The coastal city of El Jadida – known as Mazagan under Portuguese rule from 1502 to 1769 – was established by its colonial rulers as a West African staging post for explorers heading to South America and beyond. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the city’s fortification, with its bastions and ramparts, is a fine example of Renaissance military design.
The El Jadida Royal course lies right next to the sandy bay that stretches north from the city towards Azemmour and it’s part of a 121-bedroomed hotel and spa complex that recently changed hands from Sofitel to Pullman. Playing to a par of 72 with an overall length of 6,848 yards, the fairways of El Jadida Royal were carved through a small forest of pine and eucalyptus trees by American architect Cabell B Robinson in 1993.
Robinson, a former associate of Robert Trent Jones, set up his own business in 1987 to pursue the European projects that were coming his way like La Cala which opened in Spain in 1990 and Limère, France in 1992. His other Moroccan projects include Golf les Dunes in Agadir (1991), The Royal course in Fez (1994) and Amelkis in Marrakech (1995). In more recent times, Robinson’s Royal Palm course to the south of Marrakech opened to much critical acclaim in 2013.
The El Jadida course was the venue for the European Challenge Tour’s Moroccan Golf Classic over a three-year period, starting in 2008 when Michael Hoey won the first of these events. The layout has since hosted three Alps Tour and four European Professional Development Tour competitions.
The El Jadida Royal course occupies a rather unique, forested property adjacent to the Atlantic coastline, a few miles to the south of the upmarket Mazagan resort. Operated by the Pullman chain of hotels and resorts, the 18-hole layout is largely laid out within a dense woodland site that lies a little inland from the sandy shore.
Apart from the two par threes (the second of which features a wonderful Biarritz green) and the long par five 8th, all the tightly tree-lined holes on the front nine dogleg one way or the other across rolling terrain, and they all play to relatively small, but nicely-contoured greens.
The outward half is pleasant enough but the back nine is even better, thanks to the design making good use of the more undulating landscape. The 10th kinks uphill and right to a long, narrow green that tilts sharply from back to front and we get to see and hear the ocean for the first time (I loved how Ali, the genial caddie master, described the constant roar from the beach as the “sea singing a different song to me every day”).
The routing then returns inland for a few holes – the downhill par three 13th plays from a very elevated tee position to an L-shaped green that sits behind a little pond – before returning to the Atlantic for the last three holes.
Unfortunately, it’s evident from the general condition of the signage, the rusty old bunker rakes and the overgrown cart paths that the maintenance budget at EL Jadida Royal is rather limited (unlike its new neighbour at Mazagan). Don’t let that put you off though because it’s well worth a game here, warts and all.