Insiders guide to golf in Morocco

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Inside Morocco: A splendid climate, plenty of intrigue away from the fairways and a wide variety of courses... and all just four hours from Britain 

Morocco was our ‘One to Watch’ in last year’s Golf Escapes and developments since then have borne that suggestion out to be a prescient one. It wasn’t exactly a declaration from left field, because Morocco already caters for thousands of travelling golfers every year. However, we think it ticks enough boxes to become even more popular.

Underpinning its appeal are two things: the value it offers, as well as something the country is simply fortunate to be blessed with – an astonishingly good climate.

Morocco is relatively inexpensive because the dirham isn’t especially strong, so while the luxury, the courses and the weather might suggest otherwise, don’t expect prices that will stun you. It is more akin to Belek than the Maldives in that respect.

Located on the westernmost tip of north Africa, bordering Algeria to the east, Mauritania and the Western Sahara to the southwest and southeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean to the north, Morocco enjoys a fabulous year- round climate.

Given the flight time is around four hours – a little shorter coming back – this is patently a huge advantage over other short- haul destinations. Only really Cyprus and Belek in Europe are blessed with quite as long a season. Morocco squeezes a bit more sunshine out of a year than even the Algarve and the Costa del Sol.

There are two main golf areas and, with
a diverse geography that impacts on its climate, it is worth taking that into account for the minor differences that makes. As a general rule, though, it has a tropical climate with temperatures up to 35°C in summer and a very pleasant 20°C in December and January. By the end of April through to the end of October, you can be in the pool.

Part of Morocco’s appeal is the fact it boasts a majestic stretch of Atlantic coastline.

The resorts overlooking those sandy beaches are cooled by south-west trade winds (and get a little rainfall November to March), whereas two hours’ drive inland is the other key area, Marrakesh, the climate
is a little hotter and drier.

Let’s take a closer look at these two areas in terms of their golf offerings:

Area One: Marrakesh

Assoufid

Located in the centre of Morocco, it is already well-established, with golfers travelling here for several decades to enjoy courses laid out by some of the big names architecture and the Tour.

Marrakesh (Marrakech in French) has golf courses dotted in various parts of the city but let’s start at a resort that is a magnificent base for the whole trip, Royal Palm Marrakech.

This Beachcomber resort is located to the south west of the centre and has a quality course designed by American Cabell B Robinson as its stand-out attraction. However that is far from the only appeal of this world-class complex, which offers a luxury stay that won’t be bettered in Morocco. Right next door are the rippling fairways of Samanah by Nicklaus design and which enjoys a desert-style setting.

Still on the south-west outskirts of Marrakesh is the relatively new Assoufid (pictured). Laid out by Scotsman Niall Cameron, who is quietly earning a ne reputation for himself, it offers a cerebral test as well as views of the Atlas Mountains. Those landforms are also in view – as they are widely from Marrakesh’s courses – on another key stop, Montgomerie Marrakech. It was designed in 2013 by the European Ryder Cup legend in association with European Golf Design right in the heart of the city. Nine-hole Atlas Golf is nearby too.

Completing the picture in the south-west area is Noria golf, and a modern Tony Jacklin design. Further east lies Al Maaden, where American designer Kyle Phillips sited deep bunkers and water hazards to good effect. It again offers terrific views of the often snow-capped Atlas Mountains.

Royal Golf is close by and makes for
a high-class day out while the legendary Robert Trent Jones Snr created the well- known Palmeraie in 1992, making this relatively short enough of a challenge through water features and sloping greens. It is north of the city, with Amelkis golf its closest neighbour.

Area Two: The Atlantic Coast

Mazagan-Beach

As with Marrakesh, you’ll struggle to play all of these courses on one trip. You might well play no more courses than those at the resort you are based at. But that said, we think a week of resort hopping down this coast would make for an unforgettable golf holiday; a bit of effort, yes, but it would be sensationally rewarding.

The courses are less established but they are part of very well-run resorts that are trying very hard to make their mark. In fact, if you did take the resort-hopping option, we’re not going to deny there wouldn’t be times when you’d look at the poolside bar after your round and wish you were slumping there for a few hours rather than hitting the road again!

It’s also worth saying these courses, despite being sprinkled up and down the coast, are also within a couple of hours’ drive of Marrakesh, so it’s not impossible you could cherry pick your favourites in both areas if you had the time and inclination.

Arguably the outstanding resort on the coast is Mazagan Beach (pictured), near El Jadida. It was opened in 2010 with its course designed by Gary Player. With a ‘look’ of a links course, it is a proper test at well over 7,000 yards and with the coastal breezes to contend with, is a serious examination.

Towards the end of the front nine the pulse raises as the holes play alongside the coast. It is a tremendous all-round resort too, and you could happily base yourself here for a whole week and be very happy. Nearby El Jadida by the aforementioned American Robinson offers an alternative if you do just that.

Further down the coast, near Essaouira, is Mogador, where South African icon Player has also had a hand. He routed the North course through what was once a dense pine forest in 2009. Again, it offers super resort golf that is playable for all and also boasts breathtaking Atlantic Ocean views, especially as they are less hindered by residential properties than others on the coast and especially in Marrakesh.

Finally, in the Agadir area there are some excellent options and you could play around here very happily for a week. The newest and brightest offering sits 15 minutes north of the city within the Taghazout resort.

The Tazegzout course is a predictably astute new design by Phillips, with a magnificent climax with holes routed over ravines or the cliff edge. It sits 80m above sea level and hugs the bluffs for a number of holes while others are cut through indigenous Argan forest. All holes on this environmentally-friendly clifftop course at least offer a glimpse of the coastline.

Attractions off the course

Morocco has tremendous pedigree in tourism, with over eight million holidaymakers choosing it as their favoured destination on an annual basis.

As well as lots of flights to its numerous convenient airports – low-cost carriers y into Agadir, Essaouira, Rabat, Casablanca and especially Marrakesh – there are a wealth of hotels to choose from and the non- golf attractions are well showcased to make planning days away from the course easy.

Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and lm buffs will clearly love it. The Hassan II Mosque is also a ‘must see’. The cities of Tangier and Ouarzazate, a noted lm- making location where Gladiator among many others was shot, are also full of attractions while Marrakesh allows you to lap up Morocco’s history and culture, and where haggling in a souk is de rigeur...

El Jadida was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. In all the high-end resorts, there are excellent restaurants, leisure facilities, expansive spas, swimming pools, and, by the coast, pristine beaches.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

The climate It’s a short-haul flight yet a year- round destination. The coast is a few degrees cooler and will get a little more rain – but in short, it’s fabulous.

When to go: Summer time for cooling Atlantic coast winds and May or September for Marrakesh.

Getting there: Plenty of flights to Marrakesh especially, plus Agadir and Essaouira.

Time: GMT

Currency: Moroccan dirham