Tucked away in the northwest corner of Tunisia, close to the border with Algeria, the charming little coastal town of Tabarka lies some way from the main body of golf courses strung out along the Mediterranean seaboard to the east of the country.
Designed by American architect Ron Fream of Golfplan, the golf course at Tabarka enjoys a wonderfully varied landscape with a front nine routed through sand dunes by the shoreline and a back nine that cuts through pine groves away from the coast.
More cliff top than links in nature, Tabarka is a seaside layout nevertheless, with magnificent views overlooking the ancient port and its marine environment. It’s just a pity the potential of this golfing gem is not exploited to the full as, with the right investment and promotion, its designer Ron Fream thinks it could easily rival other more prominent golfing destinations around the world.
Tabarka is a bit of a curate’s egg of a golf course. Holes 1-3 are parkland, followed by 4-7 which all have sea views (with a couple that could be described as clifftop) before returning to parkland for the rest of the holes. The course is obviously well looked after and very green, and has a lot going for it. There are some very attractive and challenging holes and no obvious weaknesses. The signature hole is 18, which is a very long and challenging par 4. In order to make it to the green in 2, you need to hit a very good drive and then an excellent long iron or fairway wood over a fairly large lake.
The course belongs to a 5 star hotel and I presume is used almost exclusively by holiday golfers, which makes me wonder why it has been set up to be so difficult. Compared to most “resort” courses I have played, the bunkers were deeper and the rough considerably longer than average. In particular the rough around the bunkers was so “grabby” that it was better to be in the bunker than in the rough next to them. I was also rather disappointed by the greens, which were very slow indeed, but that might just be because of the time of the year.
On the plus side, you can play very quickly because there is virtually no one on the course. We played on a Saturday and Sunday, and I believe they had 6 people playing on the Saturday and 8 on the Sunday.
The staff are very welcoming and professional. Be aware that there are no locker rooms and no pro shop, so you have to get ready in the hotel and bring enough balls, tees, etc. with you because you can’t get them at the course (although there is a good bar, so no worries there!)
On balance, I’m glad I played it – some good things about it but not a course I have fallen in love with yet.