Robert Trent Jones Snr is sometimes credited in publicity articles with creating yet another ”golfing masterpiece” but in this instance at least, we think this description is actually appropriate for the fantastic 45-hole golfing playground he crafted at Royal Dar Es Salam Golf Club for King Hassan II of Morocco back in the late 1960s.
Such was the size of the wooded landscape that the old master had to work with to the south of Rabat, he was able to fashion two wonderful 18-hole championship layouts (the Red and Blue) and a short 9-hole course (the Green) for the late monarch’s golfing pleasure.
The Red course is acknowledged as one of the finest in the world (with its signature par three 9th regarded as one of Trent Jones’s best short holes) so it’s fair to say the Blue course is somewhat overshadowed by its better known sibling, even though it’s a mightily impressive track in its own right.
Extending to just over 6,800 yards from the back markers and playing to a par of 72, the Blue course boasts a sparkling set of par threes (at holes 3,4, 13 and 17) and a smattering of water-protected holes (at 2 to 4 and 16 and 17). The 450-yard par four 2nd and the long par five 15th are the toughest holes on the front and back nine and their respective degree of difficulty is reflected in the low stroke index number assigned to each hole on the scorecard.
The tree-lined fairways of the Blue course at Dar Es Salam hosted the Lalla Meryem Golf Cup between 1993 and 2008. There was no tournament held in 2009 before the event restarted the following year at Mohammedia then it moved on to Golf du Soleil in 2011 before taking up residence for four years at Golf de l’Ocean. In 2016, the competition returned to its spiritual golfing home on the Blue course at Royal Dar Es Salam.
Following the success of the recent renovation work on the Red course, a similar project was undertaken on the Blue by Cabell Robinson, assisted by club official Michel Besanceney. The main part of the work – involving the re-shaping of tees and greens, along with some fairways and bunkers – was completed in 2019. Large-scale tree clearance was also carried out to widen angles and perspectives and the nines were reversed.
Further planned improvements include introducing a stream at the new 18th “to create drama on the finishing hole,” according to Michel, who also told us; “we’re quite proud that this Sleeping Beauty doesn't pale against the Red Monster across the road”..
It’s not many (if any) venues that can accommodate separate ladies and gents international professional events at the same time but Royal Dar Es Salam has been doing just that for many years. Of course, it helps when you have a massive 1100-acre, 45-hole property that can easily accommodate the infrastructure necessary to run such a show. It’s also a big bonus when the state authorities sponsor the two tournaments to the extent that they do in Morocco.
The Coupe Lalla Meryem for women has been held on the Blue layout since 1993, except for a short 6-year break when the event was played on the Atlantic coast in Mohammedia and Agadir. And just because the female professionals play on this layout, don’t dismiss the Blue as a “ladies course” because it’s far from that – in comparison to the Red layout, it’s certainly shorter but it’s also tighter, so accuracy off the tee is essential or you’ll be playing out of thick rough fringing the fairways.
Hole 2, a severe right dogleg, has been modified recently to allow players to cut the corner and take on the pin with their second shot. The small lake at holes 11 and 12 has also been brought more into play so the course has certainly been toughened up. For me, the best hole on the card by far was the short par four 5th. A small pond cuts into the fairway on the right hand side to catch pushed tee shots before the hole then heads at a 45 degree angle to the left, up to a shallow green that’s benched into a ridge. It’s a lovely hole that demands accuracy all the way from tee to green, which is what the Blue course is really all about.