CHILL OUT

Mau­ri­tius has it all; end­less, shim­mer­ing sandy beaches, el­e­gant re­sorts and a won­der­fully kind and cour­te­ous peo­ple. It also o ers a drove of world-class golf cour­ses mak­ing it a se­ri­ous con­tender for a great golf hol­i­day to es­cape the win­ter chills.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS DAVID J WHYTE

Mau­ri­tius of­fers a drove of world-class golf cour­ses, mak­ing it a se­ri­ous con­tender for a great golf hol­i­day to es­cape the win­ter chills, writes David Whyte.

The small is­land na­tion of Mau­ri­tius – set deep in the South­ern In­dian Ocean, a thou­sand miles east of Mada­gas­car and the same again from South Africa – has long been at­tract­ing hon­ey­moon cou­ples, fam­i­lies and hol­i­day­mak­ers look­ing for a touch of the ex­otic.

How does this trop­i­cal Gar­den of Eden stack up for main­stream golfers more in­ter­ested in find­ing the fair­way than fancy pool­side cock­tails? In the past, a game of golf could be un­cov­ered on cour­ses estab­lished by Bri­tish army per­son­nel as far back as 1834.

But when the is­land’s ubiq­ui­tous sugar cane in­dus­try fal­tered (though you would never think it look­ing at the place today) golf gained a foothold and re­sorts saw the wis­dom of o‚er­ing a round or two to their clients. Dur­ing the past 20 years, cham­pi­onship cour­ses were built near re­sorts in the south­west and north­east of the is­land, in ad­di­tion to the old Bri­tish track, Gymkhana Golf Club, which is the old­est in the south­ern hemi­sphere and fourth old­est in the world.

Today, Mau­ri­tius has emerged as a sig­nif­i­cant golf hol­i­day op­tion. With eight su­perb 18-hole cham­pi­onship cour­ses and the brand new Mont Choisy Le Golf course open­ing this Novem­ber, there is a grow­ing case to pack the clubs along with the swim­mers. I set up base at Her­itage Re­sorts Le Telfair, one of the is­land’s finest five-stars, a prop­erty I was in­tro­duced to a dozen years ago when in­vited to the grand open­ing. It seems they got it right back then as I could de­tect no per­cep­ti­ble di‚er­ence; a ma­ture, full-ser­vice re­sort with a great range of ac­tiv­i­ties snug­gling up to a mag­nif­i­cent stretch of beach, the ideal place to chill out and get ori­ented for your first few days.

Her­itage also has one of the finest cour­ses on the is­land. This year, it will host the third out­ing of the AfrAsia Bank Mau­ri­tius Open and it was here in 2015 that this co-sanc­tioned Euro­pean Tour, Sun­shine Tour, and Asian Tour event kicked o‚. The Tour play­ers will be de­lighted to re­turn to this im­mac­u­late golf com­plex. With prize­money top­ping €1 mil­lion and an open in­vi­ta­tion for play­ers to bring their fam­i­lies to en­joy Le Telfair’s sump­tu­ous beach­side fa­cil­i­ties, it is be­com­ing a top-draw for the best golfers from all three Tours.

And to be hon­est, there are few

YOU NEED TO PLAY THE HER­ITAGE MORE THAN ONCE TO BE­GIN TO AP­PRE­CI­ATE THE EL­E­VA­TION CHANGES, DE­FI­ANT PAR-3S AND WIDE WATER HAZ­ARDS THAT COME AT YOU WITH IN­CREAS­ING REG­U­LAR­ITY.

finer-con­di­tioned cour­ses I’ve ever en­coun­tered. I’ve played it sev­eral times now and they re­ally have nur­tured this course into amaz­ing shape. Ground con­di­tions are im­pec­ca­ble. And yet it’s test­ing!

From the tips, the tour elite will be both chal­lenged and en­ter­tained. For us mere hu­mans, there’s room o the tee but strat­egy is key to ev­ery hole. Of course, you need to play the Her­itage more than once to be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the el­e­va­tion changes, de­fi­ant par-3s and wide water haz­ards that come at you with in­creas­ing reg­u­lar­ity. Beyond that there are amaz­ing panora­mas, es­pe­cially look­ing back to­wards the re­sort and the In­dian Ocean with the bar­rier reef bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ated from this lofty height.

I was keen to see what else the is­land had to oer and rented a car. On the east side of Her­itage Le Telfair is the re­cently opened Avalon Golf Es­tate. There are a lot of great holes on this new Peter Matkovich-de­signed track which are not all about the drive and more about ac­cu­racy.

