To paraphrase the ghostly voice in Kevin Costner’s baseball movie “Field of Dreams , “Build it, and they will come. The principle worked well enough for Costner’s Iowa farmer, and it appears to be working too for the developers of Orange Lakes Golf Club, the latest addition to Egypt’s golfing circuit.
Orange Lakes is situated on the Cairo to Alexandria desert road, just a short drive north of the capital. On Friday, Nov. 28, the club threw its doors wide open for business, christening the course with a celebratory team shotgun competition for a select group of invitees.
Judging by the reactions of the competitors, the course is running just fine. And the post-competition dinner in the waterfront club house confirmed that the hosts know how to entertain in style, a key requisite for success in this most sociable of pastimes.
As the name suggests, Orange Lakes features a series of man-made lakes, many of which run alongside the fairways and greens. Scattered around the place are groves of young orange trees. Once these saplings mature, the club’s owners hope they will produce a commercially viable crop.
The owning company is Sunset Valley. Among the shareholders are well-known businessman Salah Diab; developers Mahmoud El Gammal and Maged Hosni; HSBC Chairman Abdel Sallam El Anwar; international lawyer Hosni Abdel Wahed; and Mahmoud Abdel Ghaffar.
As Managing Director of the golf course construction company Botanica, which has been responsible for the project’s completion, Abdel-Ghaffar has been involved in the concept from its very beginnings.
“We have 135 acres of orange groves planted in and around the golf course. They are still small now, but eventually the orange crop will contribute to the maintenance budget of the course.
The combination of lakes and trees suggests a rather lush environment. And yet another key element of the Orange Lakes concept is that of the “desert course , a potential lure to foreign golfers seeking something a little bit different.
“This course was designed by the late Arthur Davis, who was one of the best golf course designers around, although not the most famous, continues Abdel-Ghaffar. “We wanted to create a desert course to appeal to those European golfers who are used to very lush and green environments. For them, the desert element is a novelty and a reason for them to visit.
Much of this activity is due to the fact that Orange Lakes is part of a larger development, El Ein Valley, which will include an estimated 570 residential units. Complementing the houses will be a community center with its own spa and gym, a tennis academy and an equestrian centre.
“When we started designing this golf course we kept in mind the beautiful elements of Zamalek and Maadi, says Abdel-Ghaffar. “When you see the Gezira Club, it has an equestrian center, stables and bridle paths. It also had an 18-hole golf course at one time. So we decided to accommodate in this development all those luxury facilities that people enjoy about such clubs and residential areas.
“We will have the longest bridle path in Egypt, around 7 km long. It will take riders around the golf course and the development as a whole.
The central attraction, of course, is the 18-hole golf course, whose designers hope will draw not only casual golfers, but also some top-flight competitors. In addition, there is great potential, says Abdel-Ghaffar for developing the golf tourism angle.
“We’re thinking of building a 60-room boutique hotel on the site. We’ve started with this clubhouse, and we’ll wait and assess the feasibility of providing accommodation for foreign visitors.
Master of ceremonies at the opening event was club manager Richard Philips. Originally from England, Philips moved to Egypt four years ago. Before taking up his new role, he worked as a teaching professional at Katameya Heights, and then went on to run their teaching academy.
Philips says that the course has been designed with flexibility in mind.
“It’s a par 71, but it’s a long 71 at over 7,000 yards from the back tees. So that allows us to host golf at all levels, he says. “There are quite a number of long par 4 holes, and the par 3 holes are also fairly substantial. So you get the feeling here of playing a long course.
Some players may be daunted by the prospect of all that water, fearing the loss of a few too many balls. But as the Philips is quick to point out, the lakes have for the most part been laid alongside the fairways and greens, only occasionally requiring a leap of faith.
“It’s not like some of the courses in the US, where you’re always hitting over water and losing lots of balls. Most of the water here is to the sides, so you may lose a few balls if you’re having a wild day. But the water gives a nice feeling to the place without being daunting.
You can contact Orange Lakes on 018-000-0308, or go to the website, www.orangelakesgc.com.