Words: Sam Bradley ǀ Photos: Sam Bradley & Mauritius Tourism Board
"Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad," quipped AA Milne, creator of the famous Winnie the Pooh character. Having enthusiastically hacked my way around golf courses with a mid-twenties handicap for most of my life, I can attest to the wisdom of this statement. Taking things a step further, I can boldly proclaim that there’s no place better in the world to be bad at golf than Mauritius.
Photo credit: Mauritius Tourism Board
A small island hidden away in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has become a tourist Mecca over the last few years, mainly due to its magnificent beaches and good climate. Due to being part of the British Empire, it was one of the first countries in the world to play golf, all the way back in 1844. Today, it boasts a high concentration of world-class golf courses (eight 18-hole courses and five 9-hole courses), all in close proximity to 5-star hotels and pearly-white beaches.
Our adventure began at the Constance Belle Mare Plage Hotel, a beautiful resort on the east coast of Mauritius. Managing to successfully escape the diversions (the watersports and the buffet breakfasts being the biggest distractions) we were soon on course and raring to go. The resort has two courses, the Legend and the Links. The Legend course is one that rewards good shots, but the plentiful water hazards (make sure you take a few spare balls) and tricky afternoon breeze make this a challenging course for golfers of all levels.
Holes 4, 5 and 6 (two par-fives and a long par-four) are the most demanding section of the course, while holes 9 and 10 (both short par-fours) provide good scoring opportunities. Set in a natural forest, with indigenous trees and shrubs lining the fairways, one cannot help but appreciate the beauty of the setting. The course also boasts a few herds of deer that can be found quietly grazing on one of the fairways. This is one case where Mark Twain’s assertion that golf is a good walk spoiled, is definitely incorrect.
Like most links courses, the Links' at Belle Mare Plage (a short shuttle ride away) offers wide fairways and large greens, meaning it probably presents a slightly easier challenge than the Legend course. However, the deep bunkers, paired with the fearsomely fast greens, are enough to keep any golfer on their toes. In addition there are three par-fives longer than 500 metres (holes 2, 6 and 10), which can cause a nasty blotch on the scorecard.
Although slightly inland (and therefore without the sea views), the pyramid-like volcanic structures, picturesque lakes and majestic banyan trees ensure that these surroundings definitely doesn’t play the role of ugly sister to the Legend course. Both the Legend and Links courses are free of charge to guests of the hotel, with optional extras such as caddie, golf cart and club rental available. The Legend course has hosted both the Johnnie Walker Classic and the annual Mauritius Open event, while the Belle Mare Plage Hotel was recently awarded the ‘Best Golf Resort of The Year Outside Of Europe and North America’ by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.
The course has wide fairways and a forgiving rough, so there are plenty of occasions to throw caution to the wind when teeing off. Having said that, there are five sets of tees, so those keen for a tougher round can always accept the challenge of the championship tees. Of the eighteen holes, six are overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, so you would be forgiven for taking a lot of photos during the round. In particular, the closing three holes provide one of the most spectacular finishes to a round of golf you’ll ever find.
Photo credit: Mauritius Tourism Board
Just a five-minute boat ride away (and free for guests of Anahita The Resort), I greeted the island of Ile aux Cerfs (Deer Island) and its Le Touessrok course with awe and trepidation. Having been warned how treacherously difficult it was, and having noted that it was voted one of the world’s top ten courses by Golf World Magazine, I fully expected to be humbled by the great course. I was not disappointed, as this truly is a difficult course: hazards include lakes, ponds, the ocean, deep bunkers, volcanic rock, and plenty of mangrove swamps. The course is the second longest in Mauritius, the greens are small and hard to read and there are quite a few tee-offs looking out over water.
However hard the course is, playing golf on a spectacular island means that a good round is guaranteed, regardless of the state of the scorecard. One can even take inspiration from the words of BC Forbes, who stated that, "Golf without bunkers and hazards would be tame and monotonous, as would life."
With this much top-quality golf on offer and in such stunning settings, it’s easy to become infatuated with the game. However, conventional wisdom says everything should be done in moderation. So in closing I leave you with the wise words of Harry Vardon, who said, "Don’t play too much golf. Two rounds a day are plenty."
What you need to know
Flights: Air Mauritius (www.airmauritius.com) flies direct from Durban to Port Louis (flight time of just over three hours). Direct flights depart Fridays and Sundays. Air Mauritius transports golf clubs (up to 20 kg) free.
General: English is the official language of Mauritius, but French and Creole are also widely spoken. The currency on the island is the rupee. The climate is good all year round, with winter (May to October) being cooler and drier.