Why Mauritius was named golf destination of the year
The island nation was named Golf Destination of the Year for Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf States in 2018. So where should you play? Debbie Hathway did some hands-on research to find out
"It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing …" That’s what was on my mind when I was kitting up for my session with golf pro Sheres Isram, aka Nanda, at the Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa Golf Academy in Mauritius recently. That, and the need to keep my mind in neutral, not to try too hard, and to breathe!
Golf is a mind game, after all. "It’s all up here," said Nanda, tapping his finger against his head. That’s also what I got out of Deepak Chopra’s book Golf for Enlightenment, when I read it years ago. I knew that if I had any hope of connecting club to ball, I was going to have to get my mind out of the way. I needed to visualise the ball’s trajectory in terms of where I wanted it to go — preferably straight and long — instead of focusing on trying to hit the ball. "I’ve always believed that one of the highest forms of human intelligence is the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself or evaluating yourself. That’s a difficult thing to do," says Chopra. "Golf, interestingly enough, allows you to do that."
So that day, on this magnificent part of the island’s west coast between the ocean and Le Morne — a Unesco heritage site that was once a refuge for slaves — I concentrated on Duke Ellington’s lyrics to get the right amount of swing to move that ball. And I did, not too badly, most of the time — that is, bar the ball that I hooked into the palm trees overhead and that has yet to reappear. Nanda was amazed. He’d never seen anything like it.
The island nation was lauded as the Golf Destination of the Year for Africa, Indian Ocean and the Gulf States at the International Association of Golf Tour Operators awards last year, and I was visiting to find out why.
Truthfully, getting to grips with the swing, the stance, the style and the aim — once I’d worked out how to hold the club comfortably — seemed easier at Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa than at my next stop, which would be Anahita Golf & Spa Resort on the east coast. Nanda had to keep reminding me to relax and stop straightening my legs after every swing, a movement that sent the ball off to the left every single time. He had just the right amount of strictness and patience for my personality, and I responded well to his teaching style. The calming energy of Le Morne may have had something to do with it too. The landmark is as special to islanders as Table Mountain is to Capetonians.
Play and stay
Much of the design of the 18-hole par-72 course at Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa — which stretches along 5,924m to the genuinely crystal-clear lagoon of the Morne peninsula — is attributed to golf legend Tony Johnstone. There are those who fall in love with the resort because it caters for the golfer and the vacationer with facilities that include memorable dining options with service to match, well-manicured greens and an incredible location, as well as a course that is interesting yet challenging for both low and high handicappers. That it’s a stroll from your room, suite or villa is a bonus.
"The proximity of the golf course to the hotel and beach is a very positive feature, as you can leave the beach and 10 minutes later be at the first tee. The friendliness of the staff makes it a very pleasant experience," says SA business executive Angus MacRobert. "The golf course is challenging. Though not particularly long, it’s very tight. So you have to play well, otherwise your score tallies up fast. The back nine, along the lagoon and sea, is one of the most spectacular courses in the world. And after finishing the round, it’s a two-minute walk to sundowners on the beach."
Guests staying at Beachcomber golf resorts enjoy privileged access to the Peter Matkovich-designed Mont Choisy Le Golf, the only 18-hole golf course in the north of Mauritius. It is a par-72, 6,200m championship course, which serious and amateur golfers will enjoy.
Mont Choisy’s state-of-the-art practice facilities include chipping and pitching areas, putting greens and a 300m double-ended driving range.
I chatted to a Zimbabwean couple relaxing in the bar after their round. They had flown in for a wedding. He couldn’t fault the course, while she found the sections of asphalt a little challenging. "Well, that’s you," he said. End of discussion.
The course opened in 2017, and memberships sold out quickly. In fact, the only way visitors can play there is if they are staying at a resort that has a partnership agreement with Mont Choisy Le Golf.
A golf pro who took me around the course on a buggie (it takes too long to walk it, and the course is so much in demand many players have to be moved through as fast as possible) told me of a unique addition to the scoring system. Points are deducted for a ball lost in the conventional way — in the water, in the bush, and so on, but if a dog takes it, there go another two points.
It happens. Mont Choisy Le Golf forms part of a prestigious residential estate called Mont Choisy Le Parc, where island dogs or puppies new to the property are rehomed in an effort to make a contribution to controlling the number of dogs that live on the street.
News from the east
Golf is a very popular pastime on the island, the weather being conducive to year-round play. Some courses are windier than others, sometimes dependent on the time of year, but when I was there Mont Choisy in the north was no less windy than Anahita Golf & Spa Resort in the east. Some of Anahita’s most photographed holes are at the edge of the ocean, so windy conditions can be expected, but Mont Choisy is still being established and, one hopes, will become more sheltered once the young trees grow taller.
A Namibian pro who played all three courses says Anahita is more for avid golfers, particularly if they are vacationing there as well. The resort is designed as a self-contained village that can be a bit quiet for tourists who like more of a vibe. South African Mark Kirkby is the head greenkeeper, ensuring that the course is absolutely immaculate.
My experience at the Anahita Golf Club Academy was very different to when I played at the Paradis course. This time around I was definitely trying too hard, and my back was surprisingly stiff after my previous training session. I could at least still connect club to ball, but direction and height proved a challenge.
The one course I’d still like to explore is the Bernhard Langer signature course at Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club. It’s a bucket-list course for any keen golfer because of its own island location, a short ferry ride from the main island of Mauritius. Nothing short of "stupendous", as one reviewer put it; all 18 holes on the 38ha course offer sea views. The topography is undulating, peppered with volcanic rock outcrops, lakes and gullies, as well as tropical vegetation.
Best of all is this unique selling proposition: guests at Anahita Golf & Spa Resort have access to a private beach, restaurant and bar at Ile aux Cerfs. This facility, as well as the Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club, are managed by Marc Amelot and a superbly trained team trusted to deliver on every level in terms of guest experience.
And they do. The menu is full of tasty distractions and I’m still salivating after one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. A signature dish, developed by Amelot, it’s a subtle mix of ice cream, biscuit crumble and rum, served in a hollowed-out pineapple.
A culinary hole-in-one after a blissful day at the beach.
*The writer was a guest at Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, Anahita Golf & Spa Resort and Mont Choisy Le Parc