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Published on : Friday, May 13, 2016
This weekend saw Rabat’s venerable Royal Golf Dar Es Salam host exciting finishes to both the Hassan II Trophy men’s event, won by Korean youngster Jeunghun Wang from Spain’s Nacho Elvira after a second-hole play-off, and the Lalla Meyrem Cup, in which Spanish rookie Nuria Iturrios triumphed by six shots from overnight leader, England’s Florentyna Parker, after a closing seven-under-par 65.
In a year when golf returns to the Olympic Games with ladies’ and men’s events being staged in Rio de Janeiro, Morocco has shown the way by staging the two Tour events at the same time and at the same golf club.
Named after Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem, the Lalla Meryem Cup was played out on the 6,799-yard Blue Course while the 7,434-yard Red Course was host to the men’s tournament. The Robert Trent Jones Sr-designed venue, just 15 minutes from Morocco’s capital, had previously staged the Lalla Meyrem Cup from 1993 to 2008. The future of the tournament as part of the LET calendar has been secured until at least 2018.
Ladies who like their golf don’t need to be professional tour level to enjoy Morocco’s 30-plus golf courses, however.
They will find the red carpet rolled out for them wherever they choose to play and whatever their standard of golf. The country’s courses are well set up for women, with some having up to six tee box positions and facilities in clubhouses tailor-made for the fairer sex. Added to that is the fact that Morocco is a very safe, friendly and welcoming country for women visitors.
Morocco is the perfect choice of destination for women golfers, whether they go on a playing holiday with their golfing partners or other couples. Mixed golf groups visit Morocco from a number of European countries and women-only golf groups are becoming more popular.
The country’s appeal lies not only in its golf courses, but also in the fact that it offers excellent spas and beauty parlours, wonderful cuisine, classy hotels, glorious beaches and shopping opportunities to please even the most ardent shopaholic.
Among courses popular with women is the nine-hole Atlas Golf Marrakech. Its landscaped layout resembles a garden with exotic plants, palm trees and water. The club has a spa with a hammam, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, and offers treatments including massages and facials as well as the Madame à Marrakech magazine to read. Its pro shop features women’s clothing and jewellery, from local Moroccan designs to costume jewellery.
On the golfing front, Atlas Golf Marrakech offers ladies’ rental golf clubs and organises a women-only competition each spring. Women are well catered for with lessons, as the club’s teaching pro, Caroline Viellard, is a former Ladies European Tour player – who is also happy to pass on tips for where to shop in Marrakech. The club also has a nursery and a junior club, allowing women to leave their children to be looked after while they enjoy a round of golf.
Still in Marrakech, Noria Golf Club has a ladies’ locker room with showers and hairdryers. Skirts and other women’s apparel are stocked in the pro shop, while the clubhouse has fashion as well as golf magazines for women. The club has Nike ladies rental clubs and organises a golf competition for women every month. Each Thursday afternoon, the club offers a one-hour women’s group lesson for just 100 dirhams (about £10), and participants can have lunch beforehand as well as tea after the lesson.
Golf de Mogador in Essaouira caters to women golfers with ladies’ rental clubs and a well-lit ladies’ locker room with showers. Its clubhouse has lifestyle and fashion magazines as well as golf publications for visitors to read, and ladies clothing in the pro shop. Each week, a scramble golf tournament is played on the 13 holes that are currently open on its new south course, the format making it appealing to visiting golfing couples and encouraging them to socialise with other players. The Mogador Golf Academy offers tailor-made tuition. Head coach Rémi Portal has coached several French national ladies champions, while a girl who is Moroccan junior champion in her age category is among children from the neighbourhood benefitting from free lessons under the Birdies of Mogador programme.
The adjacent Sofitel Mogador Golf & Spa has a spa offering extensive facilities and treatments, and guest rooms are stocked with toiletries made using local argan oil, Morocco’s wonder essential oil endemic to the region around Agadir and Essaouira and now used by leading global cosmetics companies. The hotel has a Villa des Enfants facility offering dedicated activities for children so that parents can leave youngsters there while they play golf. Shuttles are also run from the hotel to Essaouira, which has a souk popular for picking up locally-made trinkets, clothes and handcrafts.
Women golfers playing Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, in El Jadida, are offered right- and left-handed rental golf clubs as well as rental golf shoes. Women-only group golf lessons can be organised and the clubhouse has a ladies locker room with showers and high-quality toiletries as well as a pro shop stocked with ladies clothes and golf fashion accessories.
Golfing mums on holiday with their children have a Baby Club catering to under-fours, a Kids Club for young ones aged four to 12 and a Rush Club for teens up to 17 where they can leave them being looked after while they hit the fairways of its Gary Player course.
When the golf is done, Morocco is a shopper’s dream. Shopping malls featuring designer-label boutiques and international-brand stores are springing up in cities around the country, offering items such as jewellery, beauty products, leather goods, clothing and shoes at prices well below those visitors are likely to find in their home countries. New centres include Casablanca’s Morocco Mall – the largest shopping centre in Africa and opened by pop superstar Jennifer Lopez in 2011 – and the Carré Eden and Menara malls in Marrakech.
For those who prefer to haggle for bargains and want something a little more traditional, explore the maze of stalls and shops in the souks of Morocco’s cities. In Agadir’s Souk El Had, said to be the largest in Africa, you can have a jacket or suit hand-made for you in just a day or two.