Destinations: Mauritius, Indian Ocean jewel

29 March 2021
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26 March 2021
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29 March 2021

Ace of clubs

During the long sun-seeker’s winter, astute golfers migrate to Mauritius, an isolated pearl-shaped island in the Indian Ocean.

O n the same latitude as Brisbane, it avoids the equatorial heat of Malaysian and Thai rivals. Its rare cultural miracle is another plus: after 160 years under stuffy British rule, it maintained the creole spirit of earlier French colonisers when it emerged as an independent nation in 1968.

Half a century later, cheery locals suggest visits to village street markets and restaurants serving island delicacies: their French is fiercely fast and often unfamiliar, but their joie de vivre is infectious.

Golf arrived at the Gymkhana Club near the capital, Port Louis, in 1902, courtesy of the British army. Nine holes kept the troops happy until independence – they are still in play – but the next phase began in 1970, when Le Saint Geran commissioned South African maestro Gary Player to design a palm-rich nine-hole layout along the beach. That too is still in use, but both have found themselves eclipsed by the 18-hole alternatives that came later.

The gracious Saint Geran hotel was the first honeypot on the exclusive north-eastern shore. This is the calm coast, its long sandy beaches lapped by gentle waves. Safe for toddler swimming and ideal for water sports, the resort attracted imitators; the wise ones invested in golf as well as infinity pools and marbled spas with thatched roofs and ornate tiles.

From its unveiling in 2003, Ile aux Cerfs (then Le Touessrok), has been the undisputed king. The 10-minute boat ride from the mainland provides an interlude of calm before the storm. Designer Bernhard Langer had this to say: ‘From the amazing natural setting to the challenges presented by the course, I want it to be a game to remember for all who play.’

For those who prefer their golf without driving rain or howling wind, the sunny climes of Mauritius offer plenty of courses and a challenge for all abilities

Spot on, Bernhard, though some may want to forget a round that starts with an uphill tee shot to a narrow fairway strewn with black volcanic boulders. Even the straightest drive may ricochet savagely into raw jungle. Those who see their balls again can heave a sigh.

Those who don't? Well, our advice is to take lots.

This is the start of a magical roller coaster. Langer exploits every aspect of the original sugar plantation, from mangrove forests to tidal pools, rocky inlets to multi-tiered hill-scapes. Spot the local deer bounding through the trees and enjoy an ocean-front stroll along the fairways on the 6th, 11th and 12th. Score well, but don’t put folding money on the result.

The Belle Mare Plage complex nearby has cornered holiday golf in the area, with two courses, The Legend, a watery track reserved for hotel guests, and The Links, the host for the Seniors MCB Tour Championship in December. The Belle Mare Plage hotel is informal with lovely seafront suites and an action-packed itinerary for all ages.

The Anahita Golf and Spa resort completed the eastern golf bloc in 2008. At the planning stage, Ernie Els bushwhacked his way through the 530-acre site to pinpoint his preferred terrain and his signature hole: the spectacularly broad par-five 4th sweeps over the horizon to a craggy ocean green.

A few years later, the maestro popped in on his private jet to endorse his design, play his course and join the opening party far into the night. Guests can stay luxuriously in on-site villas, but many prefer the global joys of the Four Seasons a mile down the road.

Matkovitch’s layouts challenge low handicappers and give solace to high ones: no one wants a ripped scorecard on hole two

In due course, developers refocused on the south west; where breakers lash the rocks and palm trees bend in the wind. Historically Mauritius has always been a sugar island; there are still canes as far as the eye can see in the interior. Rum is an evocative by-product: dark and stormy cocktails within match up with turbulent dusks without.

Prolific South African designer Peter Matkovitch laid out his first island course on the 7,000-acre Domaine de Bel Ombre sugar plantation, established by French entrepreneurs in 1765. Matkovitch’s selling point is layouts that challenge low handicappers and give solace to high ones: no one wants a ripped scorecard on hole two. Especially on holiday.

The founders’ hilltop mansion, now a chic venue with gourmet restaurant, overlooks Le Château, as it was known when opened in 2004. As the Heritage Golf Club, it now offers unlimited complimentary play to guests at the neighbouring Heritage and Telfair resorts, with direct buggy access to the clubhouse. Outsiders are made very welcome.

Sugar installations rule, although a raised head to look at the old water tank at the 13th could ruin a promising scorecard

In 1952, the newly formed Mauritius Hotel Group established the Beachcomber brand to develop resorts along the western shores. Currently they have eight, four of them with strong golf connections.

Le Paradis golf course, serving twin Beachcomber properties, Le Paradis and the suites-only Dinarobin, lurks in the sombre shadow of Le Morne Brabant on the south-western tip.

In 1834, runaways gathered on the summit to protest their slave status. As British officials clambered up the sheer volcanic core to tell them they’d been freed, they panicked and threw themselves off the cliffs to their deaths; the Slave Monument commemorates the tragedy.

The black rock is only 180ft high, but it generates swirling winds on what is essentially a short and generously spacious track. The holes run round the bay, with the back nine flowing out towards the headland. Even by Mauritian standards, the scenery is truly outstanding. The two hotels offer the trappings of a 21st-century paradise: silky sand, diving and sailing, kayaking and zip wires, good food, strong drink.

The Mauritian magic golf circle was completed in 2017, when Mont Choisy closed the north-western gap near the capital, Port Louis. Guests at Beachcomber’s two area properties, the well-established Trou aux Biches and the newly renovated Canonnier Resort, benefit from privileged access and preferred tee times on Matkovitch’s latest design.

Words: Staff

The Golfing Options

Elegant Golf Resorts

Seven nights’ B&B in a junior suite at Beachcomber Trou aux Biches, from £1,496pp, with return flights on Emirates from London via Dubai, and one round at Mont Choisy. Additional rounds £45.


Seven nights’ half board at Four Seasons Resort at Anahita, from £2,145pp, with return flights & seven rounds on the Ernie Els championship course.

Golf in the Seychelles

The Seychelles, Mauritius’ northerly neighbour, has just one golf course but it is a cracker. It belongs to the Lemuria five-star resort on Praslin island, a 30-minute flight from the international airport on Mahé.

Like Belle Mare Plage, it’s owned by the Constance group, Indian Ocean specialists that have been involved in sugar plantations, banking and tourism since the 1920s.

Their hotels have the best beaches and Lemuria is no exception. Luxury villas run along a strand where green turtles lay their eggs and diners eat creole seafood in the Nest on a rocky headland overlooking a horseshoe bay.

The golf course starts on narrow fairways bounded by merciless jungle, then rises steeply to its signature hole, the par-three 15th, its tee perched above a distant green surrounded by water.

Whether you nail it or not, park up at the bottom for sushi or ceviche at Takamaka and a break on the magical La Petite Anse Kerlan beach. With good timing, you can end your round with cocktails on the elevated 18th tee overlooking the resort. The island has giant turtles too. Who could ask for more?

This article was originally published in Halcyon magazine in 2018

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