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The last thing any golfer really wants to do when they’re striking the ball really rather badly (in my case, it’s a bout of the ‘unmentionables’), is play in a competition, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that you don’t want to turn down, such as your annual golf tour – or an invitation to play in the inaugural Morocco Golf Cup. Such opportunities have to be taken.
With a growing number of strong golf courses, Morocco is starting to establish itself as a top-class golf destination, with more Europeans beginning to recognise the country, which is situated on the north western corner of Africa, as a wonderfully accessible location for a weekend break, somewhere where you can take your clubs and get a game in with no trouble at all.
My destination was the luxurious Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech, a 20-minute taxi ride from Marrakesh Menara Airport – 231 hectares of pure paradise. I’d have happily enjoyed a bit of sightseeing through the countryside, taking in the spectacular views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, but the short journey to this chic hotel is very convenient.
The resort-style course here, which is a real picture when the bougainvillea and oleanders are in full bloom, was designed by Cabell. B. Robinson. Thankfully for me, it doesn’t pose the same kind of threat as some of the firm and fast links courses I have been struggling on back in the UK. This is not to say it’s easy, but the layout is fairly forgiving, and unless you’re consistently finding the lakes, of which there are a few, you shouldn’t find that you’re constantly needing to reload.
Off the yellow tees, and playing Texas Scramble, it’s incredibly fun. The driveable par 4s are particularly enjoyable – and well worth having a go at. The shotgun start sees Team Weston/Garreau on one of these, the short par-4 14th, and allows me to open my shoulders and knock a high, soft draw onto the green – at least that was the plan. I must thank my playing partner, Philippe, for bailing me out on a number of occasions.
There are gains to be made on the par 5s, too. On the 6th we make an eagle – actually, I do, sorry Philippe, but it was my drive, my sand wedge and my putt. The key to making a three here is to take the aggressive line over the lake with a slight draw and, in dry conditions, it will run a mile.
For many of the guests staying at the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech, the golf course amongst the olive groves simply offers nice views – no moving from beside the pool, one of which is the largest in Morocco. I join them in the afternoon, after what can only be described as a feast at the clubhouse restaurant, Le Sabra, which includes a wide selection of succulent barbecued meats and vegetables, and the tastiest hummus I’ve ever sampled.
Those who like their breakfast are in for a treat, too. You can set yourself up for the whole day at La Caravane, with plates of fruit, local yoghurt, eggs, pastries and hot and cold meats, best washed down with a fresh orange juice and a couple of mugs of Moroccan mint tea.
Back on the course, and Philippe and I spring into life on the second half of our second round, reeling off birdies like Tour professionals. On 15, you can cut the corner by going over the scrubby vegetation, which we manage, and we birdie the next, too, a cracking par-5 that entices you into taking your tee shot over the corner of a lake in order to make it reachable in two.
Down our final hole, we allow ourselves to check the live scoring on the app – and we’re atop the leaderboard. Now I’m dreaming of whatever the first prize might be: a week-long stay at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion in Barbados, perhaps? Even better, a Fairmont hotel of your choice, because Banff Springs in the Canadian Rockies looks out of this world.
In the end, much to our disappointment, we finish outside the prizes. I watch other couples handed giant Fairmont vouchers, the same sort of size as the giant cheques you see National Lottery winners presented with. It matters not, for everyone has had a super time – and the trip is far from over.
First up, it’s a trip to the spa. It’s tough to drag myself away from my air-conditioned suite that’s big enough to have its own postcode. However, I’m keen to rid my game of the shanks, and a PGA pro has told me my stiff back probably isn’t helping. A “strong” deep tissue back massage is required, and although it brings tears to my eyes, I leave feeling a million dollars.
Le Spa Fairmont is everything you’d imagine it would be – treatments and experiences of all kinds. I had a plane to catch early on Monday, but I’m told I really should have tried the Hammam Dada, a 90-minute treatment that takes you to the heart of Morrocan hammam traditions.
There is time, though, for a few hours in Marrakesh. Do factor this in to your own itinerary, as this utterly bonkers city is truly captivating. You’ll need your A-game negotiation skills if you’re to grab a bargain in the sprawling souks – some spices, slippers, a lamp, or in my case, a national team shirt with ‘Hakimi’ on the back for a football-mad eight-year-old.
The money keeps slipping through my fingers. I even indulge in a Tagine pot and some face creams of the anti-aging variety (what's happening to me?), an area of Moroccan expertise, and I slip 200 Moroccan Dirham (approximately £15) to my tour guide, who assures me that he knows all the best places.
He leaves me in a restaurant overlooking the main square. This is the best place to watch other people bartering like mad. I sit back with a cold beer and stew over the few missed putts that cost us a place on the podium. I’m tempted by the Kefta Mkaouara (Moroccan meatballs), but quite enough meat has been consumed.
As my plane takes off the next morning and I catch a glimpse of another golf course below, I’m reminded that Morocco could make one very good golf holiday indeed – another one. It has plenty of pedigree. Royal Country Club de Tanger was formed well over a hundred years ago, proof of its strong golfing tradition, and there are many others that can boast a rich history.
The DP World Tour’s presence here – the old Moroccan Open was first played at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, the capital, in 1987 – has probably helped put Morocco on the golfing map. This course also hosted the Trophée Hassan II five times between 2010 and 2019, as did Golf du Palais Royal. As is stands, with just one course ticked off in in the Kingdom of Morocco, I have many more courses to explore here – and so, probably, do you.
By the time I touch down in a rain-threatened Manchester, I’m already thinking about a winter escape, or a non golfing city break here at a time when the weather is a little too hot for hitting balls (it can touch 50 degrees in August). The food and drink may be reasonably priced, but I’m going to need more money for the souks – my bargaining skills are diabolical. Sir Alan Sugar (the angry guy from The Apprentice) would not have been impressed.
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Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.
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