Your guide to Morocco: This north African country is making signifcant strides in golf tourism... and it is very easy to understand why
There is so much to like about a golf holiday to Morocco; the climate is superb; the food is magnificent; the value is astonishingly good; the flight time is relatively short; the courses are varied and extremely impressive; and the courses are grouped in pockets that make it all very convenient.
So it is hardly surprising that Morocco is doing very well in golf tourism these days, picking up lots of travellers who have been persuaded away from some of the more traditional destinations.
A tourist hotspot that caters for tens of thousands of holidaymakers every year, it is exceptionally well set-up to attract golfers in the first place and then charm them when the visitors arrive. So, Morocco ticks all the boxes golfers look for in a great holiday – and here are some of those reasons, which are consistent across its two main golfing areas; Marrakesh and the Atlantic coast resorts.
The golf courses
The golf in Morocco is split into two areas: Marrakesh and the resorts dotted along on the Atlantic coast. Marrakesh is absolutely packed with golf courses, so we've only got space for a whistle- stop tour of them here. The course we believe is the best in Marrakesh is a relatively new one by a relatively low-profile designer – Assoufid by Neil Cameron. It enjoys a beautiful sitting unspoiled by residences and Cameron has combined strategic holes with pretty ones. This is a high-class venue.
Classy Assoufid, which we believe is the best course in Marrakesh
A surprisingly good test awaits at Noria, all clever angles and square greens, while Montgomerie Marrakech, designed by the European Ryder Cup legend in association with European Golf Design, is a proper test off the backs.
Royal Palm by American Cabell B Robinson is packed full of quirky design features and Al Maaden by feted American designer Kyle Phillips is predictably well thought out, with a crazy water-based finish. Samanah and Palm Ourika are stellar modern courses while Robert Trent Jones Snr's Palmeraie is one of the best play-and- stays in Marrakesh. Finally, Royal Golf offers history and calibre. The golf on the Atlantic coast has, in our opinion, rich potential. You could actually combine both the Atlantic coast resorts and Marrakesh, as there is just a couple of hours' drive between them.
Mazagan Beach, near El Jadida, was opened in 2010 to a design by Gary Player and this is a thrilling slice of holiday golf. 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 in a manner that you imagine make this a very popular course with all who tackle her.
It is a tremendous all-round resort too, and you could happily base yourself here for your entire trip. Nearby El Jadida, by prolific American Cabell Robinson, offers an alternative interest if you do just that. Further down the coast is Mogador near Essaouira, whose North course opened in July 2009 and was designed by Player and boasts wide playing corridors, spectacular Atlantic views and a superb back nine. The Agadir area is headlined by a new resort just north of the city within the Taghazout resort.
The Tazegzout course by Phillips hugs the coast spectacularly for a number of holes while others are cut through indigenous Argan forest. This clifftop course is laid out 80m above sea level.
A holiday hotspot
As one of the most politically stable countries in North Africa, the country's tourism has developed steadily, with as many as eight million people now visiting Morocco every year. This results in lots of flights to its numerous, well-located airports – with low- cost carriers flying into Agadir, Essaouira, Rabat, Casablanca and especially Marrakesh from a number of UK airports Given the wide range of flights, taxis and transfers, prices are attractive too – so you won't be short of options, or budgets.
On and off-course excellence at Mazagan
An idyllic climate
You will always step off a plane in Morocco and be greeted by better weather than that which you left in Britain when you boarded it. Located on the westernmost tip of north Africa, bordering Algeria to the east, the Western Sahara to the southwest and southeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean to the north, Morocco glistens in sunshine every month of the year.
Think of how good the weather is in Andalucia and the Algarve all year round and then consider Morocco is further south of those areas, which are blessed with wonderful climates of their own.
Mountains play a big part in its geography and thus its weather. The Atlas range runs through the middle of the country and the forested Middle Atlas range rises to over 3,000m from the south. The Rif Mountains run along the north. So there is variation across the country, not least because of the influence of the dominant Atlas mountains – so the coast has a warm, Mediterranean climate cooled by south-west trade winds while inland areas have a hotter, drier climate.
In the south, it is very hot and dry most of the year, and while rain does fall November to March in coastal areas, not to the kind of degree that threatens to wash out a golf break; indeed, whether inland at Marrakesh or on the coast at Agadir, you will relish the average temperature of 21°C during the winter (same months as ours).
So those 35°C summer temperatures mean this is a brilliant winter and spring destination, with April and May, then September to November outstanding times to visit. For a flight time of around four hours (it can be slightly more than that going but as little as two-and-a-half hours coming back), this is clearly a real advantage.
Marrakesh, in central Morocco, is a popular tourist destination for those seeking a taste of the country's history and culture. The hustle and bustle of the Medina is legendary and even if you buy nothing from the myriad bazaars, you will love the experience, the smells and the sounds.
Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and home of the Hassan II Mosque; for many lm lovers alone it will be a must visit. Other cities that will interest include sprawling Tangier – like Casablanca, a popular port of call for cruise liners – and Ouarzazate, a noted lm-making location where Gladiator among many others was shot. Agadir and Tarfaya are packed with beach resorts. El Jadida, called Mazagan by the Portuguese, is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its part in fusing Europe and African influences.
In addition, in both Marrakesh and on the Atlantic coast venues, there are extensive amenities that you'd expect in first-class resorts such as sumptuous spas, excellent food, superb leisure facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools, and pools and beaches.
The Climate: The coast is cooler and will get a little more rain – but nothing to make you wary. This is a year-round destination with a pleasing climate akin to the Canaries.
When To Go: April and May or September to November are terrific times to visit.
Getting There: Fly to Marrakesh, Agadir and Essaouira.