Golf is perhaps not the first thing you think of when you think of Morocco.
Located in the north west of Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the country is famous for many things: its food, its history and its rich, diverse culture. Golf has tended to follow somewhere down that list. Until now, that is.
Today, Morocco is home to more than 20 clubs, with many more in the pipeline. Indeed, according to recent estimates, there could be as many as 40 golf courses throughout the country by the year 2020. That coupled with its award-winning stature - Marrakech was the named the 2015 Golf Destination of the Year for Africa and the Gulf States by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) - means it’s no surprise that Morocco is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations.
Described by IAGTO as ‘Morocco’s golf city by essence’, Marrakech is home to more than ten different golf courses, designed by some of the most famous names in golf and golf course architecture. Robert Trent Jones, Kyle Phillips, Jack Nicklaus and Scotland’s own Colin Montgomerie are just some of the well-known figures who have crafted layouts in and around Morocco’s fourth largest city.
Monty’s creation is, in fact, a relatively new addition to golf in Morocco. The Montgomerie Marrakech is conveniently located just a five-minute drive from Marrakech Menara Airport, connected directly to Glasgow by an EasyJet route which opened in Autumn 2014.
It winds its way through residential areas and affords some truly magnificent views of the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque. With large, undulating greens and vast bunkers to negotiate, it is a tough but fair test for players of all standards. Be sure to check out its fantastic clubhouse, too. It overlooks the 18th green and includes an incredible ice-bar, the first in Africa and, reportedly, the largest in the world.
Elsewhere, Assoufid comes very highly recommended. It was designed by another Scot, former European Tour player Niall Cameron, and only opened for play as recently as 2014. It has, however, bedded in both very well and very quickly. There are some superb holes to tackle. The par-4 fifth is a particular standout. However, the pick of the bunch is surely the par-3 17th. It sits at the highest point on the course from where you can see all of the holes on the back nine. The snow-capped Atlas Mountains provide a jaw-dropping backdrop and, like the Montgomerie Marrakech, the course is just a short drive from the nearby airport.
Noria, Samannah and the Kyle Phillips-designed Al Maaden are some of the other courses in Marrakech that you ought to check out.
Casablanca, meanwhile, is Morocco’s largest city and is just an hour’s drive from Rabat, the country’s capital. Between them, those two places are home to an excellent selection of golf courses, in particular the Dar Es Salam Royal Golf Club. Home to the annual Hassan II Trophy on the European Tour - won in 2015 by Scotland’s Richie Ramsay - it boasts two 18-hole courses and a nine-hole layout.
Fez Royal Golf Club has an 18-hole layout that has been set out over a fantastic olive grove by Cabell Robinson, whilst Casa Green Golf Club is the centrepiece of the Casa Green Town residential community close to the business quarter of Casablanca. Described as ‘an oasis of calm amid the excitement of Casablanca’, it is a ‘must’ visit for any golfer. With its generous fairways, subtle mounding and beautiful, shimmering lakes, it is both a challenge and a treat.
Don’t miss the Royal Golf D’Anfa either. Designed in 1930, its 18-hole Mohammedia course sits right on the Atlantic coast and features sand dunes covered with cactus. It’s an unusual but absorbing place to play.
More great courses await visitors to the popular seaside resort town of Agadir, the bustling city of Fez, as well as Tangier and Saidia in the very north of the country. Tangier Royal Golf Club, incidentally, is one of the oldest golf clubs in Africa and celebrated its centenary in 2014. Its course was modified by Cotton and Pennink in the late 1960s and, today, is a thoroughly enjoyable place to play, full of charm, character and personality.
As well as its golf courses, Morocco also benefits from having a fantastic year-round climate, easy access, lots to see and do away from the golf course and, perhaps most important of all, outstanding affordability. You can enjoy a great golf holiday without making a sizeable dent in your bank account.
There are no two ways about it: Morocco’s star is in the asendency in the competitive golf tourism industry. Now is the time to get to know it better.