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Beyond golf

Whether it’s an excellent meal after a round, a spa treatment for golfers — or their partners — or a dip into Qatar’s cultural offerings, there’s plenty to do beyond the course, finds Stuart Forster.

Golf and spa

Should a round of golf come before or after an excellent spa treatment? Golfers visiting Qatar can try both options.

The nation’s leading golf club’s Championship-standard courses offer golfers early tee times, which leave much of the day free for business or leisure and relaxation. Doha Golf Club’s lush 18-hole course is less than a 20-minute drive from the Corniche. The drive westward to Education City Golf Club takes a similar time from the famous waterfront attraction.

Both courses measure more than 7,300 yards from their back tees and have hosted pro golfers during the Qatar Masters, a European PGA event. Challenging yet enjoyable to play in the relative cool of a Qatari morning, players heading away from the 18th holes can feel that they have every right to treat themselves to a wellness session in one of Qatar’s numerous upscale spas after completing their rounds.

Doha Golf Club’s course was designed by Peter Harradine and opened in 1998. Two-time Spanish major-winner José María Olazábal designed the course layout at Education City Golf Club, which opened for play as recently as 2019. In addition to well-maintained 18-hole courses, both clubs feature floodlit nine-hole courses that present visitors to Qatar with opportunities for a round after nightfall. Playing the par-three holes at night means being able to complete business meetings first or spend the daytime sightseeing or in a spa before heading to the course.

Several of Qatar’s leading spas are in upscale Doha hotels. The Heavenly Spa by Westin is a tranquil space accessible to travellers via day memberships. After swinging their clubs over 18 holes, golfers can take a dip in the pool, sweat in the sauna and try a range of treatments. Opting for a 90-minute signature massage is the perfect way of easing golf-induced aches and strains. Anyone pressed for time may prefer to opt for the 50-minute workout massage.

The symmetrical architecture of the Jaula Spa & Club at the Grand Hyatt is inspired by royal palace designs. Easy on the eye, it features a swimming pool and fitness area with free weights plus cardiovascular training equipment. Featuring a light lunch, the Grand Royal treatment package provides golfers with a sensuous incentive to complete rounds in a timely manner: a facial, body polish, algae wrap and aromatherapy massage are all part of the indulgent treat.

The Four Seasons Hotel Doha’s wellness centre opens at six each morning, so the steam room and hydrotherapy pool may tempt early risers to postpone their tee-off times until later in the day. The ice room, though, is ideal for cooling down after a round while encouraging the recovery of muscles taxed by fairways and bunkers. Men’s treatments include a 90-minute body ritual featuring exfoliation plus a massage focusing on the neck and back. Beyond therapeutic sports massages, the wellness team offers Thai, Balinese and hot stone therapies.

Inspired by Qatari architecture and incorporating traditional design elements, the Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq Village & Spa provides views of Doha’s dynamic skyline. The spa has plunge pools to sink into after time in the sauna and steam room. Day memberships allow visitors to stay from seven in the morning until midnight. Up to 80 of those minutes of relaxation can be spent being kneaded during a massage. The hot stone and deep tissue treatments are well-suited to golfers’ needs.

Spas are also the ideal space for travel companions to unwind while golfers enjoy playing Qatar’s superb courses.

Beyond golf
Beyond golf

Golf and fine dining

Doha’s leading restaurants are no more than a short drive from the city’s golf courses. Talented chefs from around the world put their skills to good use in top restaurants, making a broad choice of global cuisines available to golfers and their families.

Many golfers enjoy time socialising at the 19th hole almost as much as playing the previous 18. The terrace of Doha Golf Club’s Arabian-style, white-fronted clubhouse offers fine views onto a neatly maintained course with eight lakes. The clubhouse’s Spikes Lounge serves international dishes including nasi goreng, penne arrabbiata and rib-eye steak. With views of its respective course, Education City Golf Club’s Green restaurant is also a family-friendly dining space with seating both indoors and outdoors. The menu includes crisp salads and sushi.

Morning finishes for rounds played on Fridays and Saturdays open opportunities to socialise over a leisurely brunch. Sabai Thai restaurant, within The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa, serves its sumptuous Royal Thai Brunch from 12.30pm until four in the afternoon. Flavour-packed house specials of beef rendang and panang-style lobster curry make this an attractive place to dine throughout the week too. Vegetable pad thai counts among the many dishes suitable for vegetarian diners.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s contemporary Continental cuisine is served at Market by Jean-Georges in the W Doha. The French chef’s grilled dishes include black onyx tenderloin and a Wagyu rib-eye, making the restaurant a tempting choice for meat-lovers celebrating a good round of golf.

The short drive to the waterfront Pearl-Qatar means being able to dine at the opulent Yasmine Palace. The dining complex features colourful, beautifully crafted Arabian interiors including private rooms ideal for continuing business discussions that began on the fairway. Selecting one of the feasts removes the need to pick a la carte choices to share succulent, lightly spiced grilled meats or seafood representative of the region’s cuisine.

