Mauritius is moving up in the world rankings. With eight 18-hole and
five 9-hole golf courses, as well as the increasing popularity of its pro and amateur competitions and its exceptional course locations, the island is aiming to raise its standing as a major golfing destination.
Mauritius is neither Florida nor Spain, yet alone Great Britain, but the country does have many attractions, with excellent golf courses. It is, after all, a golfing pioneer, boasting the first ever course constructed in the southern hemisphere. Its courses have also become famous for their extraordinarily beautiful settings and there has been a considerable increase in the golfing opportunities the island offers.
After the venerable pioneering 18-hole course at the Mauritius Gymkhana Club was built, it may have been a century and a half before the second, Legend at Belle Mare, followed in 1994 but, since then, there has been considerable development. In less than fifteen years, the island has acquired six other international-standard courses, as well as several shorter golf courses.
Mauritius now has eight 18-hole and five 9-hole golf courses. A team of experts from the French Golfing Federation carried out an inspection of the full-length courses at the beginning of the year and confirmed they meet international standards, with a grade that is everywhere more, and sometimes significantly more, than 113. All the courses are popular with those, wherever they are from, who want to remain active even when they are on holiday or over the weekend.
The quality of the courses is not the result of mere chance. Operators have achieved outstanding results by turning to several golfing legends like Ernie Els, Peter Allis and Bernhard Langer, or famous architects, like Peter Matkovitch and Rydney Wrigh. Players, whether visitors or locals, pros or amateurs, invariably succumb to the charms of such a successful blend of magnificent countryside and well-designed courses. Golf tourism professionals have wasted little time in declaring it amongst one of the best in the country.
Heritage Golf Club, an outstanding par-72 course
Linked to the two hotels, Heritage Awali and Heritage Le Telfair, as well as the Villas Valriche, the Veranda Leisure & Hospitality (VLH) Group’s magnificent 18-hole course stretches over 250 acres. It is the work of architect Peter Matkovitch, of the internationally renowned South African firm, Peter Matkovitch & Hayes.
Nestling between the sea and the mountains in undulating countryside full of tropical trees, lakes and streams, the 7,106-yard, par-72 championship golf course offers players plenty of variety and lots of challenges, the chance to enjoy a spectacular game and many a sensational moment
With its challenging greens and very demanding rough, it really requires players of all levels to use all the skill and experience they possess. The architects have completely integrated the two lakes that cross the fairways into the course, thus creating obstacles that add to the techniques required, whilst respecting the natural and peaceful setting. Cleverly laid out around the splendid Château de Bel Ombre and its gardens, the course is one of the most beautiful on the island, with breathtaking views on one side of the southern lagoon and on the other of the hills of the Frederica Nature Reserve, so that there is a different view from each hole.
It is made up of two 9-hole circuits, an inner one of 2,500 yards and an outer one of 3,606 yards. The four par-3s vary in length between 460 and 656 feet, the ten par-4s from 1,050 to 1,410 feet and the four par-5s from 1,608 to 1,707 feet.
“As well as the driving range and areas to practise approach shots and work on one’s putting, which are close to the start, the Heritage Golf Club,” explains Steven Schearer, the Club Manager, “also has a very nice 9-hole, par-3 pitch and put in the same area, which families can enjoy as much as those new to the game and experienced golfers who want to improve their skills”. Steven is a former professional golfer and member of the prestigious Professional Golfers Association.
Golfers can either opt for a golf buggy or enjoy walking the length of the course, combining a game in either case with some good physical exercise. Golf carts and caddies are readily available, and the Club’s two pros are available to tutor those new to the sport using video and other aids.
There is also a restaurant and a bar, with helpful staff on hand to welcome players looking forward to relaxing after their games. It’s also a good moment to think about where to play the next round – on the same course or somewhere else? To meet guests’ wish for variety, the Heritage and other Mauritian golf clubs have realised that it’s a good idea to work together in providing this.
A festival for amateurs
The Heritage, Tamarina and Hotel Paradis’ golf clubs offer passports to their guests so they can play on all three courses. In the same spirit, travelling tournaments are organised nowadays for pros and amateurs. Heritage Resorts has joined with the Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita, the Touessrok on Ile aux Cerfs and Tamarina to organise the Mauritius Amateur Golf Festival, a major new competition intended to become an annual event. This unique contest will allow amateur golfers to choose to play on one or several of the best golf courses on the island in the same competition. The first edition was run from Sunday 9 October to Saturday 15 October 2011 on four courses: on the 11th at Tamarin and on the 12th at Bel Ombre so far as the West is concerned, and over in the East on Ile aux Cerfs on the 14th and on the 15th at Anahita, where the prize-giving ceremony and a gala evening was also held.
The festival launched the season of pro-am tournaments in which European pros and their students enjoy taking part. In November and December each year, when European courses are often covered in cloudy skies and sometimes unplayable, the Mauritian golf courses, with only a three or so hour time difference, are more than happy to be able to offer mixed teams their fairways and sunshine for serious but fun competitions, lasting about a week. This year, the sixth Heritage Air Mauritius pro-am is scheduled to take place from 26th November to 5th December.
Interest in such competitions is expected to grow with the grading of Mauritian courses and the use of ELKA software from France. Cards handed in by players can now be used in calculating their handicaps, although for the moment this concerns golfers who normally play in Morocco, Switzerland, mainland France or Reunion Island where the software is also used.
In financing the setup of this system, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority has given added prominence and credibility to Mauritius as a golfing destination. In coming to earn or improve their handicaps, less experienced European golfers can also gain entry to the handicap system of the countries from which they come.
Mauritius does not yet pretend to be on a par with Florida, Andalusia and the United Kingdom but it is now well on the way to realising its dream of catching up with them.