any wayward shot likely to find a sandy lie. But there are also numerous lakes and streams too, so all in all, plenty of jeopardy everywhere you look.
Somabay Golf Club course is just under 7,000 yards off the black tees (6,468 off the blue) par 72 and winds its way around the peninsula and therefore completely open to the elements.
Make no mistake, this is a world-class course. It may not be the longest in the world, but it needs to be treated with respect, and when that wind blows, it’s a demon. So, with Mo giving me local knowledge, and the wind gods snoozing, I strode confidently onto the par 4 first, a dogleg right with a lake along the right side and smashed it down the middle.
Mr Player clearly didn’t believe in giving you an easy warm-up, as I now faced a huge carry-over water for my second if I wanted to get on the green in two. I chickened out, kept it left and got away with a 5. A proper golf hole this one, straight from the off.
There are multiple tee options at each hole, each one separated by desert sand making them a distinct feature and almost an art form.
The signature holes on the front nine are 5 and 6, two absolute corkers that bring the Red Sea right into play. The fifth is a 170-yard par 3 entitled the Pebbles of Soma for obvious reasons which you discover when you finally get to the green. It is almost an island green protruding out into the sea with sand surrounding it on all three sides.
With his local knowledge, Mo just aimed slightly left and let the ball drift onto the stepped green. I, on the other hand, suddenly gripped with terror at the prospect of slicing it into the sea, thinned it left into the pebbled gorse. Then followed it up with a fluffed chip worrying about overshooting it into the sea. A fabulous hole, despite losing it!
The sixth is a 300-yard par 4 with the sea all along the right side, and the green surrounded by sea on two sides and guarded on the left by a large bunker. There’s also waste sand from the tee to the fairway of some 180 yards, and generally, the wind is straight against. You get the general picture. Even with no wind, it was a challenge and somehow, I managed to escape with a 5.
Another very memorable hole and well worthy of its signature status.
The 9th hole is another excellent test. A 500-yard par 5 called double trouble, – the bunker defences come in pairs. Two in the landing zone, two more by the second landing zone, and a whole moonscape of them surrounding the green. There’s a lagoon on the right and a creek running across the fairway in front of the green. All in all, a masterful hole, which was a woe for Mo and a win for me.
The standout hole for me on the back nine was the signature 14th. A 178-yard par 3 from an elevated tee with just a desert ravine carry to a green backed by sea and surrounded by pot bunkers. Fully lived up to the billing.
Having survived the 14th, you’re faced with yet another magnificent hole at 15. This one – a par four at 338 yards – is called the Great Wall of Soma named after the retaining stone wall supporting the cart track which from the tee looks like a miniature Great Wall of China. Sweeping sea views on the left side of the gorgeous coral reef, the fairway is actually in two sections split by a natural desert ravine and waste sand down the right. A real beauty this one.
Sixteen is a par three with a great back story. Gary Player visualised the natural rock formations as a formidable green defence, so miss the green and watch your ball bounce around the rocks. Hence the name Ricochet Gully.
Finally, to the last hole, menacingly labelled The Terminator, a fitting way to finish. It’s a 369-yard par four normally against the wind. The second shot is backdropped by the Cascades hotel water cascade, just a final hazard to leave behind another ball as a memento to the greenkeeping team. Which is precisely what I did.
The dust settled as a heavily contested draw between Mo and myself but left plenty of brilliant memories to take away with me. Gary Player has produced a magnificent golf course here, and it fully justifies its place as one of Egypt’s finest.
Images (C) Andy Mossack and Somabay Golf Club
Tell me more about Somabay Golf Club
Somabay Golf Club, TeKM 48 Hurghada, Somabay, Egypt.
Green Fee Rates
9 Holes € 50 pp 18 Holes € 85 pp 3 X 9 Holes € 140 pp 5 X 9 Holes € 230 pp 3 X 18 Holes € 240 pp 5 X 18 Holes € 385 pp. Other packages may be available when combined with hotel stays.
Additional golf facilities at Somabay Golf Club
There are some additional facilities here that make this place a remarkable centre for golfing excellence and one of the finest golf resorts in the world. There’s a full-size floodlit driving range over 300 yards long and a soon-to-open beautifully manicured par 3 course.
Another new addition is a Footgolf course, capitalising on its current popularity. Essentially a cross between football and golf, players kick a football down a course and try to kick it into a bucket hole in a green. Great for people who have no golf skills but can at least kick a ball!
The Scoring Arena
This is a first for me. A floodlit course designed just for practising your short game with over 20 zones where your wedge play can be honed. It essentially reproduces situations where you might find yourself during a round. So, zones for flop shots, bunker play and wedges, to various greens with plenty of elevation changes. It’s a genius design that even professionals book out to practice on.