The course is cut though an old tea plan­ta­tion with rivers and ravines, backed by moun­tains and al­ways sweep­ing views of the south­ern coast­line. It’s a great in­land cham­pi­onship course in­ter­spersed with indige­nous flora and fauna that will no doubt come on in the next few years much like its neigh­bours.

Just a few min­utes in the op­po­site di­rec­tion from Le Telfair is Par­adis Ho­tel & Golf Club. Par­adis is not quite in the same league as Her­itage or Avalon but it is worth sam­pling for its breath­tak­ing lo­ca­tion. Next to the sea, the fair­ways are uni­formly flat, some tree-lined, oth­ers hug­ging palm-fringed shores with Le Morne Moun­tain tow­er­ing over the en­tire scene. The dark moun­tain is a great con­trast to the lush, palm-fringed beach­side holes. All in all, it’s an easy round, gen­tle and well-paced; per­fect for a re­laxed Sun­day out­ing.

A few min­utes fur­ther north is a course of an en­tirely dier­ent na­ture, Ta­ma­rina Golf, Spa & Beach Club – a track with nei­ther palm tree nor beach view in sight.

This is some­thing straight ‘Out of Africa’ with giraes or the roar of a lion ex­pected at ev­ery turn. All we saw was a wee mon­key skirt­ing the for­est. It also has moun­tain views, again som­bre and fore­bod­ing and yet an­other dra­matic back­drop to line your drives with. The course winds through rugged sa­van­nah framed with ma­ture trees along with hid­den dips and fall-os. The holes seem to have been de­signed to give ev­er­more ex­hil­a­rat­ing views of Mount Rem­part and its jagged peaks.

I de­cided to do a di­ag­o­nal drive from Ta­ma­rina right across the is­land to Le Touess­rok, my last visit ‘favourite’ on the op­po­site side of the is­land. But the drive and sub­se­quent weari­ness didn’t have a good eect on my game. GPS is com­pletely un­re­li­able on the is­land by the way and signs not easy to find let alone read. Yet, some­how, I made it to Le Touess­rok and boarded a water shut­tle to cross over to the heav­enly Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club. This is the way to ar­rive in style and leave your trou­bles be­hind.

Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. Bern­hard Langer put his name to this project and the re­sult is a course even he would find di•cult to sub­due. Af­ter some re­cent, fairly ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make it more ‘golfer friendly’, Ile aux Cerfs is still a test and a half. You need your ‘A-game’ here and un­for­tu­nately I left mine in the car park. It’s the kind of course that in­trigues and be­guiles with some mag­nif­i­cent holes

es­pe­cially near the end where you are forced to cross dense gul­lies with noth­ing but trou­ble be­tween you and a safe land­ing.

Anahita, just a cou­ple of miles south of Ile aux Cerfs – or the Four Sea­sons Golf Club Mau­ri­tius at Anahita to give it its full ti­tle – o ers a mas­sive 7,500-yards with fair­ways wide enough to ac­com­mo­date a jumbo jet. You’re hard pressed to find the rough here but don’t be lulled into com­pla­cency; it’s still packed with chal­lenge and char­ac­ter. The AfrAsia Bank Mau­ri­tius Open came here last year and there are some stun­ning ocean­front holes in­ter­wo­ven with rocks and trop­i­cal shrub­bery. To one side are moun­tains and the other a vast crys­tal-clear la­goon so it’s a great am­phithe­atre of golf with plenty of move­ment in the holes to keep you think­ing.

The re­sort associated with Anahita is a new life­style con­cept in hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion. Guests re­side in ram­bling, spa­cious suites and vil­las scat­tered through­out a wide trop­i­cal gar­den. We took a grand tour of some of the com­modi­ous vil­las and were de­lighted to learn you could have a but­ler ar­rive to cook break­fast – or in­deed have din­ner de­liv­ered from the restau­rant. Each villa has its own in­fin­ity pool and o ers fully-equipped kitchens, spa­cious lounges and well-ap­pointed bed­rooms. This would be ideal for fam­i­lies or friends trav­el­ling to­gether.

Also nearby in the north­east cor­ner are Con­stance Belle Mare Plage’s twin won­ders, The Leg­ends and The Links.

