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We've revisited Morocco to uncover further golfing delights in the Western Kingdom

05 June, 2016
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Top 100 Golf Courses revisits Morocco to appraise more Top 20 chart contenders

We strive to keep on top of golfing developments in the Western Kingdom

Six months ago, our Morocco Top 20 review concluded with an indication that we’d like to take a closer look this year at courses outwith the Marrakech area. Well, we’ve done just that, visiting Agadir on the Atlantic coast in January then returning last month to have a look at more than a dozen courses in Casablanca, Fes, Tangier and Rabat.

It now means we’ve played or visited 32 of the 36 golf facilities currently in operation around the Western Kingdom so we think we’re now uniquely qualified to report on the very best that Morocco has to offer the visiting golfer from abroad.

We’ve not yet seen the 9-hole courses at Royal Golf Anfa, Settat University or Bousnika Bay. Neither have we visited the 18-hole layout at Palmeral Golf Saïdia, close to the Algerian border in the northeast. Apart from those four, we’ve been to all the others.

Our short visit to Agadir in January began with a look at Tazegzout, the new Kyle Phillips course located a short twenty minute drive north of the busy coastal holiday resort. The sporting centrepiece of an enormous residential project that’s still under construction, the course quietly builds to a crescendo on the back nine, concluding with three holes laid out along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

We also had a look around the charming 9-holer at Royal Agadir, where the course and the clubhouse seem happily lodged in a 1950s time warp, around the time the club was first established. It’s a lovely little golfing oasis which very few tourists venture to see, which is a real pity as there’s lots of good golf to be played here amongst really passionate local golfers at this old club.

The 27-hole layout at Golf les Dunes is a modern Cabell Robinson design of some distinction, with the tree-lined Oued nine by far the best of its three 9-hole circuits. Next door, Golf du Soleil offers two fine 18-hole layouts, though the Championship course is definitely the one to play for those who only have time for one round.

Four months later, and we were back in May to have a look around facilities in the north of the country, starting in Bouskoura, just outside Casablanca, where three new courses are situated in close proximity to each other. The first of these, Casa Green, is a Jeremy Pern layout that’s set in a surprisingly undulating landscape, featuring paspalum greens and an enormous, crescent-shaped practice putting green in front of the clubhouse.

The Tony Jacklin Casablanca course is a Blake Stirling and Marco Martin design, with a signature par three hole playing to an island green at the 6th hole, and it’s laid out within a rather strange U-shaped property, with the opening and closing holes on the front nine set next to a forest.

The PalmGolf Casablanca course is an expansive Stéphane Talbot design – complete with a scaled down version of the Oakmont pew bunkers on the 17th hole – where generously wide fairways are grassed with paspalum and the greens with penncross bentgrass. PalmGolf is the pick of these three facilities, on a par with its well-regarded stablemate PalmGolf Ourika, near Marrakech.

Half an hour’s drive northwest, the old Royal Mohammedia course on the coast is another throwback in time, where it feels like nothing much has changed around the clubhouse in a very long time. Nobody’s exactly sure when the club was formed or who the original course architect was but that only seems to add to the mystique of a magical old place to play golf.

The new course at Oed Fes Golf is a Jonathan Gaunt design that lies on a fairly flat property close to the city centre. Water comes into play at several holes, most notably at the right doglegged 8th and left doglegged 17th, and the Director of Golf, Alijandro Avila, is doing a fabulous hands-on job fine tuning the original design, paying particular attention to extending a number of greens.

South of the city, Royal Fes started out as a 9-hole course in 1994 then Cabell Robinson returned a decade later to add another nine. Such is the skill with which the new holes were constructed, it’s impossible to tell which holes belong to the original layout and which were added to a course that displays maturity way beyond its years.

The course at Royal Golf Meknes lies within the walls of the royal palace, in the heart of the city. It’s not generally open to the public but – after some negotiation with the three lines of security outside – we managed to arrange a quick look around the deserted 9-hole course, where the fairways are laid out around the palace gardens. The dead flat holes are not much to shout about in terms of their architecture, but their small raised greens with large protecting bunkers are absolutely exquisite and they alone were worth the effort to gain admission to the palace grounds.

Further north, the course at Royal Country Club de Tangier is the oldest in Morocco, with the club celebrating its centenary in 2014. It’s not known who originally laid out the fairways, though Gustave Golias, an assistant to Arnaud Massy at La Boulie in Paris, is said to have had a hand in early design work. Frustratingly, as at Royal Mohammedia, nobody at the club was able to shine a light on the provenance of what is a wonderful old course which is sadly in much need of a maintenance budget.

Our tour ended with a visit to Royal Dar Es Salam, outside Rabat, where the Red and Blue courses were hosting simultaneous European Tour and LPGA events. There’s not many clubs capable of holding two tournaments of that magnitude at the same time but it really does help to have the resources of the state at your disposal when organizing such competitions! No expense is spared when hosting the Trophée Hassan II and Lala Merryem Cup competitions as the government and the royal family use them as a means of promoting Morocco to the rest of the world.

At the moment, there are a handful of golf projects currently under development in the country. We visited the newly completed Jacklin course in Marrakech last December (it’s due to open in October) and we received an escorted tour around the new Al Houara project when we were in Tangier, but that’s still a work in progress.

A second Gary Player course at Mogador is well under way (13 holes are already constructed), work has recently started on what’s supposed to be a fabulous new Jack Nicklaus mountain course at Ifrane, and the first nine of Robin Hiseman’s new design at Plage des nations, north of Rabat, is currently growing in.

As you can see, there’s little let up in Morocco’s national golf development program so expect to read more first-hand reports from the northwest of Africa in the months ahead as these and other exciting golf projects come to fruition.

Expect also to see several newcomers when the next Moroccan Top 20 is re-ranked. And don’t be surprised if one of the Fes courses and (at least) one of the new Bouskoura layouts make an appearance. Remember where you read it first…

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

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