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Golfing in Morocco

But what could one give a generous monarch, Claude often wondered.

"I don't know," I told him once. "His very own junta?"

On each trip Claude would take along dozens of golf clubs and bags and shoes to pass around among the king's friends and aides. He would take the king a wedge or putter or odd club he might not have seen or heard about. He once had Ben Hogan make up a few dozen balls with king hassan II engraved on them. He also had Hogan make an engraved set of clubs. Claude carried over balls, clubs, head covers, gloves, wedges, sand irons, weird putters, even a set of gold Winged Foot cuff links.

Morocco's Oldest Course Is In Marrakesh and it consists of eighteen holes woven through lovely woods, with occasional glimpses of the snow-peaked Atlas Mountains. One doesn't find a swimming pool or tennis courts at Royal Golf de Marrakesh. In fact, one seldom finds any people there at all, much less caddies. You lug your own clubs and hope to find someone mowing greens along the way to tell you where the next tee is. But it was handsome, quiet and pleasant, and always there were the mountains rising above the palms and poplars. The holes, as on all of the courses, aren't tremendously long, which does much for the golfer's ego. But I gather that no one spends much time looking for a stray shot in the uncluttered rough, unless, of course, one has a fetish for disturbing cobras.

Like every other place on the globe, Marrakesh is finding itself being modernized. Only two blocks away from the Mamounia Hotel, a mammoth place of elegance and gardens said to have been Winston Churchill's favorite, is a Holiday Inn and a friendly neighborhood Avis office where a cute Arab attendant wore a miniskirt as short as any on a cocktail waitress along the Sunset Strip. Sadly, one thing is unavoidable in Marrakesh. You can't sit in a hotel lobby having your mint tea without overhearing an American in a summer sport shirt reaching to his navel, crepe-soled shoes and a Midwestern accent telling a Frenchman about his fun-filled days at the University of Ohio and what a damn hard time he was going to have trying to fit three sons-in-law into his roofing company back home.

The Best Golf Course In Morocco For Anyone, king or peasant--at least the best until Robert Trent Jones gets finished with all of the complexes he's designing inMarrakesh, Rabat and Agadir--lies about forty minutes north of Casablanca, on the Atlantic. Royal Golf de Mohammedia it is called. The resort town is Mohammedia, naturally. A couple of large luxury hotels sprawl on the beach, and there is a yacht basin, but the main attraction appears to be the golf club. The course is flat but heavily wooded and quite scenic along the bay, where the ninth and eighteenth fairways lie adjacent to the water. (In Casablanca proper there is another course to which the tourist has entree, but the serious golfer would be just as well off hitting a few chip shots in a public park. This is the Royal Golf d'Anfa, a nine-hole layout inside a small racetrack.)

But Casablanca had far more mystery when it was situated on Warner's back lot than it seems to have today. I couldn't find Rick's CafŽ AmŽricain or Ingrid Bergman or anybody.

There are only four other golf courses that any Moroccan knows about in his country. One is a nine-hole course in Tangier that is notable for only one thing. Playing it with Claude on an occasion a year ago, the king warmed up by hitting a few pitch shots onto a tennis court and then by driving a dozen or so balls off a cliff toward the Rock of Gibraltar. Another course is in the Tyrolean-type village of Ifrane, an hour or so by car from Fez. It isn't much--"A hotel par three that hasn't been mowed in a week" pretty well describes it--and the king plays it only rarely. Then there's Royal Guard in Rabat andInezgane in Agadir, both nine-hole layouts.

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