Going natural on the beach facilities can extend to the sports scene as LUX South Ari Atoll has demonstrated with their beach volleyball pitch set up perhaps the way beach volleyball was meant to be played.
As the football season winds down caped by Liverpool’s win last night, more and more footie stars are heading to the Maldives for some post-season recuperative therapy. Bunyamin’s legendary feed is packed recently with star players invading paradise over the past week.
If they start to miss kicking around the ball, then the most idyllic venue would be Kandima’s seaside pitch. Kind of evokes the luxurious coastal cachet of AC Monaco’s Stade Louis II (while the infrastructure is undoubtedly more modest, one could argue that the scenery is even better). Yes, most of the players are resident staff, but guests are always welcome to join in. Most of the time, these football grounds are sequestered in the interior of the island in the staff area. But Kandima has kindly situated its pitch right by the beach. So for the spectators, if the match gets boring (like most of last nights Champions League final), they can always gaze out on the picturesque ocean. Of maybe, amble over to the adjacent badminton court with the same seaside positioning some racquet fun.
Everyone will be clamouring for the best seat in the house (or pub) to watch the culmination of the football season with the Tottenham vs. Man City Champions League game today (though it will be tough to match the excitement of the semis which got them both here). Fortunately, at Hurawalhi, all the guests are treated to a fine view of the periodic staff matches. Unlike most resorts, the pitch is not segregated in the back out of sight in a sequestered staff area, but front and (literally) center (of the fitness facilities) that makes it all the more encouraging for guests to join in or watch. And the grounds themselves are as high standard as the 5-star property itself with state of the art flood lit astro turf.
And special pink ribbon biscuits and cakes to treat yourself at the end (see below).
With the football season winding down, the stars of the pitch will be planning a bit of premier league grade relaxation. The luxury of Maldives will be one of the top destinations for the golden boots (and wallets). Here’s a starting 11 (with an added hat tip to talent scout Bunyamin Ahmed) of footie fashionista in paradise…
Six Nations might have concluded this weekend, but you can carry on your place kicks in paradise at Cinnamon Hakuraa Hura. They not only have one of the only rugby pitches, complete with regulation goal posts and boundary line, but it is also set on the beach beside Hakuraa Hura’s expansive lagoon. The Sri Lankan run resort has a number of Sri Lankan staff you play regularly if you are looking to join in a seaside scrum.
The Australian Open is in full swing this week kicking off the 2018 Grand Slam season. For a bit of Aussie tennis in the Maldives, the best courtside seats are Amilla Fushi. A number of resorts have invested on some pretty sophisticated tennis facilities, but Amilla Fushi has the biggest range of tennis amenities I have seen at their “LUX Tennis” club…
The “club” offers lessons and player partners with ATP Pros, exhibition matches by visiting ATP Tour players, kids instruction, ball machine (see photo below)and serve speed radar. Not to mention a range of rackets and tennis wear including shoes. A bit of above and beyond by the resort from down under.
Surfer girls aren’t the only athletes drawn to the idyllic shores of the Maldives. I’ve noticed that Bunyamin Ahmed’s Instagram feed has been particularly chocker recently with footballers arriving in the Maldives. But every manner of athlete finds a bit of regeneration and recovery from this relaxing setting. Here is a top ten sample (sorry there’s not more ladies, but the guys just don’t post as prolifically as the gals)…
“Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain
And if you are going to “spoil” your walk, you might as well make it a great one along the coastal beauty of Maldivian paradise. According to Shangri-La Villingili (and I haven’t been able to find any examples to contradict them), their 9-hole golf course is the *only* course in the world where *every* hole is on the ocean. Of course, Scottish links are the world showcases for links play, but even the legendary St. Andrews only has its front nine on the ocean (the back nine returns inland).
I love it when Maldives resorts push their activities out to the ocean. For years, the “activities” (eg. spas, fitness centres, sports areas) were sequestered in the middle of the island. I guess this made use of this interior and they figured that people would be so busy doing their thing that they wouldn’t need breath-taking views. But the whole point of doing these activities on holiday in the Maldives is to enjoy them *with* the bonus of the enchanting ambiance. Now, the top properties put their spas and gyms and other activities right on the water which lured people to the destination in the first place.
During our Tour visit to Villingili this summer, Lori and I actually got to play a proper round of golf on this distinctive course. As I noted in my tour report, it might be just a par 3 course, but it is still a serious course – seriously laid out, seriously challenging, seriously beautiful surroundings and seriously fun. Not our best round of playing (see Twain quote above), but certainly one of the most spectacular rounds we’ve ever played.
The course does require a very precise approach game as the fairways are narrow (limited real estate) and unforgiving (eg, the big, blue ocean looming to the right of every shot). Elite golf these days is all about the approach. Everyone on Tour can drive plenty far enough with accuracy, but the birdies are made on heroic approach shots landing close to the pin or heroic putts from further away from the pin (and the former are a bit easier to achieve for a pro).
Also during our stay, I had a chance to meet one of the course designers and architect, Kai Smit, and ask him a few questions about this Olympic calibre course. As the Rio Games finish up today (including the first ever Olympic Golf Tournament), here is an in depth look at Maldives’ own tropical golf course…
• What was the inspiration to build a golf course on such limited space?
The southern tip of Villingili Island was undeveloped and the location where the Project Contractor Dormitory was located. This parcel of land was also the logistics centre for materials and equipment that had to be imported to construct the Hotel. It also served as a centre for project waste collection before shipped off the island. The Challenge was twofold, namely 1) to restore the natural habitat and environment to be consistent with the rest of the Island and 2.) try to introduce a value added recreational activity for Resort Guests without harming the environment. The orientation and scale of the peninsula lent itself to be a superb 9 hole – Par 3 Golf Course. Providing a pleasant walk at Dawn and Dusk. All Golf Holes could be routed alongside the ocean, creating 9 greens next to water and ensuring that when playing at dawn or dusk – the players did not look into the sun on the first five outward holes and the last three inward holes. The only hole that the player may look into the sun at Dawn is the signature 6th Hole that faces eastward – and what a sight that can be!
• What was the biggest challenge to building the course?
The limited supply of sand and elevation of the land . Neap tide also presented some challenges as the course is low lying and the eastern shoreline on the peninsula can experience some rough sea conditions.
• What is your favourite hole?
The signature 6th Hole with the ocean backdrop of breaking waves.
• Any tips for playing for course?
Ensure that you have enough golf balls and stay out of the ocean. Generally, the course favours the player hitting a draw as opposed to those players who like to shape the shot from left to right. Below is a photo tour of the course with the overall layout map directly below, with the individual hole layouts below that. Then following is each of the (a) tee shot views, and (b) green views.
Clubbing at its best!
(click on picture for a zoom in)