It’s not often on a golf trip abroad that you will lose more balls at the airport when flying home than you did when actually playing golf. But that’s what happened to your correspondent on a recent trip to Marrakech to play Assoufid, the latest course to open at this rapidly developing and appealing destination.
Purposefully designed for visiting golfers, Assoufid is endowed with inviting fairways that encourage rather than intimidate. It’s fun and allows players to enjoy themselves as they go in pursuit of pars. That’s not to say it’s a pushover because it most certainly isn’t and serious trouble does occasionally rear its ugly head, mostly in the form of a dry river bed, or ‘shaaba’ in the vernacular, which weaves through the back nine.
Trees, too, create problems, but the gently swaying palms are so appealing it’s hard not to like them and the olive trees are not really big enough to be threatening. The cacti, on the other hand, are significantly more of a menace on a course that has a distinctly desert feel.
Immaculate Grass and Elevated Tees
There are plenty of bunkers to keep you honest and intelligent use has been made of expansive waste areas that create difficulties without needlessly delaying play by obliging players to search for lost balls in unnecessarily deep rough. The main benefit of these waste areas is they don’t require watering and, by reducing the amount of grass that has to be cut, they enable green staff to concentrate on tees, fairways, and greens. At Assoufid, the grass has clearly benefited from this intense attention and looked immaculate.
Lying just a few miles from the bustling city of Marrakech, Assoufid has a considerable advantage over the burgeoning number of other courses in the area in being blessed with plenty of elevation. Height is a considerable asset for a golf course and intelligent use has been made of it here to provide pleasantly elevated tees.
Like such glorious courses as Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart, Assoufid gives you plenty of leeway off the tee so, unless you are particularly wild, you will almost certainly have a second shot. But accuracy is rewarded and the better the tee-shot, the more likely you are to hit the green in regulation.
Refreshingly, the architect responsible for the exceptionally appealing layout is not some famous name but a little-known former European Tour pro making his design debut. Formerly the head pro at such prestigious venues as Turnberry and Royal St George’s, Niall Cameron undoubtedly has a talent and, now director of golf at the Verdura resort in Sicily, clearly understands what is required of a holiday course.
Unless you are a masochist, no-one wants to spend their vacation struggling around a ridiculously tough track spending much of the time searching for balls. Apart from anything else, a tough course slows play, which hardly adds to the enjoyment.
Although he deserves praise for the quality of the course, Cameron can’t claim credit for the impressive Atlas mountains which provide a majestic backdrop. Even though a haze sometimes reduces visibility, their brooding snow-capped presence adds significantly to the considerable aesthetic appeal and overall enjoyment.
Seek Out the Souk
After the golf, you must visit the vibrant city of Marrakech. Encircled by pink sandstone walls, it contains the largest Berber market or souk in Morocco with hundreds of shops and stalls selling pretty well everything imaginable. Curiously, the one glaring omission was the absence of anyone selling golf gear. However, my experience passing through airport security suggests this might be about to change.
After it had been x-rayed, my case was opened by a young official who pointed to four sleeves of balls and shook his head. My smugness at not having lost a single ball around Assoufid soon gave way to righteous indignation as the official proceeded to remove all four, indicated via gestures that they could be used as missiles and that he was, therefore, confiscating them. Instead of shouting, I did what they do in Morocco and bargained. He could keep one ball as a souvenir, I suggested. He took two boxes before settling for one. Absurdly, we shook hands on the deal.
If you follow my advice and visit Marrakech to play Assoufid, please look out for a sleeve of Titleist ProV1s going cheap in the souk.
Why We Like It
Morocco is the most golf-friendly of the North African countries bordering on the Mediterranean sea. This is in part due to the Moroccan royal family who have long been associated with the game. Marrakech is the fastest growing area for golf and there are now ten courses including ones designed by Jack Nicklaus, Kyle Phillips and Colin Montgomerie. Assoufid is the latest. Together they offer some truly great golf to add to the appeal of an area which already has much to commend it, including year-round sunshine.
Golf writer Clive Agran, 65 and a journalist for more than 40 years, Clive Agran still wonders what he’ll do when he grows up. Nicknamed ‘Silky Swing’, he travels the globe looking for the world’s best golf courses.