Developed by Sol Kerzner, the hotel/resort/casino mogul who financed the Sun City complex in his native South Africa back in the 1980s, Mazagan Beach Resort is an integral part of Morocco’s strategy – dubbed the “Plan Azur” – to expand its tourist industry and modern golf facilities are a key component of this ambitious program.
Gary Player, who designed Kerzner’s two courses at the Sun City Resort, is also the architect of the 18-hole Mazagan golf course and it’s rather fitting that this golfing legend – who claimed his three Open titles on the championship seaside courses at Muirfield, Carnoustie and Royal Lytham & St Annes – should fashion this contemporary links layout on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.
The longest track in the country at almost 7,500 yards when it opened for play in 2009, the Mazagan course weaves in and out of the low-lying dunes that line the sandy coast just to the north of El Jadida. Indeed, the most memorable holes on the card are those that run alongside the beach at holes 15, 16 and 18.
The 6th hole plays as an uphill par four at 440 yards from the championship tees. Against the prevailing wind, the tee shot must carry over the sand dunes to a fairway spotted with four bunkers. A long approach then has to be played to a raised, turtle back-shaped green that’s protected by three deep bunkers. Once on the putting surface, be sure to pause and admire the panoramic 360° view of the course, the ocean and the resort.Par is toughest to tame at the long par four 8th hole where the drive is a real risk/reward decision due to the encroachment of sand hills, narrowing the fairway at the landing area. Hitting it short results in a safe drive but requires a long iron or fairway wood approach to a severely undulating green. With a little courage off the tee, a player might just find some luck with a full-blooded drive, leaving a shorter iron to the pin.
On the back nine, the par threes at the 13th and 15th vie for recognition as the signature hole on the card. Both require a sizable tee shot carry across wild patches of vegetation to raised greens that are protected by bunkers to the front of the putting surface. Despite a benign stroke index of 18, the shorter 15th probably just pips the other par three as the most memorable hole at Mazagan, thanks in no small part to its stunning Atlantic backdrop.
The Gary Player Course at Mazagan is a stunning place to spend the day during your vacation. I had the pleasure of playing the course in the summer of 2016. It is a very good test of golf and provides fun along with excitement. It is easy to see that Mr. Player got his inspiration from the great Scottish links. While it does not play exactly like a Links, the bumpy fairways and seaside location are inviting to the ground game.
When you first arrive to the course, you are welcomed by friendly staff. I strongly suggest you head out to the practice range. It is a great place to get warmed up for the round ahead. The first hole eases you in, just avoid that bunker on the left side of the fairway! I would say holes 2 to 6 are the weakest part of the course. The highlights are the finishing stretches on both nines. The 7th hole is a dogleg left taking you towards the ocean. From there the 8th and 9th holes take you back to the clubhouse along the beach, where I recommend you take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the views. The first 5 holes of the back nine are good, but not impressive. The fun really starts on the par 3 15th, where you're asked to an accurate shot to a shallow green. For there, it's all the way back to the clubhouse along the Ocean. The 18th is a great finisher, with a smallish green tucked in the dunes along the right-hand side, just below the clubhouse. Whatever you do, don't miss it right!
The conditioning of the course was very good when I was there. Plus, the great weather almost year round makes it a beautiful destination. Along Royal Dar Es Salam a few hours North, Morocco has a great golfing combo!
Four days ago, after visiting nearby El Jadida Royal in the morning, I played the 18-hole layout at Mazagan in the afternoon. The size of the resort is simply breath taking and the course certainly matches the large scale of the adjacent hotel, nightclub, spa, casino and clubhouse complex.
The holes are routed across tumbling terrain, with sandy cart paths (instead of the normal concrete versions) a constant reminder that you’re playing a links course. From early on, it’s noticeable the fairways have been shaped to replicate the bumpy topography of a natural links so a real attempt has been made to keep the design true to traditional standards.
There’s also plenty of width to the fairways so you’ll have to be really wide of the target to get punished for wayward tee shots or approaches. Several holes have clusters of housing along one side, particularly on the front nine, but these residential elements never really impinge too much.
Constructed with paspalum grass, the greens were a key feature: remarkably consistent and beautifully contoured, with just enough movement to keep putting interesting without things becoming too silly. Being picky, I would have liked to have seen more greens (like the 9th) that were lie of the land, allowing a running approach to be played, but that’s a minor criticism in the wider scheme of things.
My favourite holes were those closest to the coast, naturally: The short par four 6th (curiously assigned stroke index 1) plays uphill to a plateau green, which allows the first sight of the ocean on the front nine, and it’s followed by the longest hole on the outward half, the 527-metre 8th, which brings the routing close to the water’s edge.
On the back nine, the downhill, par three 15th returns golfers to the coast for the second time, where three of the last four greens are located. It’s a pity I played here on a rather murky, overcast day as the weather didn’t allow me to take any decent snaps during my round.
On the other hand, the lack of a strong wind meant the course played rather benignly, so at least I didn’t have to worry too much about fighting against the breeze on any of the holes. Managed by Troon Golf, Mazagan’s a very classy place that’s well worth discovering.