Review: Cascades Championship Golf Course at Cascades Golf Resort Spa & Thalasso, Somabay in Egypt
Michael Edwards checks out the Cascades Championship Golf Course at The Cascades Golf Resort Spa and Thalasso in Somabay, Egypt.
“Dilemma … Dilemma” is the 12th hole on the Cascades Championship Course. Arriving at the tee you are faced by two fairways. Literally a choice between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
You could take the left-hand inland fairway, a temptingly wide plateau of immaculate korai grass: that’s after you’ve cleared a Guinness Book of Records sized gritty waste bunker.
But it’s a shorter journey via the right-hand fairway, dicing with the blustering warm winds of the Somabay coastline.
Below is the 1,200 mile coral reef that runs through the warm waters of the Red Sea. A diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise, of over 1,200 species, looking like a Photoshop fantasy: pools of infinite shades of azure, cobalt and maritime blues. If you’re going to score a double bogey, the consolation is that this is probably one of the most beautiful locations on the planet to do so.
For around 310 days a year, golfers drive into a nameless wind, with easterly gusts pulling balls towards oblivion. Save for when the sand-filled Khamsin, Egypt’s scirocco, named after the 50 days for which it blows, arrives fitfully in Spring. The Red Sea may have parted for Jesus but do not count on divine redemption if, as a right hander, you slice your drive.
“This is a links course. It’s windy.” says walnut skinned “Major”, manager of the course. His shrug of the shoulders suggesting that if you finish 21 over par then it is Allah’s will. By now you should have gathered that Somabay is windy. So windy that at the KiteHouse, one of the world’s go-to kitesurfing destinations, one brave soul has reached 64 kmph.
“When the wind does not blow, I cannot play. I have my worst scores,” says Major. “I fail to concentrate,” he adds, castigating himself.
Though there are other challenges on Major’s mind. From arid, desolate dessert he curates a green oasis that hosts the annual Egyptian Golf Championship. Every week he channels three Olympic sized swimming pools of desalinated water to the verdant greens and lush fairways. In a thin green ribbon of rare fertility, sandwiched between the blues of the Red Sea and the washed-red-brown hues of the mountains he creates a golfing Garden of Eden.
Cascades? The name comes from the Victoria Falls style planting: sparkling torrents of water splash from the hotel’s terrace down onto the rocks below, cascading through carpets of sunbathing daisies.
The course was designed by Gary Player, the South African golfer. Book the hotel’s Gary Player Suite for stunning views across emerald fairways and outsize bunkers towards Red Sea luminescence.
Player clearly likes designing bunkers. Deep, clingy caverns like the intimidating face of a Saharan sand dune or long-lingering shallow sand traps intimidating your drive or those vast Lawrence of Arabia swathes of barren dessert. On the 614 yard Par 5 second, you begin with the challenge of clearing at least 180 yards of gritty dessert – if you begin from the championship tee.
Maybe Player was a frustrated poet, there is a literary flair to his naming of the holes. Claiming the dubious honour of Stroke Index 1, the third hole is aptly named Bunker Alley. That ludicrously lengthy 614 yard second is called “Lions in waiting.” Finally approaching the green, you glimpse, through a hazy mirage, two enormous Sphinxes that guard the entrance to the Sheraton Somabay Resort.
The fifth, “The Pebbles of Soma” is the course’s signature hole, featuring a green on a thin peninsula protected on three sides by the sea. Yes, that’s a tough hole but generally the course reflects Player’s democratic design ethos. Courses should be enjoyed by both amateurs and professionals. A drive that misses the green by a yard should not roll down a hill to come to rest fifty yards away.
Incidentally, the five Somabay hotels share a dine around concept. When your golfing day is finally done, you can ring for a minibus and take your choice for dinner from The Breakers Diving and Surfing Lodge, Kempinski Hotel Somabay, Robinson Club Somabay, Sheraton Resort Somabay or of course The Cascades Golf Resort, Spa and Thalasso.
And is that Spa and Thalasso relevant to golfers? For players honing their game at The Academy and playing a number of rounds a specialist Golf Massage can help restore aching bodies. Then there’s the bubbling, frothy therapeutic Thalasso experience of water jets massaging and reviving sore muscles. Essential – in my humble opinion.
Address: The Cascades Golf Resort, Spa and Thalasso, Safaga Rd, Qesm Hurghada, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt
Phone: +20 65 3562600
Hotel residents can play the 18 hole course for €85, non-residents for €90. Golf cart rental for 18 holes is €30 whilst Club hire is €25. Prices vary with season and special offers.