The Gary Player-designed Mogador golf course is set within what was once a dense forest on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, just to the south of the old 16th century town of Essaouira. Opened for play in 2010, it’s the first of two 18-hole layouts that are planned to operate within a massive 1,450-acre property. As at the end of 2015, thirteen holes on the new second course had been fully prepared and the remaining five holes were scheduled to be brought into use the following year.
Laid out on sandy soil close to the coast, Mogador’s outward half ends with a very long, demanding par four that plays uphill to a false-fronted green. On the back nine, the right doglegged 17th is regarded as the signature hole, heading uphill towards a well-defended putting surface.There’s a splendid set of par three holes on the card – varying in length from 140 yards to 220 yards – and the pick of these is probably the 207-yard 11th, set amidst the dunes. The most difficult hole on the course is kept until very last, where par at the very long 18th is protected by a cluster of fairway bunkers and a fall-away green.
The Gary Player-designed Mogador course debuted in 2010, the same year that the Black Knight’s Mazagan course opened further along the coast at EL Jadida. There are a number of similarities between the two layouts: both are laid out within enormous private estates located along the Atlantic coastline and both offer golfers a terrific resort-style links experience, with wide playing corridors playing to large, reasonably-contoured putting surfaces.
Mazagan has the edge on location because some of the holes actually touch the shore whereas the fairways here never quite reach the beach. Where Mogador scores over its competitor is having no residential interference within the grounds or around the perimeter of the property. There’s also more native vegetation to carry on a number of tee shots here, which helps to concentrate the thoughts a little more on the tee box!
I particularly liked the back nine, where exposed rocks and stones skirt several of the holes. There’s also a lovely three-hole stretch beginning at the 11th, where two terrific par threes are played before and after the 498-meter par five 12th, which leads to a lovely amphitheatre greensite.
With fifty greenkeepers on the books, you’d expect this place to be well conditioned and that was certainly the case when I was here the other day. I understand the second 18-hole course is taking shape at the moment so it won’t be too long before Essaouira becomes a 36-hole destination that’s well worth checking out.