Ayla Golf

Golf Course

LOCATION

Jordan

CLIENT

Ayla Oasis Development Company

ARCHITECT

Oppenheim Architecture + Design

GOLF COURSE DESIGN

Greg Norman Golf Course Design

AWARDS

2016, World Architecture Festival (WAF), Leisure Led Future Project
2017, Arabian Property Awards, Leisure Architecture
2017, Architizer+ Awards, Unbuilt Sports & Recreation

Ayla Golf is Jordan’s first 18-hole signature grass golf course and is fast becoming one of the finest courses in the Middle East. Designed and constructed by Greg Norman, it is the lynchpin to a greater master planned community and resort known as Ayla Oasis.  The delivery of the golf course represents a significant milestone in the evolution Jordan’s sport, tourism and economy as a whole. The game of golf is now an avenue for young Jordanian athletes coming up through the training academy. Tournaments, conferences and training camps have also boosted and modernised the local tourism industry.

Working in close collaboration with Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Form Landscape Architects were engaged to design and document surrounding landscape works to the course. From the outset, a clear brief was set. The landscape response must practically support the game of golf while providing an aesthetic reminiscent of the local desert. The player should feel immersed in the game of golf while being ultimately unaware of surrounding civil infrastructure.  Gardens and plant species must be selected and positioned to maintain long term viability. A limited water allowance, sourced from underground aquifers, must be accurately apportioned to ensure both plant survival and sustainable water management.

Initial site trips to Jordan were made so that research into plant communities could be made.  Groupings and natural combinations were noted, identified, and discussed with local nursery groups to ascertain availability.  A number of signature desert species emerged as signature species for achieving a desert aesthetic.  Acacia tortilis, Calotropis procera, Atriplex leucoclada, and Phoenix dactylifera were examples of this.  Lengthy negotiations were had with local nurseries to propagate and or import key species. Once procured, specimens were periodically inspected during the grown-on period to ensure quality.

Concepts for the landscape followed a ‘design with nature’ approach.  The topography of the course was used as a cue to introducing subtle shifts in planting character.  A dune character of planting was adopted in elevated zones of the course. This explored arid combinations of dune grasses, palms, and acacias. Stream and lake edge planting character was adopted in low lying areas of the course.  Deeper greens, sedges and cluster palms were employed to give a lusher appearance to these zones.   Where possible, native plants were used.  Where impractical, exotic species were carefully selected to emulate the native appearance.

 During the design process, sustainability and water conservation were paramount. Live updates to water consumption projections were made to ensure water allowances were not exceeded.  Garden edges were continuously massaged and fixed numbers of trees and palms were positioned to provide play legibility and visual impact. The end result is an established landscape which is sustained on original irrigation allowances.  A substantial solar farm was also installed on site. The solar farm powers the golf academy, comfort stations, pump station for water distribution, and onsite maintenance building.

Supporting landscape designs were also provided for architectural elements within the project.  Working in close collaboration with Oppenheim Architects, soft and hard landscape elements were designed to complement elegant, shell-like architectural forms.  From comfort stations to academy buildings and a clubhouse, a minimalist desert landscape response was once again employed.  The vision provided by Oppenheim was to deliver structures which were beautiful yet primitive and sophisticated through simplicity. Sparse and less composed plantings were carefully placed around the buildings, masking infrastructure and maximising visibility of architectural features.  Roadway patterning was subtle and fluid, inspired by the aftermath of a sandstorm.  Landscape structures were composed of materials such as corten steel and timber to promote expression of material age and dilapidation.

There were many and varied challenges faced during the construction period.  Form Landscape Architects were engaged to review and provide feedback on constructed works. Lack of coordination and construction program delays necessitated extended visits to be made to provide direction to the construction team.  180 palms and 1,100 trees were manually staked out by Form Landscape Architects and adjusted for the approval of Greg Norman.  74,730m2 of garden beds were set out via GPS and approved prior to construction. Overall, a leadership role was strongly executed by Form Landscape Architects to assist local contractors with a project that was unfamiliar in scope and nature.

Ayla Golf is a substantial achievement for the country of Jordan and the local community of Aqaba.  The arrival of the course has anchored Ayla Oasis as a whole and propelled the city of Aqaba into the future.  Employment and economic prosperity have followed Aqaba’s increased popularity as a tourist destination for visitors from within and beyond the middle east. The course now plays host to numerous community events beyond golf such as mass concerts and religious festivals. Ayla Golf stands as a symbol of sustainability, prosperity, hope and inclusiveness for the Jordanian community as a whole.