RABAT, MOROCCO |
The late King Hassan II was a golf fanatic. Not only
did the Moroccan monarch tee it up as often as royal duties allowed, but
he also carried a single-digit handicap for much of his adult life – thanks
in no small part to his engaging first Claude Harmon and later Billy
Casper as his personal teaching pros. His Majesty also believed that golf
could serve as a catalyst for developing tourism in his predominantly
Islamic realm. So he instigated the construction of more than a dozen
courses during his reign, including a handful within the walls of some of
He built some pretty good tracks, among them a pair of 18-holers
at the Golf Club D’Amelkis outside Marrakesh that were laid out in the
shadows of the snowy Atlas Mountains. Another noteworthy layout is the
Red Course at the Royal Dar Es Salam Golf Club outside the capital city
of Rabat, which Robert Trent Jones Sr. routed through a lush cork forest.
It is the site of an annual European PGA Tour event, the Hassan II Trophy,
which was won this past winter by Welshman Rhys Davies.
King Hassan II died in 1999, but the nation’s passion for golf remains
strong under the patronage of his successor – and eldest son – King
Mohammed VI. Several acclaimed layouts have recently come on line,
among them a Jack Nicklaus course just west of Marrakesh called
Samaneh and a linksy Gary Player design on the Atlantic Ocean coast
south of Rabat, dubbed Mazagan.
All told, 22 courses are currently open in Morocco, with nearly
that many expected to be completed within the next several years.
To be sure, some of that development is fueled by the enthusiasm for
the game of the current King, and his brother, Crown Prince Moulay
Rachid, both of whom also recognize that golfers tend to spend more
money than your average tourists.
But it is also the result of simple rises in demand from travelers
looking for different places to play the game. They are attracted to
Morocco’s vibrant culture, which is an olio of Arab, Berber, Moorish,
Jewish and French influences, and enchanted by a friendly populace
that likes to remind American visitors that in 1786, Morocco became a
BY JOHN STEINBREDER
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