Top 100 Golf Courses revises its North African rankings

Top 100 Golf Courses revises its North African rankings

It’s been a while since we updated our rankings for Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia so we’re rectifying that situation now in this news release for North Africa. According to the R&A’s Golf Around the World 2019 report, there are a total of 111 courses located in these three countries but we think those figures (supplied by the US-based National Golf Foundation) are somewhat inflated for some reason and the true number in play is closer to 80.

And as our charts for these three countries profile 40 of these courses we think we have around half the operating golf layouts covered in that part of the world. Over time, golfing opportunities for local players seem to be on the increase as national federations now run ambitious programs to encourage greater participation from young people and that can only be a good thing – it shouldn’t all be about relying on incoming golfers from Europe and beyond to sustain the sport.


Egypt

Looking at our new Egyptian listings, the top three positions remain as they were, which means the Greg Norman signature design at The Allegria retains its status as the No. 1 course in the country. Opened for business a decade ago as the centrepiece of a large residential development by leading real estate company SODIC, this course was Greg Norman’s first (and so far only) North African design. Managed by Troon Golf, this golf facility continues to set the standard for others to emulate.

The Allegria

The Allegria

The only new entry in our chart at No. 4 is the Thomson, Perrett and Lobb-designed course at NEWGIZA Golf Club, which debuted just last year. Located close to the Giza pyramid complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this 18-hole layout is also part of a massive residential project on the outskirts of Cairo. Dramatic elevation changes, sandy waste areas and several water hazards all come into play on what was once an old quarry outside the capital.

NewGiza Golf Club

NEWGIZA Golf Club

Pater Harradine has told us about a new course he’s designed which is now ready to open, initially with nine holes, in the new Uptown Cairo development between the capital and New Cairo City. Thirteen holes have actually been grassed but completion of the other five holes is temporarily delayed due to the current coronavirus predicament.

We’ve also heard from John Sandford who informs us about a new 18-hole layout he’s currently working on that’s due to open in 2021 at Hacienda Bay, near El Alamein on the Mediterranean coast. Like the Uptown Cairo course, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this layout after it’s fully unveiled.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Allegria No change
2 Katameya Dunes (Lakes) No change
3 Cascades at Soma Bay No change
4 NewGiza New entry
5 Sokhna (B & C) Up 1
6 Katameya Heights Down 2
7 Mirage City Down 2
8 Palm Hills (A & C) No change
9 Madinat Makadi No change
10 Dreamland (Championship). Down 3


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 10 Golf Courses of Egypt click the link.


Morocco

Golf development has slowed down considerably in Morocco in the last couple of years and that isn’t much of a surprise as, truth be told, there were probably too many golf facilities trying to entice not enough golfers, particularly around Casablanca and Marrakech. That’s not to say things have dried up completely, but the fewer number of courses that appear now are of a generally higher quality than many of the residential-based tracks of late.

There’s no change at the top of our Moroccan standings, where the course at Golf du Palais Royal d’Agadir remains at No.1. Interestingly, although design credit for this remarkable layout is given to Robert Trent Jones, author James R. Hansen in his book A Difficult Par revealed it was RTJ’s associate Cabell Robinson who actually did the work. Or so we were told… until email correspondence in January with French-based architect Jeremy Pern revealed his involvement in the project:

“Cabell called me at the end of June 1985 asking me if I could go to Morocco next week to build the course in Agadir. I found myself on site 10 days later, with plans that had been roughed out a few years earlier. Since then the sea had reclaimed a significant and important hunk of the site so we had to start afresh. Cabell dropped in a few times during the construction and so we more or less built it as we went along.”

Golf du Palais Royal d’Agadir

Golf du Palais Royal d’Agadir

The first of two new entries comes into the chart at No. 3 and it’s the Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Michlifen Golf & Country Club in Ifrane, with the fairways set out at an altitude of five and a half thousand feet above sea level in the magnificent Middle Atlas Mountain region. Such is the kinder climate at this elevation, cool-season grasses were chosen for the layout, with creeping bentgrass used for tees and greens and Kentucky bluegrass for the sand-capped fairways and rough.

Recent reviewer comments include: “it’s easy to see from the non-maintained areas next to the fairways that this wasn’t an easy site to build a golf course on as there are a large clusters of small rocks everywhere… you’ll be hard pressed to find a more memorable set of closing holes anywhere… I found the experience at Michlifen simply great, in all respects.”

Michlifen Golf & Country Club

Michlifen Golf & Country Club

The other newcomer makes an entrance at No. 6 and it’s the newly refurbished Blue course at Royal Dar Es Salam Golf Club in Rabat, host venue for the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour since the tournament returned here in 2016. Following the success of the recent renovation of the Red course, a similar upgrade was carried out on the Blue course, with Cabell Robinson overseeing the work, together with ex-European Tour player Michel Besanceney, one of the club’s senior advisors.

