Mauritius is an Indian Ocean Eden often described as paradise, and it has some heavenly golf courses, too.
As a holiday destination, Mauritius offers some of the world’s best beaches, and resort accommodation to rival many. The friendly inhabitants and the natural splendour give a rewarding experience to visitors. But Mauritius has much more to offer to a tourist who did not expect that much. And if golf is your game, the island has courses that are situated in perfect harmony with the surrounding natural beauty.
While the island has several stunningly beautiful championship golf courses, it is also home to one of the oldest courses in the southern hemisphere.
The Mauritius Gymkhana Club has a rich history that dates back to British colonialism in the mid 19th century. Located in Vacoas, in the centre of the island, the club was started by members of the British Royal Navy and opened for play in 1902. This 18-hole course is still open today, though not as sophisticated as Mauritius’ modern courses.
Gymkhana club captain Prabha Saddul says the club is still very popular with locals, as it Is a relatively easy course to play if you can hit the ball straight. “It is Just over 5 000 m with two par-5s and four doglegs, But it is also home to eight lawn tennis courts and a clubhouse that offers other recreational sport and games like squash, snooker and darts. The 19th hole dates back to the time of the British Navy and is a quaint, typical English pub.”
The second oldest course In Mauritius is the one at the Paradis Hotel & Golf Club on the La Marne Peninsula, on the south-west tip of the island. Resident pro and head of the academy Sebastien Ollivier says it started out as a nine-hole course and over time, and with the design skills of Tony Johnston, opened for play as an 18-hole course in 1992. Heaven at Paradis is the golf course, possibly the most scenic in Mauritius, as it’s played in the shadow of the magnificent Le Marne Brabant Mountain and along an inlet of the Indian Ocean. “Although not quite as challenging as many of the other courses, the 6 000m long Paradis course is great for the average golfer and has excellent scenery. The first nine holes are played along the foothills of the mountain while the back nine take in the lagoon,’ says Ollivier.
The course is also open to guests at the Dinarobin Hotel and Spa, which is located next door. One of the best courses on the island Is the Peter Matkovich designed Golf du Chateau course in the south. Here heaven is in the majestic views of the Indian Ocean shimmering in the sunshine available from holes one to five, seven to nine and 17 to 18 that rise up into the foothills of the Bel Ombre region, or in the beautiful lakes that test the golfer on the 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 18th holes, or In the strategically placed boulders and course signage on rocks that enhance the look of an already spectacularly beautiful golf course, or In the serene and luxurious clubhouse that awaits golfers after their round.
Another favourite Is the incredible Bernhard Langer designed Le Touessrok golf course on the island of ile aux Cerfs, just about the only golf course I’ve ever played that cannot be reached by road, only by boat or helicopter. At ile aux Cerfs, Langer has created a beautiful layout that has to be played to be believed.
With several holes that run right beside the white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the whole course is a feast for the eyes, featuring a wide variety of exotic flora and fauna, Heaven here Is in the violet dragonflies hovering over the multi-coloured koi carp in the pond by the hotel entrance, or the scarlet cardinal birds flitting around the golf course.
It’s also an extremely tough course, with black volcanic rock outcrops coming into play on several holes, mangrove swamps featuring on many others, water hazards to test your accuracy on 13 holes and strategic bunkering on many more. The Le Touessrok golf course is not for the fainthearted, but playing it is a very rewarding experience.
The pretty little nine-hole course at Le saint Geran, with its coconut palm-lined fairways, offers golfers a completely new challenge. This Gary Player designed course, at the One&Only resort, has a 900 dogleg on the par-4 sixth, its signature hole. Club pro Vivian Armance says the course is a great leveller, as the Bermuda grass does not allow for much rolling of the ball. “We have about 3 000 coconut palms and this too becomes a hazard if you hit your ball into the trees – the balls simply don’t fall out and you have to go for a ‘drop shot’. We also have ducks from Belgium and crowned cranes and swans that nest on the course.”
There’s a herd of deer that often visits the last few holes of the Legend Course at the heavenly Belle Mare Plage Resort, which is not surprising as the course was built in the middle of an ancient deer reserve. Designed by South African Hugh Baiocchi, the Legend course is a challenging test where each hole is unique and plays through avenues of trees or over and around the numerous water hazards that dot the layout. There are also a few remnants of hunters’ look-out towers on the course, just to add to the sense of history.
Belle Mare Plage’s other course, the Peter Alliss/Rodney Wright designed Links course, is equally challenging, although with much less water than the Legend Course. Several lakes still test the golfer on the back nine, however, particularly on the par-4 13th and par-3 14th, both of which require short Iron approaches over water to small greens. For the rest of the holes, when the water isn’t challenging, there are plenty of strategically placed bunkers and outcrops of volcanic rock to keep the golfer on his or her toes. The Links course is a worthy younger sister to the Legend course.
The two newest courses in Mauritius are the Tamarina Golf, Spa & Beach Club, a Rodney Wright design, and the Ernie Els designed masterpiece at the Anahita World Class Sanctuary. Tamarina opened for play at the end of 2006 and heaven here is in what seems like acres of purple pampas grass and lemongrass that frame its wide fairways, the views from most holes of the spectacular Rempart Mountain (which closely resembles a mini-Matterhorn), or the magnificent signature par-3 13th, a 200-yard hole from the very back tee that features a stunning drop in elevation from tee to green of almost 100 feet, while the green itself is surrounded by bunkers and a tidal pool on the left-hand side.
Anahita, situated on the east-coast of the island, opened in 2009 and is in magnificent condition, with the beautiful holes by the Indian Ocean, like the par5 fourth, the par-3 fifth and the 16th, 17th and 18th, providing an amazing finish to a great round of golf. With fairly wide fairways and rough that’s playable, Anahita is a course that anyone can play, though the greens are challenging, fast and undulating, and full of potential three putts.
For golfers looking to perfect their skills, the Four Seasons Golf Academy offers a complete approach to game improvement, using the latest computer and video technologies. These superb golf courses can all be played by visitors, with the exception of the Belle Mare Plage Legend Course, which is only open to guests at the Belle Mare Plage Resort or the Le Prince Maurice Hotel.
For further Information please see 1he following websites:
Tamarina Golf, Spa & Beach Club
Anahita World Class Sanctuary
Golf du Chateau
Belle Mare Plage (both courses)
Paradis Hotel & Golf Club
Mauritius Gymkhana ClUb
Le Saint Geran
This article was featured in the ISLANDER magazine Issue No 64 July – September 2011 “Beyond the Blue”.