Anyone with their head in the clouds after an outstanding round of golf is likely to feel at home in Doha’s only revolving restaurant. Three Sixty serves predominantly Mediterranean cuisine on the 47th floor of the 980ft Torch Doha. The panoramic restaurant takes 90 minutes to complete a full turn and is an insider tip for a seafood dinner on Thursdays, which regulars know as ‘lobster night’.

For fine dining with a Cantonese twist, it’s hard to look past a table at Hakkasan in The St Regis Doha. Saturday dim sum may appeal to golfers who finish in time for a relaxing lunch. Crispy venison and morel mushroom count among the choices of flavourful dim sum baskets. The restaurant’s signature menus make it easy to sit back and enjoy a selection of beautifully presented dishes.

Nobu Doha, at the Four Seasons Hotel, serves modern Japanese cuisine with memorable waterfront views from its rooftop terrace. Rock shrimp tempura and black cod yuzu miso are just two of many exquisitely presented dishes designed by celebrated chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.

Sora, at the Park Hyatt and a few blocks back from Doha’s waterfront, is another highly rated Japanese restaurant. On the 21st floor, there’s no better place to watch the sun go down after seeing it ascend during a morning round of golf. In addition to sushi and sashimi, plates of charcoal-grilled meats are ideal for sharing while talking over the day’s events.

Qatar’s culinary diversity presents food-loving golfers plenty of dining choices once they step off the course.

Beyond golf
Beyond golf

Golf and culture

Qatar is dotted with cultural attractions to be explored after an early round of golf. Playing Education City Golf Course places art aficionados conveniently close to the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. The institution’s vast permanent collection encompasses sculptures, paintings and calligraphy examining themes revolving around life in the Gulf.

Heading eastwards from Education City towards the Corniche means passing Qatar National Library. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it’s one of several striking contemporary buildings that make Doha a rewarding destination for those who appreciate architecture. The spacious and serene interior houses the Heritage Library, in which handcrafted Quranic manuscripts, maps and navigational instruments are displayed. Historic books, photos and globes are also on show.

Due to the depth of the Museum of Islamic Art’s collection, it may be worth visiting on a non-playing day, to maximise time browsing. The angular building on the Corniche was designed by acclaimed architect IM Pei. The broad collection features historic artefacts such as mosque lamps, a ninth-century astrolabe and a tiled cenotaph from Uzbekistan bearing an early example of the Thuluth script. Another of Doha’s well-regarded restaurants, IDAM by Alain Ducasse, serves modern Mediterranean dishes spiced with Arabian flavours on the museum’s fifth floor. The adjacent MIA Park offers views along the Corniche and hosts Richard Serra’s towering 80ft metal ‘7’ sculpture.

From the MIA Park, it’s a short hop to the National Museum of Qatar. Inspired by the form of a desert rose, French architect Jean Nouvel designed the striking contemporary building. The palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, a seat of government for a quarter of a century, stands in the museum’s courtyard. Across 11 galleries, this institution utilises artefacts, aromas, sounds and images to convey the story of Qatar. It’s also possible to taste Qatari cuisine in Jiwan, a stylish restaurant with dune-like dining pods on the rooftop.

For further insights into contemporary Qatari culture, it’s worth exploring the streets around the Souq Waqif. Stalls at the traditional Arabian market stay open well into the evening. Clothing, souvenirs and attractively stacked aromatic spices count among the array of goods offered for sale. The dates sold at the market are ideal for slipping into golf bags for a mid-round energy boost. Browsing the neighbouring Gold Souq may result in finding a high-value item to take home. The Souq Waqif Art Center champions creativity and visitors can browse artworks and the ornate, retro-influenced interior.

Less than a 10-minute drive from Doha Golf Club, Katara Cultural Village presents opportunities to meet creative people and celebrate Qatari heritage. The village’s centrepiece is a modern interpretation of a Greco-Arabian amphitheatre that has 5,000 seats to view outdoor shows. An indoor theatre plus an opera house that’s home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra are additional reasons to check out the programme of events. With a planetarium, garden and beach, this multifaceted attraction is a fascinating place to spend time.

A 30-minute drive along the Dukhan Highway at Al Samriya, the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum is one of the world’s largest private museums. The diverse collection is housed in a fortress-like stone building with turrets. Weaponry, fossils, Islamic art and 600 fully functional vehicles make the museum ideal for visiting on a rest day from golf. The institution’s collection of historic carpets is displayed in a museum on the sixth floor of the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel.

Culture-loving golfers looking to play in spring sunshine are likely to enjoy visiting Qatar during March, when the Doha Cultural Festival celebrates music, dance and theatre, making it one of the bright spots of the cultural calendar.

Beyond golf
Beyond golf

Not to miss

Beyond golf