Michel told us: “Tees and greens were totally re-shaped, along with some fairway and bunker reshaping and large-scale tree clearing to widen the angles and perspectives. The shaping work was carried out by Dean Bedwell and the whole project has been under the close supervision of HRH Prince Moulay Rachid. We’re quite proud that this Sleeping Beauty doesn't pale against the Red Monster across the road.”

Royal Dar Es Salam Blue course

Royal Dar Es Salam Blue course

In other Moroccan golf news, we hear that the Palmerie Rotana Resort in Marrakech (formerly a 27-hole facility) has reduced the number of holes in play to eighteen, using the original nines that were laid out by Robert Trent Jones in the early 1990s. In the same city, renovation work is almost finished at Royal Marrakech, where Stuart Hallett and Jonathan Davison are overseeing a 2-year redesign of all the bunkers and the installation of a new irrigation system.

Work began late last year on yet another course renovation, this time at the Pullman El Jadida Royal Golf and SPA near the coastal city of El Jadida, with James Duncan, the long-time Coore & Crenshaw associate, leading the efforts to trim back trees and upgrade all the greens, tees and bunkers.

We’re still eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Al Houra course onto the Moroccan golfing stage. This 18-hole layout, fashioned by Graham Marsh Golf Design in collaboration with Vijay Singh, is situated within a 635-acre property on the Atlantic coast between Tangier and Asilah. The adjacent Hilton hotel opened last year during phase 1 of a Qatari-funded development that includes more hotels, residential villas, health club, shops and various other facilities. Hopefully, the golf course (which was built a couple of years ago) will be next to emerge.


Rank/ Course Move
1 Palais Royal d’Agadir No change
2 Royal Dar-Es-Salam (Red) No change
3 Michlifen New entry
4 Mazagan Down 1
5 Assoufid Down 1
6 Royal Dar-Es-Salam (Blue) New entry
7 Tazegzout Bay Down 1
8 Samanah Down 1
9 PalmGolf Ourika Down 1
10 Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech. Down 5
11 El Jadida Royal No change
12 Royal Marrakech (Vert & Rouge) No change
13 Noria Down 3
14 Mogador Down 5
15 Montgomerie Marrakech Down 2
16 Golf du Soleil (Championship) Down 1
17 Amelkis (Blue & Red) Down 3
18 Royal Anfa Mohammedia No change
19 Golf Les Dunes Down 3
20 Al Maaden No change


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 20 Golf Courses of Morocco click the link.


Tunisia

There’s not really much to report on the Tunisian golf front, where things have remained rather stagnant as the consequence of a couple of terrible terrorist attacks on foreign visitors which took place in 2015. Visitor numbers had picked up again and flights from the UK had just resumed when the latest coronavirus crisis put everything on hold once again.

It can only be hoped that tourism will make some sort of miraculous recovery in the months ahead, as visitors desperate for some sunshine golf perhaps extend the holiday season into the late autumn this year. Make no mistake, Tunisia will be ready and waiting, with golf courses of a surprisingly high quality and green fees that are reasonably priced, providing an attractive, affordable golf product.

Yasmin Valley holds sway at the top of our Tunisian table and it’s held the No.1 position since we first started ranking this country in 2009. Located a mere 15-minute drive inland from the Hammamet Medina, it’s a Ron Fream design from the late 1980s that’s routed across an undulating landscape of pine and olive groves. Next door lies two well-regarded 18-hole courses at Golf Citrus, making this a great 3-course destination for discerning players.

Yasmine Valley

Yasmine Valley

The desert course at Oasis Tozeur, on the north edge of the Sahara desert, has now closed so it drops out of our chart, replaced by the course at Djerba Golf Club, which is a fine 27-hole facility on the small island of Djerba in the Gulf of Gabes, close to the border with Libya. Martin Hawtree laid out three nines here in the mid-1990s and the 18-hole layout of first choice comprises the loops of Les Palmiers (par is set at 37 with four par fives) and La Mer (par is 36 with three seaside holes).

It was announced a while back that the Tunis Sports City project in the Lac de Tunis district of the capital would finally go ahead, after the project had languished for many years on the planning board. A Peter Harradine-designed 9-hole golf course is one of the prime sporting components of this development and we await its completion with great interest.

Michel Gayon is also involved in designing an 18-hole layout at Tunis Bay Golf in Raoued, a new residential development located on the west side of the Sebkha Ariana salt flats, opposite the RTJII course at The Residence Tunis in Gammarth. The course is not due to complete until 2022/23.

Rank/ Course Move
1 Yasmine Valley No change
2 Citrus (La Foret) No change
3 El Kantaoui (Panorama) Up 1
4 Tabarka Down 1
5 Citrus (Les Oliviers) Up 1
6 Residence Tunis Up 1
7 Flamingo Monastir Down 2
8 El Kantaoui (Sea) No change
9 Djerba (La Mer and Les Palmiers). New entry
10 Carthage Down 1


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 10 Golf Courses of Tunisia click the link.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses