If you’re like most Westchester golfers right now, you’re plotting a getaway to warmer, sunnier climes. But where to go? Puerto Rico? (yawn), been there, done that. Florida? (double yawn). Bahamas? (maybe, but really, how’s the golf?) Consider a destination that’s probably never shown up on your golf radar but definitely should be there: Morocco.
Yes, there’s excellent golf, class “A” accommodations, and some really fascinating side trips to be made in Morocco. What’s more, the flight from JFK is only about an hour longer than the one you’d take to Freeport. And the weather is absolutely perfect for golf at this time of year with highs in the 60s, low humidity, and just enough breeze to liven up your round. Best of all, you’ll play several different types of courses during your visit — parkland, true links, desert, and seaside — all in excellent condition and very welcoming to visitors.
Golf is nothing new in this progressive, cosmopolitan country on the western coast of Africa. The first course was built in 1914 and there are now about 35 to choose from with more on the drawing boards. Much of the game’s development in Morocco can be credited to the vision of the late King Hassan II, who commissioned Robert Trent Jones, Sr., to build the Dar es Salam Golf Course in the nation’s capital, Rabat. Today, the complex includes 45 holes of excellent golf and is home to a European PGA Tour stop where the pros compete for the prestigious Hassan II Golf Trophy.
Dar es Salam’s Red Course, where the championship is held, is an imaginative parkland course with fairways lined by cork trees (Morocco is the world’s largest supplier of cork) and highlighted by RTF’s signature bunkering and imaginative greens. It’s a massive layout that measures 7,600 yards from the tips, although there are four other sets of tees of more reasonable length.
An easy drive from Rabat will take you to Mazagan, a seaside course designed by Gary Player where the rolling fairways reflect the Atlantic surf defining the course’s western boundary. The 7,600-yard course is part of Mazagan Beach Resort, a glamorous complex with multiple restaurants, recreational amenities, fabulous spa, and a glittering casino.
Fans of links golf (and who isn’t?) will feel right at home at the Royal Palm Golf Club in Marrakech. The 7,300 yard design by Kevin Robinson has wide fairways that give way to sandy rough, hard and fast turf that favors a low running shot, and greens that accommodate a bump and run or Texas (or is that a Moroccan?) wedge. The course is part of Domaine Royal Palm, a residential development with prestigious villas and an ultra-luxurious hotel.
The best golf course in Morocco, at least according to the World Golf Awards, is Assoufid Golf Club in Marrakech. The 7,000-yard desert course drew raves from a group of Westchester PGA pros who visited the country earlier in 2016. The undulating terrain of the course set against the majestic Atlas Mountains exemplifies desert target golf.
When you’re not on the golf course, you’ll find plenty of fascinating tourist sites in Morocco like the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the Kasbah of the Udayas, and the royal palace in Rabat, the Medina and souks in Marrakech, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.