Reputed to have cost around $11.5 million to construct, the course at Ile aux Cerfs (formerly known as Le Touessrok) is a prestigious IMG layout that bears the Bernhard Langer architectural stamp of approval. Debuting in 2003, it winds its way around the Ile aux Cerfs – a small island which lies just off Trou d’Eau Douce in Mauritius’s largest lagoon – with eighteen holes set out in an old sugar plantation.
According to Bernhard Langer, "What I have aspired to create with Le Touessrok golf course is a golfing experience that truly arouses all the senses. From the amazing natural setting to the challenges presented by the course I want it to be a game to remember for all who play."
The setting is absolutely idyllic – fantastic white sandy beaches flank fairways around the periphery of the property – but Ile aux Cerfs has gained the reputation of presenting far more than a pleasant, resort-style challenge; a view that has recently been endorsed by new French Golf Federation slope ratings for the course.
The natural topography is brought into play at every opportunity with a wonderful routing that takes golfers on an exotic tropical trip through lush mangrove forests, past shimmering tidal pools and over craggy volcanic lava outcrops, skirting the spectacular sandy shoreline on several occasions along the way.
Each of the four short holes on the course is visually stunning, but the best of these is possibly the 125-yard 8th, where its pulpit green sits high above the fairway, surrounded by trees. The 337-yard 14th is another feature hole on the inward nine and this tempting short par four plays to a long, narrow green at the end of a short uphill approach.
I had the pleasure of playing Ile aux Cerfs twice whilst on honeymoon (this was negotiated well in advance of our wedding day and I was out early!). Firstly the journey out to the course has to be relatively unique, a serene ten minute boat-ride through the mangroves deposited me at the jetty. Met by a man in a buggy, I was then whisked up to the clubhouse where club hire (from memory Callaways XRs or something similar) and accoutrements were quickly sorted out. The staff were very friendly (as everyone on Mauritius seems to be) and did their best to accommodate my requests.
The Pro-shop no longer has stroke-savers, instead you have to take a buggy as all are fitted with GPS touch-screens. There are a handful of blind or semi-blind tee-shots and otherwise there is almost always some sort of carry, so in the absence of a course guide, the buggy is a must. In the end I didn’t regret it as the round was seriously warm work and the hire cost was not extortionate.
Warm up facilities were adequate, clearly space is at a premium, but there’s enough room to launch a few balls and miss a few putts.
With clubs, buggy, complimentary water, a few free balls (included with the green fee) and a couple of balls I brought with me (having read other reviews on this site) I was quickly called forward at the first tee to pair up with another single. 5 iron in hand I pulled the first left, pushed the second right and drove on to drop one on the fairway. Neither tee-shots were seen again and they weren’t terrible! So, yes, the course is quite tight in places. Generally there’s a little/no first-cut and then just ‘jungle’, volcanic rock and oblivion.
I’m a 12 h/cap and a member of a club where my h/cap travels well. I played off the whites (one below the black championship tees) and at no point were the carries more than c. 170 yards, but with the course being so tight I never hit more than a 4 iron over the two rounds I played. I think 28 points was my best return and with borrowed clubs etc. I wasn’t too disappointed with that.
If you have looked at the photographs you can see Ile aux Cerfs is stunning, it’s hard not to play the whole round with a smile on your face, no matter your score. Particular holes that stood out are those run alongside the beach (6, 11, and 12) but there are plenty that will last long in the memory. The greens were not particularly fast, but they were true and you got value for your putts. Overall the course condition was excellent.
Thanks to 0800 tee times the pace of play was good for both rounds (understandably the afternoon is apparently quite slow as the course gets busy). I think we took roughly 3.5 hours per round (with a fair amount of looking for balls). As a result my fledgling marriage survived, in fact the course was so beautiful I managed to persuade my wife to chauffeur me around the back 9 for my second round, which she even admitted to enjoying.
In keeping with the surrounding resorts, the clubhouse is well appointed with good showers etc and an air of luxury. The food was good and there is a lovely view to enjoy as you sip a post-game drink and count up how many balls you lost. I can’t wait to go back to play this stunning course again, but I’ll take my own clubs next time!