Nicklaus Design’s first course in Morocco opened to something of a fanfare in 2009, with developers Alain Crenn and Richard Hennessy receiving an award for International Golf Development of the Year. Samanah was to be the first of three Moroccan projects for the Golden Bear’s design team but only Michlifen Golf & Country Club ever saw the light of day.
Samanah’s located to the south of Marrakech, next door to the Royal Palm golf course and, like its near neighbour, the course is part of an enormous residential estate that features a variety of luxury riads, dars, douirias and villas. Consequently, the fairways weave around clusters of housing units, though the domaine is so spacious, the elements of real estate are always kept at a discreet distance from the spacious playing corridors.
The course can play as long as 6,735 metres from the back markers, though there are five tees at every hole to cater for golfers of all abilities. Fairways are generally wide and rough is kept to a minimum, which helps the pace of play when players are not spending a lot of time looking for lost balls. Factor in large and sensibly contoured greens and it’s easy to see why Samanah’s a favourite winter practice venue for a number of visiting national elite squads.
Stand out holes include the short par four 6th, which offers a decent birdie opportunity, despite the proximity of water to the right hand side of the green. The par three 8th is another terrific hole on the outward half, playing across an area of scrub and sandy waste to a green that gently tilts from back left to front right. The 403-metre 15th is easily the best hole on the back nine, where the approach shot has to carry a wide gully (called an oued) that’s located a hundred yards short of the green.
Flat and featureless not the most memorable of courses , indeed a week after playing the only holes that I can remember are 15 & 18. Wide fairways, waste areas and flat American style bunkers, very few trees of note. Greens and fairways in good condition bunkers needed more sand. A decent "resort course" but little more in my opinion, there are more interesting courses in the area which I would play again but unless there were no option would not worry about playing here.
SAMANAH Marrakech, Ranked 7th in Morocco. Five tee boxes per hole so choose according to your handicap. Great design and good grass on fairways and greens. No great scenery but the Atlas mountains are in the backdrop. Very good flow and transition around the course. Bunkers were full of sand which contrasted with other courses played this week. Challenging par 3’s with fair view on all holes with space except the 9th which is a bit of a lottery. Great index 1 and finishing hole index 2. Our pins were on a Sunday position which meant the putting on these fast greens were challenging. This course was in great condition and merits no 6 in Morocco. Choose the tee boxes correctly and it will be thoroughly enjoyable. Feb ‘17
This was the final Marrakech course that I visited last week and it was one that I was really looking forward to, seeing as I haven’t clapped eyes on too many Nicklaus designs. It’s obvious the land has had to be shaped to create the contours but it’s been done in such a way that it doesn’t look took too unnatural, with no real visually jarring holes to send shivers down your back.
The huge expanses of sandy waste areas off the tee at holes 2 and 3 didn’t exactly thrill me at the outset but things got a lot better as holes went on, apart from what looked like a very poor attempt to create an artificial, shallow oued (streambed) across the fairway on the 7th.
Water holes were kept to a minimum (only the 6th has a pond next to the green) until the last three holes, where the 16th and 17th play round a pond then the 18th skirts another larger lake on the way to the home green.
The only interesting short hole was the glorious 8th as both the 3rd and 13th were long and rather boring, whilst the 17th had water in play along its right flank. Best hole by far was the par four 15th, where the green was positioned behind a deep and broad natural gully, calling for a forced carry to the target.
The course looked in great shape, with green overseeded fairways contrasting beautifully with the browner dormant Bermuda fringes so there could be no complaints in terms of conditioning.
I just wonder now if some of the new wave of Marrakech courses that I visited might soon be held in higher regard than Samanah because once those exciting new designs become better known, this place will have a job on its hands to retain the position its held for a while as top track in the local area.