At the time of my visit, they were host­ing the MCB Tour Cham­pi­onship, the Euro­pean Se­nior Tour’s sea­son-end­ing event. O er­ing two en­tirely di er­ent chal­lenges, the Leg­ends, where the cham­pi­onship is played, is built deep into the for­est re­serve, blend­ing nat­u­ral beauty, wildlife and tight, chal­leng­ing play that has water haz­ards guard­ing fair­ways and greens ev­ery step of the way. The Links course, as its name sug­gests, is open but it’s cer­tainly no eas­ier than its neigh­bour. With blind holes and sharp doglegs in­ter­spersed with harsh rocky out­crops to trap the way­ward shot, it is as en­gag­ing as it is en­light­en­ing to walk across.

Mont Choisy Le Golf is the last and lat­est golf fa­cil­ity to be added to the golf­ing stock of this is­land. It’s sit­u­ated on the north­west side of Mau­ri­tius about a half hour from Port Louis, the is­land’s cap­i­tal and close to some very fine beaches. Again, de­signed by Peter

Matkovich it’s due to open in Novem­ber, this year, hope­fully in time for the AfriAsian event when I’ll take a closer look.

It’s per­haps bet­ter to con­sider Mau­ri­tius a two-cen­tre des­ti­na­tion where you spend a few days en­joy­ing the ameni­ties and golf fa­cil­i­ties of both re­gions. I’d rec­om­mend a few nights in Le Telfair re­lax­ing on the beach and sam­pling the cour­ses in the south and south­west be­fore de­camp­ing to the north and north­east to en­joy those cour­ses and ameni­ties.

Should you take the urge, there’s a lot to do in Mau­ri­tius be­sides eat­ing, sleep­ing on the beach and play­ing golf. It’s worth sneak­ing out of the re­sorts at least for a day or two to ex­plore some more of this mag­i­cal is­land. Taxi fares are not too high es­pe­cially if you share. Mar­kets are plen­ti­ful and colour­ful and the less touristy the bet­ter es­pe­cially when it comes to prices.

Driv­ing in Mau­ri­tius is at best an ad­ven­ture. We paid AU$65 per day for a well-used, very small Hyundai that came com­plete with its own set of rather un­usual noises. Roads along the west coast and through the mid­dle are good but driv­ing through the vil­lages of the south and east was nerve-jan­gling with pedes­tri­ans, mo­tor­bikes, dogs and cats all us­ing the road as an ap­pendage to their ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties. Sig­nage is also di†cult to find let alone see. It was still fun driv­ing though and it does give you flex­i­bil­ity to ex­plore and see more of is­land life. If there are four of you, it might prove bet­ter hir­ing a car and driver for the day, a great way of shop­ping and sightseeing.

One of the most de­light­ful as­pects of Mau­ri­tius I found was the peo­ple them­selves. Mau­ri­tians re­ally are an el­e­gant, gra­cious peo­ple – from the taxi driver, the ladies work­ing in the sugar cane plan­ta­tions to the wait­ing sta‹ and petrol at­ten­dant, they all have a nat­u­ral charm and friend­li­ness. It’s in­ter­est­ing that they are also one of the most cul­tur­ally di­verse pop­u­la­tions on the planet. The ma­jor­ity are of In­dian de­scent (68%). Cre­oles (of African de­scent) an­other quar­ter and the rest an in­ter­est­ing mix of Chi­nese, South African and French with a few Brits thrown in from the old colo­nial days. Mus­lims mix with Chris­tians and Hin­dus and in this day and age, it re­ally does seem to be an ex­em­plary so­ci­ety.

Per­haps liv­ing in par­adise helps!

SHOULD YOU TAKE THE URGE, THERE’S A LOT TO DO IN MAU­RI­TIUS BE­SIDES EAT­ING, SLEEP­ING ON THE BEACH AND PLAY­ING GOLF.

Ile aux Cerfs GC can only be reached by boat and the golf is ab­so­lutely stun­ning.

The glassy pool at Le Telfair is su­perb, while Ta­ma­rina Golf Club of­fers moun­tain views (be­low). A typ­i­cal beach scene in Mau­ri­tius. Can you pic­ture your­self here? The Par­adis GC is worth play­ing sim­ply be­cause of its stun­ning sea­side lo­ca­tion.

The Her­itage Re­sort Le Telfair will host the AfrAsia Mau­ri­tius Open again later this year.

Water is a con­stant of the Con­stance Belle Mare Plage’s Leg­ends course (and top right). Con­stance Belle Mare Plage’s Links course is a fun lay­out.

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